Five Key Websites for Open Source Fonts

Stop reading this post for a minute, turn away from your screen and look at some of the fonts around you. We tend to take this storm of signs for granted, its sheer density saturates the senses, but look closely at the bars and bends, the ascenders, descenders and extenders, the serifs, italics and obliques, and the subtle art of typography begins to emerge.

Typefaces inform our relationship with signs. They are the pitch bend in the musical chord: get them right and they have the potential to unlock emotion, get them wrong and they’re dull, discordant and their message is obscured. Fonts have of course long been a staple of graphic design and the advent of the Web – the world’s most extensive typographic archive – has seen this subtle art soar in popularity.

In this post I want to highlight a selection of the Web’s best open source font collections. Each site was chosen for its potential to inspire, inform and be a practical resource for anyone in search of high quality free fonts and for anyone wanting to find out more about the importance of Open Source font licensing.

1. The League of Movable Type

Tagline: “No more bullshit. Join the revolution”
Description: The League of Movable Type was founded by two web designers to raise the standards of web design. The site presents a small but high quality, cherry-picked collection of open source fonts. Each font is demonstrated through a range of graphic design examples. Look out for their innovative “social font manager”, currently in beta testing stage. Designers are welcome to submit new font designs via their blog.
Font License: SIL Open Font License.

2. The Open Font Library

Tagline: “Fonts we can all share”
Description: The Open Font Library is devoted to promoting and sharing fonts released under open source and free licenses. It is a sister project to the Open Clip Art Library and has recently undergone a complete site redesign. The collection is currently around 158+ fonts. An interesting feature of the new site is the ability to “remix” fonts and learn about the processes of font design.
Font License: SIL Open Font License.

3. Google Web Fonts

Description: Google Web Fonts is a collection of fonts aimed at integration into websites via the Google Web Font Api. This eclectic selection of fonts is designed to widen the range of fonts designed pen Font Library is devoted to promoting and sharing fonts released under open source and free licenses.
Font License: Multiple. The most common is the SIL Open Font License.

4. Free Font Manifesto

Description: A small but growing number of designers and institutions are creating typefaces for the public domain. These designers are participating in the broader open source and copyleft movements, which seek to stimulate worldwide creativity via a collective information commons. This web page provides information and airs ideas about the concept of free fonts. Its annotated appearance reflects my conversations with type designers about the danger and necessity of free fonts.
Font License: N/A.

5. Vitaly Friedman’s Font List

Description: Friedman of Smashing Magazine fame searched the Web for the best license-free fonts which “would fit as a serious heading for a serious online-presentation”. He came up with a list of 25 high quality fonts released under various licenses, but all free. “Most fonts presented below are absolutely license-free which means that you can use them for both private, personal and commercial purposes without any limitations whatsoever.”
Font License: Various.

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Comments 3 comments | Leave a comment »

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Mar 29th, 2011, 3:29 am | #

Thanks for the list. We are always looking for quality fonts for various projects and I had no idea that there were so many open source solutions!

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Oct 10th, 2011, 6:00 am | #

Is Google Web Fonts really “a sister project to the Open Clip Art Library”? Looks like a cut and paste error from the Open Font Library described just above it.

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Sites We Like

SourceForge - one of the longest running portals devoted to housing projects from the Open Source community. A great place to find OSS projects to collaborate on.

Open Source Initiative - the OSI maintains the Open Source Definition and offers a range of information on OSS licensing and standards.

OSALT - a brilliant site devoted to open source alternatives. The site compares quality OSS with its commercial peers.

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