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Around here, we pay very close attention to the needs and desires of our customers. Over the past few months, I’ve been taking time to visit a number of our Universal Type Server customers to hear how things are going, and how our products are fitting into their workflows. I just returned from a visit to the Los Angeles area this week, and am happy to share some of the feedback that I received.

Primary focus is synchronization

I asked dozens of our customers to identify the most important problems that they’ve selected to solve with Universal Type Server. By far the most prominent response is that they use Type Server “to stay in sync.”

This doesn’t really surprise me all that much. IT administrators who manage thousands of users with thousands of fonts, keeping everyone on the same page, with the same font software is no small task.

Creative teams are fast paced and don’t have time to search for a specific font required to get the job done. It not only slows down the production workflow, it can bog down the IT department’s helpdesk as well.

Font compliance on the rise

A close second, if not almost equal to synchronization, is the importance of maintaining font compliance in the workflow. In plain terms, this means that knowing for certain that you have the appropriate number of font licenses for your projects.

I’m fond of saying, “What piece of software can you have purchased 20 years ago, and still have function on your current machine?” Honestly, I can think of no other software that has such broad, continued support across multiple operating systems.

Because of this, many organizations now have massive collections of fonts that they’ve accumulated over the past 20 years. With likely ongoing changes in personnel, many teams are finding that the person who originally purchased a font is long gone. The documentation supporting the purchase – the end user license agreement (EULA), PO, and so forth – might be missing or never properly filed.

Without a consistent purchasing and font integration process in place, most organizations lost track of font license purchases.

To keep their company, and more importantly their clients, safe from lawsuits, many teams are drawing a line in the sand. Many have split up their font workgroups to two big piles. One for all fonts where they know that they have purchased the correct number of font licenses for their team, and another where they’re not so certain. In the future, if a project requires a font from the “not so certain” group, then a process of research takes place. Looking for previous PO’s, receipts, etc. If nothing can be found, it’s usually a task to locate the original foundry, and purchase the required number of licenses.

I’ve definitely heard stories about the attempts of some teams to locate the original author of an obscure font. There are times where it’s just not possible, so people frequently need to choose another, similar typeface that they can obtain a legal license for.

Seeing the risks of font non-compliance, creative groups want to do the right thing and stay on top of font licensing.

Universal Type Server is being used to help groups maintain that font compliance. Paired with an established purchasing process, Type Server is being used to keep people from inserting random, unknown fonts into the workflow, tracking font usage, and adjusting the purchasing strategy to appropriately meet needs.

If your team isn’t on this path to compliance yet, don’t fret. It’s never too late to get started down the right path. For most organizations, it’s a process that takes time. With minor workflow changes and definitions, you can ensure that you won’t have unlicensed fonts going out the door with your next project.

I’m always interested in hearing stories about how server-based font management is working for your team. I’d love to hear your stories. Share yours with me by emailing jkidwell [at] extensis [dot] com. You can also tweet me @extensis.

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