Fonts, sometimes referred to as typefaces, are specific styles of type. Each font family has defining characteristics such as size, weight, and appearance that set it apart from other fonts. The degree of these defining characteristics range widely from font to font. In print design, typography is one of the most prominent areas for customization. To date, there are hundreds of thousands of fonts in circulation.
Of the many thousands of fonts in existence, there are a small number of fonts that are considered standard system fonts. These fonts include Times New Roman, Arial, and Courier new. Almost all computer operating systems ship with these fonts included. Depending on the operating system, there are approximately 15-25 standard fonts. Every character that is viewable on a computer monitor is comprised of some sort of system font.
When viewing a print design in a rendering software such as Adobe Reader, it is not necessary to have the particular system font used in the design. However, when attempting to edit anything in the design (even things that have nothing to do with the font), the editor must have the same font loaded on their computer. If the editor does not have the required font, most professional graphic editing software will simply replace the correct font with something from the editors font library. In many cases, this font selection is decided according to order, not appearance. As a result, the appearance may be very different from the original font. This means that any graphics designer who is attempting to edit an existing print design, must have the font used in the design loaded on their computer.
If an individual is attempting to edit a print design non-destructively, but the original font is not attainable, the entire print design can be outlined. By outlining the entire file, the fonts are converted into vector objects. This eliminates the need to have the original font, but it also destroys the font. The editor cannot type additional characters in the same font anymore. The characters that existed previously would be converted into a series of shapes. For example, for the business card font the designer might use Myriad Pro for its contact information. If an editor attempted to edit the contact information without that particular font, the editing software would remove Myriad Pro and replace it with something else such as Arial. If the editor only needed to change the color of the font from black to blue, they could outline all of the text before they open the file. By doing so, the text no longer has its font behavior (font was destroyed/removed), but it has inherited a simple objects behavior. That means that its size and color can still be edited. This would be an appropriate solution for edits that do not require typing.
Due to licensing, many proprietary fonts are forbidden from being shared. Redistributing proprietary fonts is illegal, but difficult to enforce. In many cases, fonts used in print designs are shared with graphic designers and printing companies in order to make simple edits to the designs. For example, if a set of business cards needs to be printed for a new employee, a printing company might be sought out to add the appropriate information. If they do not own the particular font used in the design, they might ask the customer for the font file.
Technically, fonts and typefaces have slightly different definitions. Typefaces are considered to be the entire family of a particular font style. For example, the Helvetica font style comes in italic and bold, among other variants. By comparison, a font refers to an particular style of typeface. An example would be Helvetica Semibold, by itself. However, since the introduction of digital fonts, specifically vector graphics, the two terms have become interchangeable. The reason for this merge is because any given vector font can be dynamically transformed into a different font of the same family. For example, an individual could change Helvetica Standard into Helvetica Italic even if they did not have the entire font family. It would only require one of the fonts to do this. Most mainstream graphics softwares have the capability to perform this type of action.
Most fonts are categorized into two general groups, serif and sans-serif. Serif fonts have bars at the end of every character stroke. They are widely considered to be an older fashioned style of font. Sans-serif fonts do not have any bars whatsoever. They are comprised mostly of straight, simple strokes. There are other categories of fonts that were created in the 90’s and 2000’s which were designed to mimic intangible styles. A couple examples of these types of fonts would be script fonts and handwriting fonts.