Once for print and once again for online

The web and typography are not the best of bedfellows. In fact the web has become the art of severely constrained typography. To use a particular typeface that users most likely wouldn’t have required some hacking and fancy CSS footwork. Image replacement, Flash replacement (sIFR) and JavaScript Hacking (Cufón) have set the tone for custom typefaces on the web. It’s all a bit embarrassing. Time for a change me thinks.

It’s been a long time coming but now there is solution with considerable potential. Typekit may be the saviour of typefaces on the web. At the very least it plants the seed for revolution. The amazing thing is that the foundries, for the moment, are in the driving seat.

Online hosting of typefaces for most browsers via a single web service for all is very tempting. The first thing that springs to mind is that this solution could kill off Microsoft’s EOT if it wasn’t dead already. The format suddenly becomes irrelevant when font delivery is outsourced like this to a third party. This brings me to a potential problem. Servers go down, they always do. Some more frequent than others but they will fail at some point. This basically means that the hosting server will fail when your site is up and running. Bye bye beautiful typeface, hello horrible Verdana.
Can you demand a special SLA to ensure a certain amount of uptime? What will that cost? Do I really want of fork out large amounts of cash for a font I’ve already bought?

The cost factor is a big problem. I buy a font to design with because it happens to be the clients identity typeface, so there is no way around it. When the client is happy with the design then both you and the client need to buy that exact same font again because the one you already own for their identity only carries a non-web license. So you and the client must fork out the cash for another license. Worse still, they need to pay a reoccurring service fee to have that web licensed font hosted for them. The foundries are so caught up in DRM type solutions that they don’t think twice about asking you to bend over and grab your ankles.

So they need to come up with a way to get this to work. They need a way to enable designers to work with web licensed fonts and employ a customer friendly way of getting clients to pay for the solution. Call me sceptical but the foundries do not have a good track record in the solution department.

Typekit will be great, but I fear not for what it can do but for what might follow. Which could be more of the same. I suspect only a handful of designers pay for fonts for print and so I’m curious if Typekit can break that cycle. Time will tell and in any case it should make for an interesting year. Web fonts here we come.

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