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Measuring the ROI of Fonts

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"Measure" by jayninelessons is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

I was asked recently to write something about the return on investment (“ROI”) of fonts. We were discussing specifically the topic of custom fonts development for branding, but what I wrote applies to the subject of commercial type and typography generally. I wanted to share it with you.

I think that we are at a time in history where companies are more aware of design than ever before, and that includes type. Thanks to companies like Apple, more people are now aware of the impact that type has on good design. And people are aware that design is important to every aspect of how both people and companies communicate. For companies, that includes their marketing as well as the products and services they create.

Personally I don't think it is helpful to try to separate out the return on investment from type. Type is an element of design, and I think that design is an intrinsic part of the construction of anything that we set out to create. Design represents our intention for the functionality and appearance of everything we create. Type is the design of the part of that thing that is text. Must we measure the value of that? Would we measure the value of only the color, or the shape?

Let’s agree instead that we should make deliberate choices about every aspect of what we are creating. Every choice we make has an effect on the way the things we are making will be enjoyed by the people who use it. With type, unlike with cell phones, we have collected hundreds if not thousands of years of wisdom about the way that type impacts the people who experience it. For many years we have known with absolute certainty that type impacts people in amazing, dramatic ways. 

We also know with certainty that people who care about the things they create make very careful decisions about how they invest in their creations. And so they should with type. Rather than worrying about the return on that investment, I'd suggest instead that creators seek out the experience and wisdom of the best-trained people available to inform their typographic choices, and judge for themselves whether those choices pay back their investment.

Consider your type investment the same way you would the industrial design of a car, the safety systems of an airplane, or the fidelity of a musical instrument.

Is anyone asking for the ROI of these?