“How much would it cost for you design a custom brand font for us?” While I am not a font designer, it’s a question I’ve heard, and a creative endeavor I’d be curious to explore if I had oodles more time and quite a bit more training. Font design is a complex art, with a number of research requirements, design phases, use-case considerations, and licensing planning, so while they’re expensive, quality custom fonts are worth the cost.

According to Thomas Phinney, Typographer and Type Designer and CEO of FontLab, “For a moderately full-featured typeface of four styles, from a really big name like Hoefler, with temporary exclusivity, you are probably looking at $75,000–150,000 and up as a rough ballpark. It might take them a year, although that won’t necessarily be full time on your typeface…For ~ the same thing from a decently established but not super famous type designer, you might expect to pay $25,000 – 50,000, roughly.”

Netflix Sans


Watching the bottom line at Netflix

Recently Netflix updated their font to a bespoke font oh-so-creatively named “Netflix Sans.” Were unique visual aesthetics their primary consideration? Yes…and no. The custom font, as costly as it was to develop, will actually save them money. “Developing this typeface not only created an ‘ownable’ and unique element for the brand’s aesthetic … But saves the company millions of dollars a year as foundries move towards impression-based licensing for their typefaces in many digital advertising spaces,” according to Noah Nathan, Netflix’s brand design lead.

Netflix worked with Dalton Maag Foundry to design their bespoke typeface


What is impression-based licensing?

Fonts, just like stock images, must be licensed. License types range from personal or commercial use to desktop/print or digital (web) use, and a lot of the licenses are structured as packages with pretty clear rules about what you’re allowed to do with your purchase. But impression-based licensing bases fees on number of prints or pageviews. (There is a great overview of web font licensing here.) That means Netflix would be paying for a foundry licensed brand font every time a user interacts with the platform. As you can imagine, the costs would add up quickly.

Remember the value

With free font options like Google Fonts, it’s sometimes hard to swallow the costs of font licensing. But if you find the right font, it can be just as hard to settle for anything less. Remember the design effort that went into crafting that beautiful family of letterforms, and think of the positive impact it will have on the quality your branding. With the right licensing or custom design options, font expenses are a worthy investment in your brand.