Understanding Font Management ROI: Font Auto-Activation Benefits And Differentiators

Time is money, and if there’s one workflow feature that can save creative teams time, it’s font auto-activation. Auto-activation is a standard feature of font management tools. In fact, it’s probably the most common feature offered by font managers. While it’s easy to take for granted, let’s dive into one method for calculating the ROI of creative work, explain exactly why automatic activation provides greater value than manual activation, and highlight some important considerations about auto-activation in different solutions. 

[Quick Takeaways]

You can jump ahead to read specific sections if you prefer:

1. Calculating Font Management ROI
2. Customer Insights
3. Auto-Activation Values

1. Calculating Font Management ROI

The entire creative industry has changed dramatically over the course of a few years. It’s more dispersed, more competitive, and arguably more demanding—but luckily, the technology sector is rapidly building and optimizing tools that support better collaboration and creative output. With costs rising in so many areas, one crucial component to consider before adopting a font manager is the Return On Investment (ROI) it delivers.

ROI is easily calculated for businesses with physical goods or traditional services, but ROI can be more abstract for creative enterprises, because there are many ways to quantify the value of creative work. Nonetheless, monetary value must be assigned to creative work so a manager can effectively manage and apply resources.

For agencies, a very effective way to assign monetary value to creative work is to measure the amount of billable time saved during its creation using vital tools like a font manager, then plug the value of that time into an ROI equation. The ROI equation to use looks like this:

ROI equation

But first, let’s quantify the value of the billable time saved during the creation of effective design. Let’s say that the average billable hour rate is $75, and a font manager’s auto-activation feature recaptures 34 billable hours per year for each teammate. (What a coincidence, we found that this is how much time Connect + Insight saves creative professionals! Billable hours that they apply to additional client projects.) Luckily the math here is easy: Connect + Insight saves $2,550 worth of billable hours per year, per user. Which can also be described as Connect + Insight’s assumed business value.  

infographic depicting calculation for ROI of Extensis Connect auto-activtion


Values are calculated from Extensis auto-activation product data through November 2023.

Not bad. Now, when we plug Connect + Insight’s $200 annual subscription cost into the ROI equation and do some further division and percentage calculations based on Connect + Insight’s $2,550 assumed business value, we find Connect + Insight delivers an ROI of 1175%, or 12x.

And that’s before incorporating other ROI enhancing factors like its propensity for font risk mitigation. Let’s hear it for font management ROI! Bottom line: if you’re looking for a font manager (or any tool really) that doubles as a solid investment to your bottom line, choose the one that saves the most (billable) time. That’s where the real ROI lives.  

2. Customer Insights

Extensis has worked with professional creatives for three decades to provide value (and happiness!) to workflows. Our research shows that most marketing and design teams maintain an average of 4500 fonts. We also learned (through a commissioned third-party survey of a random sampling of creative industry professionals with roles ranging from IT to Creative Director) that roughly 39% of creative professionals have had issues arise from font misuse.  

This is both why precise activation is crucial for fast-moving creative teams and auto-activation’s greatest value is found at scale. The more fonts, team members, clients, projects, and/or types of media in your workflow, the more auto-activation can benefit you, because at scale these factors add up to a greater number of activations, and therefore a greater risk of font misuse.

“Auto-activation is a godsend when working on so many projects. Having one where all fonts are located helps with productivity. Search for a font is easy even if I don't know what I want to use. Being able see what the font looks like makes decision making easier.”
— Dee T.
Production: Web / Graphic / Tech Specialist

3.  Auto-Activation Values

I. Save And Replace Manual Labor

When we’re working on computers, “manual labor” can be a vague concept. But what if we told you that we think of auto-activation almost like a vacuum cleaner or a washing machine?  

Quickly vacuum up an explosive flour spill or toss a heavily stained jacket in the wash to make it new again, and it’s easy to see where those appliances provide value: the bigger problem is solved with the push of a button, a.k.a. the least amount of time and effort.  

Remember, our most recent calculations show that the average Extensis Connect + Insight user saves 34 hours per year using auto-activation. That’s just a hair shy of a full work weeks' worth of billable time (not to mention, all that effort)!  

II. Faster Systems  

We often think of auto-activation as being more convenient for individual designers than manual activation. It’s true. Activating and deactivating required fonts takes a lot of energy. But you want to know what causes lag time for systems? Fonts that stay activated when they’re not needed.

You know how sometimes your phone will start slowing down, and you remember it’s time to close out apps that you’re not using, but left open? When dozens or hundreds of fonts are left perpetually activated, they require active processing from operating systems. This can slow down everything for everyone.

Auto-activation doesn't just activate fonts. It also deactivates them when they’re not in use, leading to a cleaner, faster flow.

“Speeds up my design process, improves the Mac OS font management system x100. Auto font activation means I don't need 1,000s of fonts active all the time, just when I need them.”
— Craig B.

III. Distinction Between Versions (Depending On Your Font Manager)

A font name can tell you a lot, but it won’t tell you everything. Manual activation by font name cannot rise to the challenge of parsing between font versions with the same name. In fact, most font management tools can’t.

Let’s say you need to activate Helvetica… but which Helvetica? Some of the most popular fonts are constantly being reworked, with different versions released with slight design tweaks. To the naked eye, a font sample from one may look exactly like the other. However, it’s not the case to the trained eye. It’s also not the case for an InDesign file that suddenly egregiously wrapped text because the intended version has different kerning. And it can also be the case that the font used does not match the font intended. In this situation, license violations are basically unavoidable.

Not all font managers’ auto-activation features can detect between versions of fonts with the same name. Extensis’ patented Font Sense technology doesn’t just search available fonts by name, it analyzes how a font is represented in code, and draws a perfect match.  

IV. That Intangible, Carefree Je Ne Sais Quoi Bliss That Comes From Unbroken Concentration

If we were to make a perfume ad about any one font management feature, it would be auto-activation. Here’s why. The time saved by auto-activation isn’t one chunk blocked off on a schedule. It’s cumulative time. The need to activate fonts arises often, interrupting multiple creative tasks and forcing designers to exit the zone. And once you’ve left the zone, it’s not always easy to get back. Auto-activation is like taking the freeway, rather than the side streets: no red lights en route.

And from what we can tell, the thrill of being in the zone and making cool, beautiful, sharp stuff happen  is why creative people do what they do. We want to give designers more of that, you know, warm and fuzzy brilliant feeling. And take away some of that, “I went to design school to become a forensic detective in missing fonts cases” feeling.  

Of all the benefits, this one really is impossible to quantify. How can you score a team member’s happiness? What price tag do you put on being seriously annoyed? While it’s intangible and doesn’t translate to numbers, we believe it has real value.  

We’ve been helping creative teams manage fonts for three decades! Extensis Connect + Insight does more than just auto-activation (although, we believe we do it the best). Our Creative Intelligence Suite helps build a healthy font ecosystem in creative environments—with user-friendly font panels for Adobe and Sketch, intuitive font search suggestions, usage and license compliance reporting, plus many more insights.

Take a tour to discover everything Extensis Connect + Insight has to offer.