is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
If Typekit dragged the type industry into the daylight of the modern Web, then the brand new Fontstand aims to finish the job of modernizing it. This new service allows, for the first time, on-the-fly trial and rental of quality fonts from foundries such as Commercial Type, Process Type Foundry, Type Together and a small but significant coterie of others. Install Fontstand’s Mac app and you have instant access to its full catalog; it takes just a click of the mouse to try any font for free for an hour, rent it for a month at just 10% of its retail price, or rent-to-own it over the course of twelve months.
Everything works just as you’d expect—mostly. As soon as you access a font for trial it loads into your system and is available to any program, instantly and without hassle. In my preliminary testing, after the one-hour trial period ends the font is actually still available to running processes, but not to new ones. For example, I had loaded Commercial Type’s Caponi Slab and created a text block inside a Photoshop document; when the hour was up I was still able to create new text blocks in new files within Photoshop, but not within other apps that hadn’t been using Caponi Slab during that time.
Also, in trial mode the capital F character is replaced with a Fontstand icon, as shown below. (Also notice that the ﬁ ligature works.)
That’s a small inconvenience to bear in exchange for a tremendous luxury that designers have wanted for years: the ability to give new fonts a spin quickly without making a purchase commitment. It’s an innovation that has seemed inevitable from the moment that cloud-based delivery of design assets became viable, but it’s taken this scrappy company from The Netherlands—who claim that they are “strictly independent from any existing large corporate entity on the font market”—to bring it to life. I sincerely wish them well—they’ve shown that creating this kind of product is possible; now they’ve got to show type designers around the world that it’s a viable business, too.+