Unless you are a designer, artist or just incredibly detail oriented, chances are you don’t pay much mind to the font choices you make when creating your company’s website and collateral. However, the font choices that a company makes says a lot about who they are and what they do. Fonts are often the first thing that your visitor get to see about you and can even have an impact on how your customers feel about your product. Now, even though it has been proven that using a 14-point font size with serif increases legibility and comprehension, these fonts leave little room in the way of creative design.
A need for creative font faces to be used on the web and in print led to the birth of the Font Foundries. Foundries, such as Lost Type and P22 are creative collectives that specialize in creating typefaces inspired by a variety of different sources, from classic art to vintage signage and everything in-between. Often, these foundries will sell licenses to their fonts, opening them up for use in a company’s marketing, branding and commercial materials.
Should you find yourself perusing the catalog of these foundries, what you will notice is that for the most part, fonts are typically available in two formats: OpenFace, abbreviated to OTF for Open Type Face and TrueType, which is shortened to TTF. These two font face types may confuse you at first, but knowing a little bit about what each format is capable of doing may help you make a decision which may save you money in the long-run, even though TTF are generally cheaper.
OTF Fonts: Basics
What makes OTF fonts special is their inclusion of advanced typesetting features inside the actual fonts, rather than as separate font sets. These features include small caps, alternates, glyphs, ligatures and so on. OTF fonts can also contain either spline or Bezier curves within their coding, giving you the ability to scale and alter the actual shapes the font was originally designed with to really suit your needs.
OTF font packages are often more expensive and may contain a fewer numbers of ‘files’ of within them, but more often than not provide you with myriad options to customize the font without sacrificing quality. Some argue that it is the better font, as it not only opens the doors for designers to truly incorporate a font into their design, but through the use of ligatures and other features, can produce unique results right out of the box.
TTF Fonts: Basics
TrueType fonts are the original font family. Older as than the OTF format, true type fonts still provide designers with the ability to scale to any size without sacrificing clarity or legibility, but they lack the special features that OTF fonts can carry. For example, if a font creator wanted to include a special ligature of the ae (such as in the word ‘encyclopaedia’) in a TTF font, he would have to create is as a different character altogether (meaning you would hit a designated key or load a second font). If he were to create it as an OTF font, then simply typing the word as it is spelled would create the ligature, as the font itself contains the information needed for the ligature to be created. These missing features limit the editing capabilities of TTF fonts, which is why most designers will look to license OTF fonts for their projects.
One Final Note
One last thing to keep in mind when font shopping is that these amazing OTF features are only available in the font if the font’s creator chose to put them in there. So if you’re shopping for an OTF font because of the available ligatures and glyphs, for example, make sure that they are actually there. Features like those are a selling point, so most marketplaces will highlight them if they are available.