My experience with building websites is limited, but i have used Google Fonts (GF) for some basic presentation websites before. I was recently given some branding guidelines built by other providers which used GF for everything, including print items, eg. business cards, brochures, etc. And I did just use this identity to build a white paper for this client using GF, which seems to look ok even when printed on paper.
Is GF a technically good alternative to commercial fonts? Any downsides to using GF for non-web work?
Their about page doesn’t mention anything on this specifically and seems to position these fonts as web assets.
Making the web more beautiful, fast, and open through great typography. We believe the best way to bring personality and performance to websites and products is through great design and technology. Our goal is to make that process simple, by offering an intuitive and robust directory of open source designer web fonts.
Also, since their fonts appear to be Open Source, does this mean its 100% ok to use the fonts for non-web commercial work?
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It’s completely fine to use them. Google Fonts are all open source, so you can use them for whatever you like.
However, they are mostly screen fonts. In other words, they’re mostly designed to look decent on a display. They have big lower-case letters, wide spacing between characters, no fine strokes that wouldn’t render on screen and so on. Most are sans-serifs. (And finally, no offence to their creators but many of them are amateur projects, with iffy standards of spacing and design.)
So you can use them for print, but I wouldn’t call most of them well adapted for that. Many of them with what’s called a high “x-height” will often look clunky and shouty once you print them because of the big lower-case letters. Obviously I don’t know what you want to use them for and what aesthetic you want to project, but I think you’d be better off using fonts designed to be printed. Can you tell me what fonts you have in mind and what kind of mood you’re trying to set? I might be able to recommend something better.