Getting a brand new font to spice up your work can get expensive. Full typeface families often cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars to fully license so it better be “the one.” Entering the ring: Open-source typefaces! Open source fonts are licensed under the Open Font License (OFL) which means they are allowed to be used, modified, and distributed freely.
Open-source type has a long history of promoting education, and subverting the expectations that good quality fonts cost lots of money. Designers licensing their work under OFL often do so with the belief that the design and typography community shouldn’t be limited by the economic market which is often out of reach to young designers. Open-source type is pretty much the middle finger to the traditional design belief that good things cost lots of money. At the core, open source is about community; the more access designers have to high quality work means higher quality and more diverse work for all.
If you’re interested in trying out open source fonts but don’t where to start, here are three great sites dedicated to open source typography:
Started by Frank Adebiaye, VTF features a catalog of some of the most delectable post-modern typefaces you could ask for. With new typefaces being added all the time and tons of updates being made to existing work, there is something for everyone in the VTF catalog.
Primary host fonts under OFL as well as other licenses. You can find all their OFL typefaces under the Library section of their site (which is where the link above will take you). With a simple, clean user interface, Primary provides a platform where the work can really shine.
Noted as the first open-source font foundry, the League of Movable Type was created as a response to the lack of quality typefaces available on the web, and the lack of support for young designers in the design community. With a clear history of consistent, high quality work, the League of Movable Type is an excellent place to start your open-source journey.
On a final note, while the free nature of open-source fonts is essential to their mission, the designers behind these typefaces are still working artists who are willing to give up guaranteed income for the sake of community. If you find yourself using an open-source typeface often (or at all), consider donating to the artist or site from which you received said typeface. An active rejection of the economic forces at play means support is needed more than ever.