Type is hot, and it’s going mainstream. Here’s what to know about today’s font industry.
“Type is hot,” states Lucia Moses in Digiday. “Fonts are a booming business, as evidenced by a rise in font studios, independent designers and demand by brands and normals alike. Blue-chip companies like Ford and Citibank as well as storied publications like The Atlantic are commissioning custom fonts in search of a unique look.”
Fonts are even garnering celebrity status to rival the Kardashians.
“The mainstream is starting to care about fonts, too,” Moses continues. “It’s seen in the release of the 2007 documentary, ‘Helvetica,’ about typography and visual culture (Rotten Tomatoes rating: 88 percent). It was followed in 2011 by ‘Just My Type: A Book About Fonts,’ which got raves from The New York Times. Artist and designer, Seb Lester, has 1 million followers on Instagram; The New Yorker dubbed him ‘the resident celebrity of Instagram calligraphy.’”
What’s going on? Moses attributes it to a couple of things: technical advances that allow designers to be more creative; and the recognition of type design as a serious art form worthy of its own field of study. And of course Google, which “unleashed hundreds of fonts when it created Google Docs, making it possible for users to pick from a dizzying array of choices,” made font choice a reality for most anyone.
All of this is leading to what some call a “glut” of new typefaces, similar to the kind of glut we saw in graphic design a decade or so ago.
“In the 60s, there might have been 20 well-known designers in the world,” said Roger Black of Font Bureau, a custom fonts shop. “There’s a thousand now. It’s a whole business now.”
That business is booming, with at least 203 new type foundries launching in the last decade, according to Moses.
“Publishing has long had a focus on type, but the proliferation of mobile devices has raised demand for fonts that have the flexibility to adapt to different screen sizes and can create a consistent brand across different media platforms,” Moses writes.
Some worry that the glut is driving down prices – and quality along with it – as Google and Adobe give fonts away for next to nothing. Maybe so, on a mass level, but discerning clients will always pay for good art that speaks their brand’s story. There is room in the market for that.