Workflow: Font issues, and how to fix them
Clint Daeuble
Issue: June 1, 2016

Workflow: Font issues, and how to fix them

Lost, missing or corrupt fonts can quickly derail a design project. Many creative professionals are familiar with the sinking feeling that accompanies opening an After Effects project and seeing the dreaded “missing font” dialogue box pop up. Demanding clients and tight deadlines are enough pressure without the added burden of figuring out why fonts won’t show up in design!

So…is it time to consider a professional font manager? Depends on the situation. An independent designer with a single client contact will likely have a much different workflow than a production manager collaborating with a team of designers on title credits for a feature film. But in either instance, the ability to locate, organize, and preview fonts will help save time (and money) and allow for more focus on doing great creative work.

Let’s look at some specific examples of common font issues and how to solve them:

Issue #1: Font Errors

After Effects says “font dictionary can’t be read,” so you restart your computer. And then restart AE. Nothing changes, still getting the error message. The next step is to manually remove all non-system fonts (so time-consuming!). OR, you could invest in a font manager to organize your font library and identify/fix corrupt fonts automatically.

Since I’m familiar with Suitcase Fusion 7, I’ll talk a bit about its capabilities. The brand new version of this font manager app from Extensis uses Font Sense technology to identify the unique metrics of each font, guaranteeing that the correct one is always used. Suitcase Fusion 7 also features the first plug-in for After Effects that ensures you’ll never have to go digging around to locate and replace missing fonts again.

Issue #2: Storage/Organization

Taken a peek at your font menu lately? There are probably hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of fonts, and a myriad of different versions of the same font. Artists are constantly stockpiling new fonts, whether they download them themselves or acquire them with new software. How do you tame this ever-expanding, unruly mess?

A font manager’s main purpose is to make fonts available when you need them, and remove them from use when you don’t. When a font is available for use, it’s called an active font, and the process of making it available is called activation. When the font is removed from availability, it is deactivated.

Most professional-level font managers make use of a font repository to store and manage copies of your fonts. Then you can create sets of fonts for any purpose/project, and the same font can exist in different sets without creating multiple copies.

“Sets” are like playlists in your music library. You can create a set for any situation, and you can add any font to as many sets as you need.

Issue #3: Sharing/Distribution

When you have a group of people collaborating on a design project, it’s crucial to make sure that everyone is using the same assets. Nothing slows down production design faster than having to search for a missing font.

Distributing fonts to a design team can be a huge challenge. So can keeping your team up-to-date on which fonts are legally cleared for use (many designers are unaware that fonts/typefaces are licensed just like software, more on this below).

With a font server (like Universal Type Server or the cloud-based Suitcase TeamSync), you can remove this roadblock entirely. When you add new fonts to the project, they’re automatically distributed to your design team, no matter where they are in the world.

Issue #4: Font Licensing/Compliance

Though critical to the operation of every computer, fonts are often overlooked during internal software edits. All too often the risk of noncompliance with font licensing is overlooked, and can lead to legal troubles and/or public relations disasters.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter was sued for $1.5 million in damages as well as destruction of all merchandise created with unlicensed font software, and NBCUniversal was sued for $2 million in 2009 and again for $3.5 million in 2012 for similar infringements.

You don’t want your blockbuster film to be sued into oblivion because someone neglected to clear the font on your movie poster, do you? Of course not.

A professional font manager lets you track the usage of fonts by all your designers — and make sure you’re not using unauthorized or unlicensed fonts in your designs.

Which font manager is best for me?

Basic font managers — like Apple’s Font Book — can be adequate if you work with a very limited amount of fonts infrequently. If you work with a multitude of fonts in professional design programs, you probably need the precision of a professional font manager.

Suitcase Fusion 7 provides advanced font activation features to ensure that the exact fonts are available when you need them. And as I mentioned previously, Suitcase Fusion 7’s auto-activated plug-in for After Effects will streamline the motion graphics workflow. Universal Type Server features this AE plug-in as well, while also tracking EULA usage to make sure all licenses are in compliance.

Want more info? Below are some resources to find a font manager that best fits your workflow:

- Creative Market’s list of 7 Powerful Font Management Apps.

- MacWorld’s review of Suitcase Fusion 7 is also a great read.

- Spoon Graphics put together their 10 Most Popular Font Managers for Mac and Windows as well.

Clint Daeuble has been working with users to solve their font problems for over 18 years. He is currently the Product Manager for Suitcase Fusion 7 and Suitcase TeamSync.