Font Use and Distribution Down to Digital Signage Media Players

Font Use and Distribution Down to Digital Signage Media Players

The modern world would not exist without fonts.  The fact is, fonts are essential to non-verbal communication whether it’s in print, online or on digital signage screens. This article isn’t about the history of typography but rather to remind readers about the importance of proper font use in digital signage.  We’re also going to review how the Navori CMS uses and distributes fonts to digital signage screens.

Digital signage is like a virtual canvas designers use to communicate with audiences. The same rules apply for digital signage screens as they would for print, video or online content so let’s review some basic font theory.

Font styles and families

For the purpose of this article we use the word font, but you can also use typeface as these terms are interchangeable.

Fonts can be broken down into six different styles.

  • Serif – a formal style used to convey a sense of class.  Example: Times New Roman.
  • Slab – a bolder version of the serif style. Example: Courier.
  • Sans serif – a modern, clean style. Example: Arial.
  • Script – a decorative hand-written style. Example: Lucida.
  • Modern – a simple and futuristic style. Example: Frutiger.
  • Display and decorative – a creative style that is mostly used in logos. Example: Jokerman.

You should always start by picking the style that best matches the feeling you want to convey.  For example, a modern or display font would work particularly well when describing a call to action or when writing a block of text that calls for attention.

Once you have selected a style, you must pick a font family.  A family is a set of fonts that share a common design. A popular font family, like Times New Roman, includes the following variations: roman, italic, bold and bold italic.  However, there can be many more variations available depending on the one you choose.

Note that fonts also come in various weights indicated by bold, light, or medium so it’s not unusual to see a font listed as “Times New Roman – Italic – Medium”.

There are thousands of font families to choose from in every style, so there are no limits to what you can create.

A word about legibility

You design content for digital signage like you would for a slideshow.  Your text must be easy to read from a distance and there must be enough contrast between the text and the background so the audience can read the words.

Sans serif fonts are a great choice for digital signage as they are much easier to read from a distance. Ornamental font styles tend to have a lot of details so it’s better to use them sparingly. They are a good choice when the viewer is expected to be closer to the screen, or in larger font sizes.

Fonts are typically measured in points, which is the vertical measurement of a letter. There are approximately 72 points in one inch. The greater the point size, the taller the font.

When laying out text for your digital screens, remember to consider the distance that will separate the viewer from the content. This will indicate the proper font size so the text remains legible.

The table below assumes black text with a sans serif font on a light or white background.


Font sizing guidelines*:

Font size in points Comfortable viewing distance
20pt 7’
34pt 12’
50pt 18’
66pt 25’
100pt 34’
133pt 49’
200pt 74’
265pt 112’
400pt 150’

Font licensing

Fonts are intellectual property and as such they require some type of licensing. Remember that licensing is not the same as purchasing. You acquire the permission to use the font subject to the terms of the end user license agreement (or EULA).

There are many types of licenses which dictate how the fonts can be used. Desktop licenses allow you to install a font on a computer so this would be the proper license for typical digital signage software.

Open source licenses let you redistribute fonts freely while commercially available fonts may require a specific type of license based on the font’s use.  In some cases, open source font licenses may require some type of attribution about the author.

It’s important to respect the font licensing terms and not distribute fonts unless it is permitted.

Most computer operating systems include a basic set of fonts and these do not require additional licensing. TheNavori QLCMS and Player software works with the basic font set that is included with each device, whether it runs on Microsoft Windows, Google Android and other supported operating systems.  There is no further licensing required for these fonts.

Font types

The Navori QL CMS supports TrueType and OpenType fonts natively on every hardware platform and operating system.  This means you can deploy the same fonts on Windows PCs, Android devices, and System on Chip displays from Samsung, LG, Philips, Sharps, and ELO touch.

In the event you wish to add more fonts to your players, you can use the Navori QL CMS software to synchronize and distribute fonts to each player.  This way you won’t need to manually copy and install the font files on each device. You simply copy the required files to QL server and then update your players.

Your users will also be able to preview and use the new fonts in the QL Template and Ticker Designers.

Remote font synchronization is a huge time-saver and it ensures all your players will have the correct fonts installed to display your content accurately.