The Type Industry

How does a font go from the typographer's mind to the market, to your page?

The Typographer

Typographers actually design typefaces. The start with a purpose or reason for a type design. What problem does it solve? What use-case hasn’t been solved that this design will solve? Is the type meant for long text or headlines? Is it to mimic a old typewriter or a broad-tipped pen?

Historical Context

Type cannot be designed ignoring the centuries of typographic history. There’s a historical context that needs to be considered. In which category will the design belong – old style, modern, slab, sans?

The Nitty Gritty

Typographers, like all designers, start with sketching individual glyphs and their stand-out features. There are certain letters which lend themselves as good starting points like the s and the n. There are words like Handgloves which contain letters which represent a wide range of typographic features, like ascenders, descenders, overshoots, etc…

Type Design Software

Once the designer has reached the limit of sketching, there are font design apps like Glyphs and FontLab. There are others. This is where all the fine details can be implemented.

When designing a typeface, there are other considerations beyond the glyphs. There’s side-bearing and kerning. There are alternate glyphs, swashes, diacritics and more.

There are typefaces created for corporate use and some for general sale.


It’s complicated.

There are two perspectives to consider. The owner of the copyrighted material and the user.

Design Quality

There are poor quality and superior quality designs, as in everything. Designing typefaces is incredibly detailed, painstaking work. Neglecting such details can lead to a typeface that is missing needed features or lacks finesse. That said, there may be a place for such type. It all depends on context.


The term foundry comes from the French fondre, which means to melt. The original foundries melted metal to pour it into a mold to create metal type.


As the term suggests, vendors sell fonts to the public. There many vendors out there. Note that some of these are vendors and some are also foundries.

Altemus Collection
An artistic collection of dingbat fonts.

Font Bureau Custom typefaces and retail fonts.

Thousands of free and shareware fonts, plus links to font software.

FontHaus Inc.
Fonts, clip art, illustrations, and stock photos.

Over 30,000 fonts by many designers.

The FontSite
Fonts, articles, and more.

Hoefler & Co.
A library of original and licensed fonts.

International Typeface Corporation (ITC)
Over 1500 fonts and an informative web site.

Original display fonts and custom lettering.

More than 6,000 fonts, plus lots of articles and info.

Monotype Corporation
Not only fonts, but articles, news, technology, and more. Monotype is forming a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of the typographic arts.

My Fonts
Find, try, and buy fonts. They will also help you identify fonts.

Fonts inspired by art and history.

Phil’s Fonts
More than 35,000 fonts from 75 foundries.

Plazm Media Cooperative
Experimental type foundry specializing in custom fonts.

Fonts, eps illustrations, merchandise.