Fontsmith launches new website and licensing models

Fontsmith has become the latest type foundry to reinvent its online business model, with a new website and licensing models for users. We spoke to director Jason Smith about the changes, and what they mean for Fontsmith and its clients.

Fontsmith has become the latest type foundry to reinvent its online business model, with a new website and licensing models for users. We spoke to director Jason Smith about the changes, and what they mean for Fontsmith and its clients.

Fontsmith has been working on a new website for over a year, and Smith says the new site and licensing models are fairer, simpler and more transparent. Unlike Monotype, which recently unveiled a new subscription-based Membership model and Dalton Maag, which introduced fixed rate web and app font licenses, Fontsmith’s site offers users a choice of four licenses,  based on different organisation and usage types.

The most basic package is a studio license, which offers unlimited use of desktop fonts for up to 50 users (prices start at £200 per family). There’s also an SME license for small and medium-sized businesses, which provides web and desktop font use for up to 50 or 250 employees and 500,000 page views, and a premium ‘Brandfont’ service for larger organisations.

The digital license is divided into three sub-types: users can pay an annual fee based on page views to use a font family in a site hosted by a third party server, a one-off price to use a font family on a self-hosted site, or an upfront sum to use a Fontsmith font in a mobile app.

In a statement announcing the launch, Smith says the changes aim to simplify the licensing process and create a clear pricing structure akin to those used by broadband and TV providers. “I kept seeing adverts for different pricing levels for broadband from Sky, BT etc and as a customer, I could quickly and clearly see which was the right service for me. Font licences though, were very complicated, with different foundries using different approaches. Prices were based on the number of users and I kept being asked what a user was – an employee? A freelancer? A computer? A supplier? It was all getting too confusing, so I took a big step back,” he explains.

Speaking to CR, he added that traditional models based on the number of computers a font is installed on have become irrelevant and often lead to complex licenses and unfair pricing. “We had a big client come to us, a high street name, who bought five licenses (one for each of its designers) and paid around £200, yet this font was being used in stores up and down the country. The client hadn’t done anything wrong, but given the work that goes into designing a typeface, we just weren’t getting paid correctly,” he adds.

The new system works on the basis that big brands pay more, and have more control over how they use fonts, while smaller organisations can pay one-off fees based on the number of employees and the type of usage. The Brandfont package covers bespoke design services, from customising existing fonts to creating new ones, and gives brands exclusive global rights to modified fonts and unlimited use online for an up front fee, which varies according to the scale of the project and begins at £10,000.

When determining the new pricing, Smith says Fontsmith was keen to avoid subscription-based models, adding: “My view was that most brands tend to redo things every five to ten years, and don’t see the point in a licensing model. Every designer and project manager just wants an easy life, as does the client. There’s far more benefit for our customers in paying one prices which covers everything, rather than having to read through various licenses and figure out which ones apply to them.”

To coincide with the launch of its new business model, Fontsmith has also introduced new web fonts and a new website designed by London studio Taylor / Thomas. Key additions to the site include an image-heavy blog section for visual inspiration, an instant type-tester allowing users to paste text and trial fonts on screen, and more information on the character and key features of selected fonts. In addition, a new support section aims to answer more user queries online.

“The website has been completely updated, but it still has the same styling – we didn’t feel our brand needed re-inventing, so it was more about sharing more information and knowledge with designers online, and making their lives a lot easier,” explains Smith.

“Designers using the site also wanted to know a little more about the story, essence and features of our fonts to help sell them to clients, so we’ve put more of that information online, so they can use it in pitches and presentations. The thing I’m most pleased with, though, is the font library itself – it’s really clearly categorised, and easily filtered so you can find exactly what you need,” Smith adds.

Unlike Dalton Maag’s new site, which offers free trials for registered users and Monotype’s Membership service, which offers unlimited testing for a monthly fee, the only option to trial on Fontsmith’s site is via the test drive tool – but this can be used to try out multiple weights and sizes. The new site is intuitive and nicely designed, offering a more engaging user experience while retaining Fontsmith’s existing branding.

As we reported on our blog last week, there’s been a real push in the type industry to meet the changing needs of clients and designers working on multi-platform campaigns, and who are looking for simpler and more flexible licensing models. Fontsmith’s new approach appears fairer on both user and foundry than its previous model, and grouping by organisation size should eliminate the possibility of big brands paying small change for fonts. It’s a considerably different approach to Dalton Maag and Monotype’s new structures, and it will be interesting to see which proves most popular – and commercially viable – over the next few years.

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