Dalton Maag launches new site allowing users to trial fonts for free

Type foundry Dalton Maag has launched a new website designed by Method, which features a range of new features and an option to try full font files for free before buying. We spoke to Bruno Maag and Method’s Tomi Lahdesmaki about the redesign…

Type foundry Dalton Maag has launched a new website designed by Method, which features a range of new features and an option to try full font files for free before buying. We spoke to Bruno Maag and Method’s Tomi Lahdesmaki about the redesign…

The new site looks dramatically different to Dalton Maag’s old and as well as simplified, fixed rate licensing options, it allows registered users to download full font files for pitches, non-commercial work and student projects free of charge.

While this is a risky move – there’s no guarantee everyone who downloads the font will pay for it before using commercially – Dalton Maag chairman Bruno Maag says he hopes it will encourage designers to use the foundry’s fonts in pitches and help justify high quality and bespoke typefaces to clients.

As Lahdesmaki explains, Maag was also aware that if a designer wanted to use a copy of one of the foundry’s fonts for free, they could do so simply by asking friends or downloading from elsewhere on the web.

“The reality of the graphic design world is that fonts are distributed amongst designers for free. When a designer begins work on a specific project they often end up emailing all their buddies to track down a copy of a specific font so that they can play with it. If they like it and end up using it, then the designer will most likely suggest their client purchase the font. This is a reality that Dalton Maag embraced with the idea of releasing trial copies for all their fonts for free,” he says.

“We know that the design industry is used to dealing with rights management for example with stock imagery or licensing music. We trust the user to ensure they have the correct license,” adds Maag.

For users who choose to purchase a font, the new system is also much simpler: users can choose to purchase a web or app font and pay a fixed fee for that website or app per year (£48), with no limit on the number of end users. A perpetual license is priced at £480. It’s a considerably cheaper alternative to complex licensing models, which are often calculated based on the number of users, page views or downloads.

“When licensing fonts for use on the web or in apps some foundries license based on the number of page views or number of app downloads,” explains Maag. “This is inherently difficult for the user because they then have to monitor their website usage. It can also prove risky for a small developer who could be faced with a large bill if they happen to release the next angry birds or a website that goes viral.

“We recognised this and aimed to provide licensing that is fair no matter if you are a large corporate or an indie developer. These are time limited, we understand that websites and apps have a short lifespan so charge a flat fee per website or app per year,” he adds.

Method and Dalton Maag say the new licensing options were influenced by digital music services such as iTunes and Spotify. Lahdesmaki says he hopes the trial font and new licensing options on the site “will fundamentally challenge and change the typography design industry, much in the same way that the music industry changed with the arrival of MP3s.”

The reduced prices and unlimited usage options are likely to prove controversial – particularly among those who charge higher fees – but Maag says he hopes other foundries will “appreciate the changes and understand our reasoning behind them. If all foundries did the same thing it would be a very boring industry. Our new models may not be right for every foundry but they will help us achieve our goals over the coming years,” he adds.

Visually, the new site is a considerable improvement on the old and features a bright, bold homepage displaying a range of the foundry’s fonts against original photography and illustration. Library and commissions pages take users to a similar layout, with font names displayed against brightly coloured backgrounds, while an about us section provides an introduction to the foundry and images of Dalton Maag staff. There’s also a blog section which will be updated with news, events and articles on works in progress.

Dalton Maag has been working with Method on the new site for around a year, with a range of new features to be added in the next few months. The agency was asked to create something that would work on any device and that users would want to visit for inspiration, not just when they were looking for a new font.

“Our old site had been static whilst the industry went through a period of change … we wanted to respond to customer’s needs [and] thought it was important to conduct customer research and build a site that improved the experience for them,” says Maag.

Lahdesmaki says the site also aims to “tell the story” of the foundry’s work, adding: “so much knowledge, talent and skill goes into the details of typography design – to properly appreciate the fonts, dedicated and immersive pages were required for fonts both library and commissioned.”

Before working on the design, the agency conducted brand workshops and interviews with a range of creatives, from in-house designers to freelancers, to determine what they were looking for from a type foundry website. “Typography companies often take quite an insular approach, overly-focussed on the technique or technology of typography, all showing lots of big letters on white backgrounds, with the result that a lot of their websites look the same,” he says.

“From our research it was clear that designers really see typeface design and choice as a key part of ‘finding the voice’ of a brand, and we embraced this as an idea that could connect everything – creating a unique visual world for each library and commissioned font to live in, and defining a new brand position for Dalton Maag as the partner that helps designers and brands to ‘find your voice’,” he explains.

The phrase ‘Find Your Voice’ is displayed at the top of the new homepage, and Maag believes this concept is what sets the website apart from its competitors. “Most foundries (including ourselves up until now) tend to show single characters from a font, big letters or phrases of text, often black text on a plain background.

“We realised this is not inspirational – type designers may appreciate the subtleties in the curve of a lowercase ‘a’, but our customers are more likely to be concerned with the voice the entire typeface carries. We think this is where some other foundries go wrong. Our new site aims to give all our fonts context, aiding decision making for the designer,” he adds.

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