Modified font (vs Custom font) pricing and licensing

Adam LaddAdam Ladd Posts: 241
edited September 2019 in Type Business
I have read through some previous discussions about custom fonts and quotes (all quite helpful), but I don't recall a specific mention of pricing a "modified" font for clients (as opposed to a start-from-scratch "custom" font).

Modified, in this case, means altering just a few glyphs to an existing, published font to fill a specific branding need.

Aside from amount of weights, glyph count, features, etc... I'm wondering more specifically about the rights assigned and cost differentiation. So these scenarios below would be costs for the design work plus the license type.

Scenario 1: Modified font is priced based on the glyph design alterations, and the license is non-exclusive (essentially matches the cost of licensing the existing font).

Scenario 2: Modified font is priced based on the glyph design alterations, and the license is exclusive for this modified version (other, non-exact, modified versions can still be created for different clients in future).

I figure a pretty big price difference between Scenario 1 and 2 due to exclusivity, so my question is: how much of a difference? I think I'm defaulting to comparing this to a fully custom, start-from-scratch font where an exclusive license might double the cost.

In most cases, if a client is requesting a modified version, I would think an exclusive license would be desired to protect it.



  • Scenario 1: Still charge them something for the modification work! Unless that is dwarfed by the price of the licensing deal, I suppose. Or you are so impressed by the suggested modifications that you are excited to be able to offer this modified version at retail.

    Scenario 2: Yeah, what you said.

  • Thanks for your feedback, Thomas! Yes, good points about Scenario 1, and generally would charge for the design modification work plus the base license cost (I may not have worded it well).
  • A lot of clients don't care about exclusivity for mods.  It really depends on  the intensity and  purpose of the mod.  Sometimes they just  want to solve a technical or language support problem and  are happy to share with  others.

  • edited September 2019
    If it is, say, a modified font for advertising (as you've set out in your premise), then I think most would want exclusive licensing (for reasons which make sense). And to license that, #2 works.
    If they are just seeking an expanded version of an existing font, especially a text font, please release the results in the same way the original was released. The rest of us want accents too!
  • Adam LaddAdam Ladd Posts: 241
    edited September 2019
    Thanks Joyce, Daniel. In this case it would be for branding purposes as a distinct, ownable brand asset. Language support and other technical features are assumed to be sufficient. So in essence, it's kind of like a start-from-scratch custom font regarding purpose.

    I think part of my struggle is an example like this (not factoring in design cost, only license here):

    Say it's a mod of 2 weights, and only a few glyphs are being altered in design (not enough to change the existing font drastically, but there will be some spacing and kerning tweaks resulting too). A single-user, non-exclusive desktop license for those 2 weights might be $50.

    If the client only needs a single-user desktop license with perpetual, exclusive rights, then doubling the original cost would only be $100 for the license part.

    That seems relatively low for an exclusive font license (even though it wouldn't restrict sales of the original or future mods). Wondering if I'm looking at this wrong or if there should be a threshold for a base cost of a smaller exclusive license like this.

    As this is somewhat hypothetical at this point, the x factors would be if the license need is larger and bumps the cost up.
  • That's why your charge should also cover the work itself—and thoroughly. Only if the cost of the mods is dwarfed by the cost of the license is it OK to ignore that and stiff yourself that extra money.

    Figure out a fair cost for that work, and then multiply it by AT LEAST two times, probably more, to cover the admin cost around the whole project—including this very discussion. On top of the licensing fee for number of seats.
  • Really appreciate your additional feedback and insights, Thomas and Joyce. This is helping me get my head (and numbers) around it better.
  • I recently did an extremely complicated expansion quote for a long standing client.  Some elements of their license are perpetual and some things anual, plus they had me run a lot of scenarios before they decided.  By the time I actually  made the invoice months had passed AND I had to deal with getting set up with their new vendor payment system (which is was so clunky).  I could NOT deal with fully itemizing everything.  But I did one line item "expansion of license XXX to cover y" and separately deducted the discount because there are some things you can let slide and some thing you can't.  I want, five years from now when a totally different procurement person is looking at our old invoice to get an idea of what to expect before calling me for a quote, for her to see we have been giving them good deals. 
  • The words, "new vendor payment system" send chills down my spine.
Sign In or Register to comment.