A few weeks ago, we launched a new Fontstand service that enables users, for a small monthly fee, to subscribe to many of our partner foundries, opening up all of their available fonts for use.
So why this added service, when the temporary font rental service, offered by Fontstand since 2015 under a lease-to-own model, has proved so popular?
We believe the new option addresses slightly different needs, and so we thought it would be helpful for our users to provide some background to the changes.
Fontstand was originally created to provide designers and font users with a tool to discover, test, and use fonts on a temporary basis. Despite its large library of more than 2,300 families from nearly 70 independent foundries, giving more choice than any single font foundry website, it is essentially a precision tool. The app offers various ways for a user to narrow down their choices in order to find exactly what they need for a given project: advanced filtering options, free trials, variable rental periods. They know they’re paying only for the exact styles and precise the amount of time for which the fonts are required.
However, the process – albeit fairly simple – does require some planning on the part of the user, and there are steps a graphic designer needs to take before being able to use a specific font. We began to wonder if there might be an even simpler way to give access to fonts without having to go through these steps.
A subscription service was, to us, the obvious choice.
Of course, the concept of subscribing to a content library is not new, but the biggest benefit – size, quality, and choice – can also be its biggest limitation. For example, the largest music libraries today may contain many millions of songs, but the user has no way of directly choosing to support a particular artist – because of the nature of the revenue-sharing mechanism and because a fair price needs to be established. And in the case of Fontstand, that library might contain tens of thousands of fonts. Looking for an alternative, at one of the recent Foundry Partner meetings we came up with a concept whereby a user subscribes to individual foundries. This, we believe, is a simple model that facilitates both fair revenue sharing and a reasonable price for the user.
Creating such a workable system is no easy task, and having our long-time friend, collaborator, and fellow Foundry Partner Ondrej Jób on board as a UI designer was a huge help. The challenge lay not only in integrating the new option into the existing rental system, but also in developing a simple new interface for activating and deactivating fonts from potentially large foundry libraries (the largest single foundry on Fontstand has more than 270 families in its catalog).
Now, with Fontstand’s Foundry Subscription, the user can choose to subscribe only to the foundries they want to use, via an easy and convenient process. So easy, in fact, that after the free trial week we believe you’ll want to keep on subscribing. Our aim when designing the new UI was to give a sense of simplicity and freedom. While traditional font licensing (and to some extent Fontstand’s monthly rental) forces the user to choose their font before the design can be completed, the subscription allows you to start designing with a variety of fonts – the final choice being made at the very end of the process. You can easily change the font selection, even following a client presentation or a test print run.
We understand that the typical user can only use so many fonts in a month, and many projects require only a handful of fonts. Hence, while our foundries are free to set their own prices, from several fixed-price tiers, most understand that the monthly price should reflect the comparable cost of just one or a few typefaces per month, and our recommended pricing starts at €10 (or USD) per month (before VAT, if applicable).
The subscription can, of course, be constantly renewed, which in our view makes this model both simple for the user and sustainable for the foundry. And in terms of the future, we also envision that people will make their choices not only based on the quality of the design but also on the connection that the creators forge with their audience. We have seen this already, with so many great independent foundries and designers, although unfortunately some of the existing channels that have helped to build such connections in the past are now in decline, especially as social networks lose their momentum.
Our hope is that the platform will eventually facilitate an expansion of the collection with the addition of unreleased fonts, fonts in progress, and even exclusive fonts, thus enabling dedicated users, or ‘fans’, to both follow their design heroes and receive something in return. For this, a closed subscription system is ideal. We have more ideas for future development of the Fontstand offering, but if you have any suggestions or questions, please contact us. We are listening.