If you’re making a mobile app, you’ll be needing a font. But here’s good news: you have lots of options. The following is a guide for app developers who haven’t yet given much thought to typography.

Why font matters

Your font is your brand’s voice; it shows your customers who you are. Your choice of font tells the world about your company’s personality and culture – customers are more easily drawn toward a company if they can identify with the branding.

Get a detailed picture of your target audience, and learn which other brands and companies your future customers are already doing business with. Customers make decisions based on emotion, and font is a primary way to tap into this decision-driver. Your branding and typography should fit nicely into the emotional context of your customers’ other favorite companies.

Top Solutions to Font Issues

Typography is an essential aspect of design, so what’s the best way to finish the project? Here are your 3 best options.

1. Hire a designer or agency

If you’ve got the budget, this is a great option. You Google your way to a top designer or design agency, and a project manager will handle the entire setup.

Fonts are fascinating to create, and there are thousands of designers around the world who would be willing to make you a new font, for hire. You can set up the contract so you get a fully licensed font, only having to pay once. This is the most expensive option, but many people find the expense worthwhile.

2. Buy a Commercial Font

Plenty of fully licensed fonts are waiting out there, already made, hidden by obscurity. You can really spend as much as you want on fully licensed fonts – between $5 and $5,000. You’ll get the full rights, and you’ll have your font.

Font Shop grants a one-time-payment license for up to 5 developers to use the font in their portfolios, as well as the app.

Mobile FontFonts is a great resource, specifically targeted for mobile developers.

YouWorkForThem also has a great list of fonts made with mobile in mind.

Be sure to double check about any license renewal fees, as some vendors lease fonts by subscription. Most font buyers want to pay once and then forget about it, so do be sure to confirm your payment setup before forgetting!

3. Use a Free Font

Free fonts are available all over the web, but with so many options, it’s wise to do the research before moving forward.

FontSquirrel is a great resource for free fonts, and maintains a smooth user experience.

The Open Font Library is a great resource for free or open source fonts, as is the League of Moveable Type.

Smashing Magazine has huge libraries of information on fonts, and discussions about problems people have had with fonts in the past.

There are many, many free fonts are available for unlimited commercial use through the Google font directory – definitely a must-see for anyone making font decisions.

Free fonts are great for leaner startups, or as placeholders until later in the development process.

Potential Drawbacks of Free Fonts

As nice as free fonts can be, there are drawbacks – here are four things to watch out for when using free fonts.

-Unique Branding

If you’re looking for a mobile app with unique branding – something that really sticks – you’ll need a font as original as your logo. Free fonts are available to everyone – so no matter what free font you choose, you can expect to see it being used elsewhere on the web. If this bothers you, then you’ll need to pay for an original font.

-Incomplete sets

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Font decisions can quickly become a game of “Who’s missing,” because some free fonts don’t have all the characters.

It costs money to add new characters to a font set, which defeats the whole point of using a free font. Google’s font directory shows you exactly which characters a font contains and lacks. Regardless of where you get your font, make sure it’s got all the characters and glyphs you need!

-Inconsistent Rendering

In this example, someone’s font inexplicably appeared much bolder on Mac than for PC. The problem was eventually fixed, but this remains a variable to watch out for.

-Might not actually even be free

Many “free” fonts floating around the web are actually commercially licensed fonts, where someone along the way removed the licensing information. Make sure you use a truly free font, confirmed for commercial use.

With this in mind, you’re more fully informed on the issue of font use in mobile apps. Font use can be a tricky variable – it trips up some developers; other developers don’t have problems.

Here’s to you becoming the latter. Good luck!

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