If I think back on the very beginnings of the awakening of my own creativity as an adult, it all started with hand lettering. It was a lovely book by Becky Higgins (from 1999?) where she had created a bunch of lettering styles, meant for scrapbooking. I won’t delve into how useful they actually were. But I do remember how nice it felt to make something look pretty in the one area where I felt least capable – writing by hand.
Here we are decades later – and I still struggle with adding my own handwriting to any project. I took a one hour calligraphy course (because of course that is enough time to master a skill!). I bought other books about it – but haven’t spent time at the practice of hand writing without some aid. I love the idea of asemic writing, but even that simply requires a level of skill that I have not attained in the flow of ink from my pen.
So for me, that aid comes in the form of fonts. Yes, of course I use them in graphic design work. But I also use them to express myself in my artwork. I like to:
- put together a word, phrase, quote or journaling on my computer,
- design and space it out, digitally
- print out the design and then duplicate it by hand onto my artwork
But over the years, I have collected so many fonts, in different weights, styles, classifications, etc. that I really struggle to know WHAT I have in order to use it. Not to mention that I have some projects that have a style guiding their branded designs. And to be fair – I need to create my own branding through type as well. So this is where I was sitting yesterday – a geek looking for a technical solution.
Caveat: I’m an unabashed NON-APPLE person. I don’t have a Mac. I don’t have an iPhone. It’s PC (desktop and laptop) and Android phone for me. So my solutions may not work for you.
Issues and Goals
- I know that my library of fonts is surely slowing down my system performance.
- Nobody needs 4,200 fonts. Nobody. But deleting one feels tantamount to throwing away a favorite piece of clothing that feels like it certainly will be considered vintage or come back in style – one day… Ok I’m a font hoarder. So I need to categorize some fonts as less ‘useful’, so they aren’t installed nor crowding my workspace – but available if I one day ‘need’ them.
- I cannot possibly scroll through the options in the tiny window that Word, Photoshop and Powerpoint provide and actually SEE anything.
- I want fonts to be categorized in a meaningful way, so that I can communicate clearly.
- I am not going to work on only one set of universally available fonts. It feels so very limiting.
I’ve chosen to use Suitcase Fusion by Extensis. For less than $100 a year, it gives me digital asset management of my fonts in the way that OneDrive accomplishes it for my files, documents and pictures.
I choose the ‘team’ license, or Suitcase TeamSync, which was $12 more than individual, because it allows me more access points. Two is not enough. Between my desktop, laptop, phone, tablet and ??? Hotel? Work? I need access to it without having to prove I should have access. This is one of my points of contention with Adobe Creative Cloud, btw. I have to deactivate one of my devices to access it on another, and I have more than two. This is annoying.
Automatically Installs Inactive Fonts
When I got a new laptop, one thing I did was download all my fonts from my OneDrive. At least I thought that was all of them. Then as I began working, I quickly realized that a lot was missing. And this is such a problem when you work on a desktop, a laptop, a tablet and sometimes remotely on another computer. Hunting down fonts and activating them steals time. And time is everything! Suitcase Fusion sees your inactive font and installs it for you.
It integrates with the big apps of Adobe Creative Suite which is where I do my of my design work. Let’s face it, there seem to be parts of the Adobe team that aren’t speaking to one another. Between the lack of integration with Adobe Fonts and Adobe Spark – I didn’t need another headache – so I chose Suitcase Fusion, an outsider – in part because they appear to be very on top of new releases. They have their 2020 game already working.
It allows me to add my own fonts – not just work from the ones they have curated. For the life of me, I don’t understand why Adobe Fonts is so limiting in this aspect. But it does support Adobe and Google Fonts in addition to my lovely collection.
Customizable Preview Text Window
I needed more than ‘a quick brown fox’. How many times do you select a font and discover that the kerning isn’t that nice, nor are there simply special characters, such as the ampersand. I love you – &. And I am going to use you a lot. Same for numbers. I must have a lot of free range, rogue, janky fonts – because many of them are useless when it comes to characters and numbers. I know that the ‘quick brown fox’ is a standard for some reason – but can I tell you what I type for my preview text?
hamburger fonts zwykty life 123 & ABC
Yep. It’s nonsense that came from some of my favorite fonts and their names. Lots of great ascenders and descenders, or ligatures as well as combinations that many fonts have trouble with. Look at your ‘g’ and ‘f’ spacing some time and you will see what I mean. Plus I throw in the wonderful letters of zwykty (which means ‘ordinary’ in Polish) as well as numbers, capitals – and yes, the ampersand. Suitcase Fusion allows me to type in any phrase and see how it looks in the fonts on screen. This is my go-to phrase though. Check out the weird phrases some font designers use to test fonts – it is a fun read!
Automatic and Customizable Categories
When I first installed Suitcase Fusion’s trial, and dragged my fonts into the virtual ‘folder’ to have them added to the catalog, I was impressed to see that the software automatically chose some basic categorization for me. It applied Serif, Sans Serif, Script, etc. as best it could with my ragtag fleet of fonts. And it also allowed me to add type categorizations that weren’t listed. I chose to add them following the categorization method from fonts.com, and only added a few tweaks. You can select multiple classifications for your fonts. I do wish it would allow me to edit the pre-existing categories. I would rather stick Blackletter under Script – for example, in the list. But I will live.
So while I still have some categorization to accomplish, my fonts are all viewable and accessible on this platform. I can now virtually organize them, without having to physically create a folder structure and potentially duplicate files. I can see where this condition already exists and fix it. And I can access them from any device through an internet connection.
They do offer a free trial period. Go to https://www.extensis.com/suitcase-fusion to try it for yourself. I do not have any affiliation with this company. I just like it.