Design Help Center
Practical technical advice from design professionals.
Outlined fonts are critical for logo design
Here’s what outline fonts are and why we use them.
The vast majority of logo design projects include typography of some sort, usually in the form of the company, product or service name that the logo is supposed to represent. Most of us understand what fonts are, most personal computers having a selection of various font styles to choose from.
In graphic design, particularly logo design, we approach fonts and typography a little differently, and produce artwork that includes outline fonts. Outline fonts are quite literally, outlined letters that have been turned into vector based artwork, rather than the editable form that we use in other documents. There’s several reasons for this, but before we get to that, let’s take a look at what outline fonts are, beginning with The Logo Factory name, as typed out in our basic corporate font, ITC Lubalin Bold into a starting Adobe Illustrator document.
The type is fully editable. We can kern the individual letters (adjust the spacing between each one.) We can change the size, fix spelling and just about anything that can be done in a word-processing program.
Why don’t we just leave the typography as editable type? Several reasons. The most important is that in order to open up this file on another computer – at our local printer let’s say – they would need to have this font installed on their machine. And even if they happened to have this font, it would have to be the exact same version, or our kerning could change when their version is loaded. Spacing can change between platforms (Mac to PC or vice versa) and between software – Illustrator vs. Photoshop. There are also licensing issues which we’ll deal with in a bit. How do we deal with this? Simple. We can convert the font to an outlined vector version as shown in our main example above. Like so.
Once we’ve converted our fonts into vector format, we can edit it as a graphic. We can select individual letters. We can group them together. We can treat these outlined fonts as we would any digital artwork.
In the context of designing logos, we can now incorporate these outlined fonts into a final design. Here’s what our logo looks like in vector, with outlined fonts added to our cog graphic. These vector shapes can be resized, edited, customized without any worry about compatibility with other computers, software or platform. We also don’t have to worry about having the appropriate font set installed when we open this artwork on various machines, as the letters no longer require it. It’s worthwhile noting that outlined fonts are not bullet-proof, and often require a little bit of hand-editing.
Fonts & licensing for commercial use.
Whenever someone purchases a font set, they are usually only buying the rights to use the set. Usually only on one or two computers. Copying the font set and supplying it to a printer, or client, is copyright infringement. In order for the printer, or the client, to have access to the original fonts, they’d have to buy their own set (the spacing and sizing issues discussed earlier notwithstanding.) Even most free font sets have commercial usage restrictions and provisos. As well as the advantages discussed earlier, converting fonts to outline gets around these legal issues too. For more information, visit the Design Help Center for our reference guide to all logo formats.