what's it cost to get a custom font?

Amado's picture

I guess this is an RFQ, after all. Although really all I'm after is the general price range.

Let's say I've fallen in love with a couple of typefaces, and I think they would pair beautifully just as they are, and I've bought them for my print uses.

Let's say that screens are an important target medium for me, and initial tests suggest that the fonts I've bought have some minor problems at typical screen sizes (I go for 15px, more or less).

I saw a vid clip once w/ Erik Spiekermann saying "when someone asks me for a font like font-X, I study it for a couple of days and then walk away from it for a couple of days and only THEN do I start to draw letters, relying on memory alone..." thereby ensuring that the new font is inspired by, but not a knock-off of, the source font. I think this is a cool idea.

So let's say the design spec was: "here's two typefaces, I use them for my print stuff. I need similar faces that work better for web: slightly larger x-height, slightly more open counterforms, slightly larger aperature, slightly bigger letter spacing, blah blah blah. Oh, and x-height equalized between the two. Normal, Italics (true italics preferred), Bold, and Bold Italics for each."

Oh and one of the source-inspiration fonts (the serif) doesn't have an italics to start with (and I know that that's for historical-accuracy purposes).

What's this gonna set me back?!?

p.s. as a bonus, how much additional to make me my type-based logo and draw my accompanying dragon-icon-logo for me?

blank's picture

If you want quotes you need to contact type designers directly so they can work out your needs in detail and generate a quote. Typophile is not the right forum for this ;) Drop me a line at jp@dunwichtype.com if you're interested.

clauses's picture

There are several points that need to be specified in detail to calculate pricing. I'm going to try to list as many as I can think of here. If you lot have more let me hear.

1) Glyph repertoire. Which languages have to be supported? (more glyphs, more time, time is money). Some styles are faster to design something like small caps for, eg. sans serif designs. Numerals: All four types or just one? Do you really need italic small caps?

2) Quality – designing typefaces is an iterative process. Spend more time, get a better result. More time, more money.

3) Intellectual property rights – Which immaterial rights are transferred to you, the client? A 'full buy-out' transfers all right for perpetuity (until they fall into the public domain) to you the client, and the designer does not get a royalty. This form of buy-out is costly, and based on the scope of the use. Large corporations with global use for all employees, and for all marketing, pay a lot more for this than a small company.

3) Transfer rights. Can you, the client, sell, lend, or give away the typeface? This costs more. Is the typeface used in computer software incl. mobile telephones, sat-nav, television sets, set-top boxes, &c?

4) Technical considerations. How good does the fonts have to be technically speaking? Which software environments does the fonts have to work in, in which environments would 'partial functionality' be accepted, and which environments does not apply?

Since screen rendering is important for you, then you must define exactly which environments you are talking about. Take as an example the popular (or so I've heard) Windows operating system. There are many versions of Windows with different rendering engines, combine that with user settings, browser versions, and user hardware and you have a very long list of targets. The 'hinting' process makes fonts render better on Windows. Hinting can be slow and expensive – especially if you target non-aliased environments.

In many professional fields there goes the saying "You can have it good, fast, cheap. Pick any two." In typeface design you get to pick one.

Amado's picture

Yah sorry for the misuse of the forum. As I was typing my initial question I thought "it's just a general question, this is fine" but then I read someone else's post asking for free advice and saw the kinds of responses they were getting.

Thanks for all the info though, you make it clear. Iron triangle of development. I know it well. Just one, eh? I believe you.

I'll email James. I'm tempted to answer your questions, but Typophile is not the right forum for this ;)

I was just looking for (in dollars): dozens (HA! fat chance), hundreds, or thousands? Tens of thousands? I know what the answer is, though: "it depends."

Amado's picture

< perspective state="altered" >
< mind state="blown" >
< p >

wow. um. wow. An appreciable amount of someone's work year; thus, an appreciable percentage of someone's annual salary.

< / p >
< / mind >
< / perspective >

Returning to lurk-and-learn mode...

< l u r k >...

Nick Cooke's picture

For what you require - more than the average annual salary.

Thomas Phinney's picture

For decent quality without hiring a big name, if you need to own it outright, you could expect to spend probably $20,000-60,000 USD on a project like that. Not too hard to keep it toward the lower end of that if you shop around and aren't set on using one of just a couple of specific designers.

Yes, that's a big range. People's rates vary, as does quality and speed. More time and money from a given designer will give you more polish.

Really big name type designers might charge more like ~ $100,000 per family, btw. Of course, they will usually only do it one way as well, really polished.

These are just ballparks, but I have had occasion to price a lot of type design in the not too distant past.



npgraphicdesign's picture

Can I revive this topic for a bit? I hope you guys aren't tired of seeing this over and over. Just had a client ask me to develop a typeface, and I'm brand new to this.

• Typeface is more of a decorative typeface, but they want the full u/c, l/c, numerals and punctuation. Seeing as it's a decorative typeface and won't be used for body copy much, but only for shorter blurbs, what other characters/glyphs should I consider?
• Software - Fontlab or Fontographer?
• Only one weight. In some cases, alternate versions of various letters.

Any suggestions on how to approach this? I am a quick learner, and have been doing lettering/drawing custom type for a while. But actually converting vector art to a proper typeface...completely different story.

Karl Stange's picture

what other characters/glyphs should I consider?

Something like the OpenType Std character set would be a good standard for which characters to include. Or the Windows-1252 character set.

• Software - Fontlab or Fontographer?

You should probably look at one of the other offerings such as, TypeTool, Glyphs or RoboFont. They are cheaper and will give you all of the required functionality.

Chris Dean's picture

@Fantômas: Quoting James “If you want quotes you need to contact type designers directly so they can work out your needs in detail and generate a quote. Typophile is not the right forum for this ;) Drop me a line at jp@dunwichtype.com if you're interested.”

@James Puckett (blank): Why is your name blank?

hrant's picture

As Thomas kindly demonstrated, Typophile is in fact a great (in fact the best) forum for this.

Karl, for a large professional project such as this the extra money spent on FontLab would be moot.


Chris Dean's picture

Regarding asking typophile for quotes, I see somewhat of a slipery slope. I could argue both sides, but at the end of the day, preparing a quote is usually something that takes time and carefull consideration. Asking someone for a number off the top of their head has the potential to downplay the value, and, worst case scenario, result in a mis-informed under-bidding war.

In an RFP context, people’s quotes usually aren’t shared publically. Communication happens between client and vendor.

Perhaps a board dedicated to this with profiles and contact information that potential clients could browse and contact directly would be an idea?

hrant's picture

Experience and insight are partly transferable. End of story.


npgraphicdesign's picture

Thanks for everyone's input. Much appreciated!

Chris Dean's picture

Not sure I’m on the same page. “Experience and insight are partly transferable.” How does this statement relate to RFP’s on Typophile?

JamesM's picture

> people’s quotes usually aren’t shared publically

I agree, but open discussion of typical price ranges (as opposed to specific quotes) happens in every profession.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Chris: I wonder if what Hrant was saying was that seeing other people's analysis of the tasks and work involved might be educational, and help others notice potential gotchas and issues in the work? I recently had occasion to be consulted in the development of the RFP for a middling-large font project, and I must say that I caught more things each time I went over it. I imagine that responses to an RFP could be similar in that regard, if they were public.

That being said, I agree that in most lines of work the proposals coming in are not public, and that there are competitive reasons for this related to pricing, and secondarily related to simply sharing expertise. Having proposals coming in be public would probably tend to generate more homogenous pricing (pushing pricing toward the lower middle, I expect), and making public the analysis-of-work component of the proposals would tend to give the largest benefit to the less experienced folks involved.

So, at first blush I'm thinking public proposals are on average good for the lower-mid to very low-end producers, and probably bad for the upper-mid-range folks. Probably minimal effect on the top end, as they aren't competing on price anyway and have plenty of expertise to not miss issues in the project definition. Probably neutral to good for the customer, though that depends on a variety of particulars, including the complexity of the project and their likely price range and price sensitivity.

Chris Dean's picture

Thaks for the informative comment Thomas. Just out of curiosity, were you compensated for your time as a consultant?

Sonoraphobic's picture

Depends. Maybe from Free - Gazillion.

Thomas Phinney's picture

ChrisD: In the particular case in question, because the font set in question was open source and for a particular specialized use I wanted to support, I was happy to offer some advice and feedback on the RFP for free. (I was also influenced by the possibility that I might want to make a proposal to do the work—which would be paid. But I am still working hard on my current project, Cristoforo, and it is unlikely I will be done in time.)

Chris Dean's picture

I like the sound of the name ;)

.00's picture

Having done an enormous amount of custom font development during my career, my advice would be to put an average per glyph price on the work and present the results of the multiplier to your client as the price of the job,

Per glyph price would include drawing, spacing kerning, and hinting, and could vary quite a bit based on level of exclusivity the final work would fit into.. One glyph may take an hour to draw and one may be a component assembly that is done in 5 seconds. That is why an AVERAGE per glyph price should be used in the calculations. Whatever that variation in price, I've found clients respond best to this approach rather than some number that to them may seemed plucked out of the air.

John Hudson's picture

I second James' recommendation re. per-glyph costing. We generally perform fairly detailed glyph set analysis before quoting on font development, so are able to distinguish base glyphs and composites and assign different costs to each for design and hinting. Other aspects of the development, e.g. OpenType Layout work, is separately calculated based on time estimates.

charles ellertson's picture

But I am still working hard on my current project, Cristoforo...

Thomas, like the font, hate the lc "f". Was there any reason for it aside from linecaster requirements of the time, or do the fonts date from before Linotype? Would you at least consider an alternate "f"?

Thomas Phinney's picture

I think per-glyph costing, as John does it, at least, makes considerable sense.

Charles: Columbus was made for MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan for the 1892 World’s Fair in Chicago (right around when MS&J merged into ATF). So the “buttonhook f” was not due to linecasting requirements, but still, mainstream American foundry type of that era often avoided kerning f designs (see also: Cheltenham, Bookman, Cushing, De Vinne). In any case, distinctive though that particular “f” is, I have mixed feelings about it myself, and I already made an alternate “f” because one of my backers asked for it. :)

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