30 of the Best Font Foundries
Typography is one of the most important parts of any design, whether it’s digital or in print. Good typography can take a mediocre design to new heights, while bad typography can make what would be a great design lackluster or even bad.
For web designers, typography choices have long been limited to web-safe fonts. But that’s changed in recent years, first with the advent of things like sIFR that let you replace standard web fonts with Flash for headlines or other small blocks of text, and now with @font-face and web services for embedding fonts.
Below we’ve collected thirty fantastic type foundries. The majority of these allow at least some kind of online, embedded use, either with Flash or with @font-face. But we’ve also included some other foundries with more restrictive licenses.
You can always use fonts from these in images or graphics, either online or off. Be sure to check the license for each font to determine exactly what uses are allowed.
The foundries included here have at least some provisions in their licensing agreements for using fonts on the web outside of images. Some only allow static Flash embedding, while others allow @font-face. Read the specific license agreements for full details of what is and isn’t allowed.
The League of Movable Type
The League of Movable Type offers some fantastic, open-source free fonts, including serif, sans-serif and display varieties. All of their fonts are available for use with @font-face, too.
exljbris Font Foundry
Exljbris has produced a number of free fonts that most of you probably recognize: Anivers, Delicious, Fontin and Fontin Sans, and the Museo family. All are available for use with @font-face.
The Font Bureau, Inc.
The Font Bureau offers a huge selection of typefaces from a variety of artists, including Williams Caslon Text (shown below), Big Caslon, ITC Franklin, and Miller. An extended license allows for embedding with Flash or similar technologies.
Emigre offers a few dozen fonts, including display and picture, serif and sans-serif typefaces. They have an extended license available which allows for Flash embedding, but do not allow @font-face embedding.
Hoefler & Frere-Jones
Hoefler & Frere-Jones offers a selection of high-quality commercial fonts, including Hoefler Text, Didot 24, Gotham, and Fell Type. A license can be purchased for using their fonts with sIFR and Flash.
Typerepublic is a small font foundry that has produced a handful of high-quality typefaces, including Pradell, Carmen, and Mecano. They allow embedding of their fonts, but only when designers ensure that end users can’t extract or download the fonts.
House Industries has produced a number of great fonts, including Neutraface, Girard, Luxury, and Burbank. They currently allow limited embedding under a special license, and have plans to add support for @font-face in the future.
Storm Type Foundry
Storm Type Foundry offers dozens of fonts, including classical, serif, sans-serif, display, and other varieties. Embedding is allowed only when necessary precautions have been taken to prevent extraction of the font files.
OurType has released a variety of premium fonts, including serif and sans-serif typefaces. Their license allows for embedding in web sites as well as other file formats (like PDFs).
TIPO currently has eight typefaces available, including Jackie, Bojita, and Lineare Serif, with another half-dozen in the works. It’s a bit unclear on whether they’ll license their fonts for use embedding in websites, but it’s not specifically prohibited, and embedding in digital documents like PDFs is allowed as long as the fonts can’t be extracted. From the sounds of their standard license, an additional license might be required for web embedding.
Linotype is probably one of the most well-known foundries out there. They’re the foundry behind Helvetica and its variants, Optima, Gil Sans, Papyrus, and Palatino, among others. Linotype allows its fonts, in EOT (Embedded Online Type) format, to be used on one non-commercial website per license, with some restrictions (including ensuring that the fonts can’t be extracted from the page). Extended licenses are required for commercial sites.
Canada Type is a type foundry located in Toronto, Canada with dozens of high-quality fonts available at reasonable prices (many of their fonts are in the CAD$20-$40 range). Typefaces include Blackhaus, Diploma, Wagner Grotesk, and Jazz Gothic. They have very flexible licensing that allows for embedding in Flash and other digital files, and possibly for embedding with @font-face.
Lazydogs has a handful of high-quality, functional typefaces, the Vela Family, North Family, and Finn Family. Their fonts can be embedded online or in digital documents as long as they can’t be extracted from those documents/websites.
Karsten Luecke Type Foundry
KLTF has three high-quality fonts available: KLTF Grotext (sans-serif), KLTF Litteratra (display/decorative), and KLTF Tiptoe (sans-serif). They don’t allow @font-face embedding, or any embedding where the font might be extracted, but they will provide web fonts in .eot and .woff formats for online use.
Mark Simonson Studio
The Mark Simonson Studio has a number of great fonts available, including Anonymous, Proxima Nova, Coquette, Goldenbook, and Sharktooth. The fonts can be embedded in Flash or similar files, provided they can’t be extracted, but it’s unclear whether any other type of embedding would be permissible.
Typonine has taken a different approach to licensing their fonts for online use, by providing a font service. You can purchase a web font license for any of their fonts, allowing you to use their fonts with @font-face. They don’t have a huge number of typefaces available, but those they have are high quality and well-designed.
Chank’s fonts are more creative and offbeat than a lot of the other font foundries included here. You won’t find many standard serif and sans-serif fonts here, but rather interesting display fonts like Tubers, Chester Drawers, and Woodrow. There are some free fonts available, and some very low-priced fonts (less than $20), alongside more traditionally-priced fonts (in the $50-$300 range). They offer their fonts for web use through Kernest and Typekit.
Typotheque offers a couple dozen high-quality fonts, including Jigsaw, Fedra Sans, Brioni, and Plan Grotesque. They also offer a web font service for using their fonts online. It uses a one-time license fee for both print and web use (or you can just buy a web license), and even offers a free trial license (so you can test a font in your design prior to buying it).
These foundries have less-than-desirable licenses when it comes to online use, but of course you could still use them in images and offline work (though again, check license agreements for each foundry for specifics).
LucasFonts are the creators of TheSans, TheSerif, and TheAntiqua, among other fonts. LucasFonts was founded by Lucas de Groot, a Dutch type designer based in Berlin, with the intention “to make the world a better place by designing typefaces that look good and work well under any circumstances and in many languages.”
Suitcase Type Foundry
Suitcase Type Foundry has released more than twenty great typefaces, most of which have multiple fonts included. These include Dederon Sans Std, Comenia Sans, BistroScript, and Kulturista. The foundry was started in 2003 by Tomas Brousil in Prague, Czech Republic and is dedicated to producing high quality fonts for professional use.
Klim Type Foundry
Klim offers a number of very high quality typefaces, including Founders Grotesk, Tiempos Text, Karbon, and Newzald. Their license specifically prohibits the use of their fonts with any kind of font embedding technology, including Cufon and @font-face.
Darden Studio has a handful of high-quality typefaces available, including Corundum Text, Freight Text, and Jubilat. The foundry is located in Brooklyn and was started by Joshua Darden. Their license allows for embedding in digital documents (like PDFs) but not on the web.
PampaType has nearly a dozen typefaces available, including Arlt, Margarita, Perec, and Borges, each available in multiple weights. PampaType was the first Argentine type foundry, started in 2001 by Alejandro Lo Celso.
GarageFonts was originally started to offer some of the first fonts created for Raygun magazine, back in 1993. They’ve since expanded to offer more than 750 original typefaces from a variety of designers, including Inyo, Gardenia, and Metroflex. There’s no clear licensing information available on their website.
Primetype has more than three dozen great typefaces available, including PTL Trafo, PTL Fabrik Two, and PTL Vielzweck. It seems that their license does not allow embedding of fonts online, but it’s unclear whether something like sIFR or Cufon would be acceptable.
Gestalten is better-known as a book publisher and design studio than a type foundry, but they have a few dozen great typefaces available, including Bonesana, EngelNewSans, and IkiruSans. Their licensing does not allow embedding of fonts online.
Feliciano Type Foundry
Feliciano provides a number of high-quality fonts, including Merlo, Flama, Stella, and Rongel. Some of their fonts are based on historical typefaces, and they include the story behind those typefaces on their website. Their licensing agreement specifically prohibits the use of their fonts “with any web font replacement technologies which provide third-party access to the font files, such as Cufón or @font-face.”
Berthold is one of the oldest type foundries still around, in business for 150 years. They have a huge selection of typefaces, including Futura, Berliner Grotesk, Century, and Baskerville Book Pro. Their licensing, however, expressly forbids embedding their fonts in websites.
Stone Type Foundry
Stone Type Foundry has a small but exceptional collection of typefaces, including ITC Bodoni, ITC Stone, Silica, and Stone Print. They use a use-based licensing agreement, which is a bit vague, and likely means additional fees would be required in order to use their fonts online, if allowed at all.
Cape Arcona Type Foundry
The Cape Arcona Type Foundry offers more than four dozen fonts, with over a dozen of those available for free. Most of their fonts are display fonts, though they do offer some text fonts, too. Their EULA isn’t available on the website, so no information was available about using the fonts online.
Written exclusively for WDD by Cameron Chapman.
What are your thoughts on foundries that don’t yet allow embedded online use? Do you think that will change in the near future? And of course, if you have a favorite font foundry that wasn’t included here, please mention it in the comments! For thousands of free fonts, check out urbanfonts.com