Founded by Peter Biľak and Andrej Kratky, and released in May 2015, Fontstand partners with type designers and foundries to deliver high-quality fonts to graphic designers. Co-founder Peter Biľak talks about how Fontstand came together, and what makes it valuable for both the designers who use fonts and the type designers who make fonts.
To date, what has the reception been? Are you seeing the user base, rentals, and sales, grow into the numbers you’d hoped for? Exceeding them? What’s been the feedback from people who’ve used it?
To my surprise, we have only seen positive reception. We have nearly 6,000 registered users from 84 countries, including Namibia, Guadeloupe, or Kyrgyzstan. We had over 100k site visitors, 12k app downloads. Fontstand conversion rate—free trials to paid rentals—has grown from about 2% in the first week to the current number of 12%. I think these are very encouraging numbers. We had great response to our student program, where we provide credits for graphic design students to use great fonts during their studies. Many schools teach professional design practices using professional design tools, but until now the students had to settle for substandard, free font options. We now offer them access to the highest quality fonts, just the same as design professionals use. We can do that because students don’t receive actual font files, but time-restricted access to the fonts they choose, so there is no risk of piracy.
Fontstand has been compared to iTunes, insomuch as it could do for type designers what iTunes did for musicians: getting media into more users’ hands, promoting artists, and improving their sales, and giving them another, more sustainable and perhaps profitable revenue stream. But, iTunes has come under fire for being complicated, bloated, messy, and buggy. Moreover, Apple itself has also come under fire for not doing musicians justice: Pete Townshend of The Who criticized the iTunes business model, calling Apple a “digital vampire” in BBC 6 Music’s inaugural John Peel Lecture. In summer 2015, Taylor Swift criticized Apple, saying they should pay musicians more money as part of Apple Music. Peter, I am definitely not taking anything away from Fontstand, especially since it looks and is such a good thing for designers to use, and for type designers to benefit from. But given negative issues surrounding iTunes, how else could you characterize Fontstand or describe it, instead of comparing it to something as controversial as iTunes?
The trouble with Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and other giant digital services is that no one understands how royalties for music streaming works. Just read this. They are deliberately opaque, protecting everyone’s interests besides the authors of the music.
Fontstand is designed and run by type designers, so we do what we can to create a win-win situation for font users and type designers. We offer radical transparency of our sales, not only providing clear royalty statements, but full stats of the rentals and even free trials. Fontstand creates a great value for the font users, but we believe there is a lot of value for the foundries too, and foundries benefit directly from this new development.
Last, but not least, where do you hope to take Fontstand in the future?
Fontstand can still be improved, so we work on making it better—making it easier to find the right fonts, promoting good typography and type designers in our series of articles. And of course, we intend to continue making small, independent type foundries relevant in the age where power tends to get centralized.
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