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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.

Vector-based Outline Fonts

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.

editable type

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.

editable type with selection

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.

outlined type

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.

converted outlined with letter selected

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.

On the downside, these outlined fonts are no longer editable as they were at the beginning of this exercise, and any future spelling fixes or word changes will require access to the original font set. Which will have to be converted to outlined fonts once completed. So why not simply send font sets around with artwork as it moves from place to place? That’s usually restricted by licensing and why designers can’t simply give their fonts to clients.

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.

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The Logo! Factor is the official design blog of The Logo Factory, offering features for business owners and designers alike. To receive notifications of new releases, subscribe to our Design Dispatches mailing list.

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