Fontstand Released for Testing and Renting Desktop Fonts

The idea of testing and renting fonts isn't new. Back in September of 2012 Monotype launched its SkyFonts service, which made it possible to try out and then rent fonts for a period as short as a day. Fonts.com web font subscribers could use the SkyFonts client to test out desktop versions of fonts available through the service. This was later simplified by the ability to access this functionality via just a free Fonts.com account, without the need for a separate web font subscription. Part of its appeal was access to the large number of fonts available via Fonts.com, Google Fonts, MyFonts, Membership by Monotype and Linotype.com.

Challenging that monopoly is the launch of Fontstand, a Mac application created by type designers Andrej Krátky, Peter Biľak, and Ondrej Jób. And that origin reveals the underlying logic of the application. As Biľak observes, "Type designers are great at the production phase of fonts, but now we have created a platform to connect directly with end users. This is important because if we don’t channel money from font licensing back to font designers, there won’t be any new fonts made." So Fontstand can be see as end-run around the gatekeepers that have traditionally dominated font sales, with type designers desperate to sell directly to end users. A nd there's nothing wrong with that, one can only regret that the type design community for so many years resisted the internet as a mechanism for getting their fonts into the hands of designers. So welcome to the party!

What does Fontstand have to offer? Users can view fonts and try out up to 10 of them a day for one hour at no charge, employing them as if they were installed locally. Interesting enough but fonts can also be rented for 30 days at just 10% of their regular price. Such rented fonts can be shared with other Fontstand users for an additional 2%, extending the rental model to small design shops and workgroups. And if you rent a font for a year it's paid for and yours to use ongoingly. Part of the appeal of the new service is that it greatly simplifies the traditionally complex font licensing agreement as well as allowing designers to create commercial work that may require just a short-term font usage. While the model seems solid, it's a shame that Windows users are shut out and the current participation of just twenty-one type foundries limits the offer to 338 families. Nevertheless, this seems like a promising initiative well worth trying out.

And Adobe's Creative Cloud-based Typekit in all this? According to Jason Smith from Fontsmith, one of the participating foundries, "Independent foundries are finding it harder and harder to compete with the monopolies of Monotype and Adobe Typekit. Fontstand aims to support foundries, like ours, who employ highly skilled people to craft beautiful fonts with distinct stories."

The Fontstand application for Mac is available for free download on the Fontstand site.