Jeff Veen Talks Future of Typekit

A fan of irony, an odd news item grabbed my attention, “The University of Wisconsin at Green Bay is swapping Arial for Century Gothic for their email system. It is believed that students will save ink when they print their emails.

Readers politely posted that this is yet another reason to switch to “Garamond” and debate ensued, and then this guy sketched popular fonts on a wall and measured the ink left in the pen!

Web fonts, cheeky controversy, and constant innovation abound online and offline! Candidly speaking, web fonts, became a hell of a lot more interesting over the past year with Typekit’s release. In fact, Typekit has proven itself a web design game-changer both in business and in rendered page.

Matt Hamm ~ Web designer & illustrator - Guildford, Surrey,  UK_1270568610608

Matt Hamm recently upgraded to Typekit on his site Discovered via @dribbble on Matt’s page

Typekit, a product and business eco-system that blew by the bureaucracy of type vendors agreeing on universal licensing and browsers deciding on what fonts to support, and rapidly and forever changed web design in both beautiful and controversial ways.

We’re well beyond the hype of Typekit’s rollout, the web is full of love letters, lessons, and licensing debates, so I caught up with Jeff Veen (Co-founder of Small Batch Inc, the company behind Typekit) to  take inventory of some Typekit’s greatest effects:

  • Licensing
  • Web standards
  • Web font design
  • Individual challenge of web designers to learn more about type
  • The Typekit ecosystem & API

Licensing? Subscribing to a Constant Soundtrack

A day before I was scheduled to speak with Jeff, Jeffery Zeldman published a great post about Typekit, “My Love Hate Relationship With Typekit” (Dammit.) Of licensing, he writes:

“I have mixed feelings about their product because I’d rather buy a web-licensed font than rent it …. But a one-time font purchase as a line item in a design budget is easier to explain and sell to a client than an ongoing rental charge.”

@Zeldman does a great job exploring issues of licensing v. owning, and I’d rather encourage you to read his words than attempt to resummarize his succinct poetry in my prose. I did, however, bring @Zeldman’s timely post up with Jeff, who explained that he believes Typekit’s model isn’t about a “rent v. buy” proposition.

Typekit, like Spotify, and many other service businesses living in the cloud, is a professional hosted service. Instead of a constant soundtrack of music and lyrics, users have a constant stream of licensed fonts.

As for the issues around explaining an ongoing licensing fee, Jeff admits that he and the Typekit team are continuing to work on ways to help designers do a better job of explaining this proposition.

“Fonts, like stock photography, hosting services, among others, are now part of the subscription service assets that are expected to be packaged as a part of a web build.”


Tiny Speck’s Myles Grant (non-designer friendly example!) Discovered via @dribbble on Myle’s page

Skirting Web Standards or Towing the Line?

Standards are ingrained in design and design philosophy, it’s understandable then to question how a product that requires a paid subscription might not fully compliment a designer who seeks to practice standards compliant design. Jeff explains:

“Typekit uses 100% standards compliant markup, style, and script. We’ve built a service that sits along side web standards, helping designers and developers focus on creative solutions rather than workarounds and hacks, no matter how bullet-proof they are.”

“It’s a similar solution to how many people use jQuery hosted on Google’s servers now. Everyone who includes the link in their page automatically has the latest stable version, properly minified and gzipped, served from data centers around the world.”

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