Fontdeck is go!

Fontdeck

I’m extremely proud to say that two weeks ago Fontdeck opened its doors to the type-loving public. It’s been a long time in coming – too long I’d admit – but Fontdeck is now live and I’m hugely excited about what’s to come.

To the uninitiated, Fontdeck is a webfont service, that is to say it hosts fonts licensed for use with @font-face font linking. This means is that web designers finally have an alternative to the standard web fonts of Georgia, Verdana, Arial et al, and can now safely choose from hundreds of fonts to use as real text on a website; no images, no Flash, no JavaScript required.

Jon Tan and I had the idea for Fontdeck back in early 2009. Speaking together at a SkillSwap in Brighton, it transpired we shared the same notions on how webfonts might be delivered. We wanted to help font designers provide the very best quality type to everyone whilst make sure that foundries were properly rewarded for their work. We wanted to create a marketplace where independent typeface designers could compete with large foundries, set prices themselves, and create an environment where foundries could manage their own fonts.

Later on in the year, Fontdeck as we know it was born. Clearleft would lead the interface design effort, and OmniTI, a company extremely well respected in the web infrastructure sphere where Jon was Creative Director, would lead the technical effort and provide the super fast and reliable font delivery network.

At Clearleft we designed Fontdeck to be the service that we as a professional design consultancy would want to use; designed by designers for designers you might say. The service had to be quick and easy to use, but as flexible as possible in its implementation. We needed to be able to pass on costs to clients easily. Most of all we needed to be able to put together designs using any of the fonts, to try different variations, and get agreement from clients before any money was handed over. We didn’t want our clients to pay for fonts they weren’t going to use.

To achieve this, we designed Fontdeck so that you can use all fonts for free, but with that use limited to 20 IP addresses per day – enough for to run on a local machine, with a development team, or on staging server, but not enough for a live production website. The idea being that when the built design is ready to be used on a live website, you upgrade your chosen fonts to unlimited usage and pay an annual fee for each font thereafter. By charging only for the fonts you actually use, we can give better value to web designers and their clients (prices start from $6.49), and a better deal for font designers.

One other crucial element of any font service is to have a great catalogue. Our priority for Fontdeck is to have the highest quality professional typefaces we possibly can. I’m really pleased with catalogue we have so far – around 600 fonts of 100 typefaces from 9 foundries.

We’re constantly talking to more foundries, and we’ve some fantastic new typefaces on the way very shortly. (If you’re a foundry or type designer interested in getting your fonts on Fontdeck please drop me a line.) In the meantime here’s a few of my favourites:

Reader from Colophon

Reader sample

Designed by Brighton-based design studio the Entente, I love this grotesque sans-serif with its echoes of Univers. We’ve used it on this year’s dConstruct website.

Futura from URW++

Futura sample

The classic typeface by Paul Renner, gracing Wes Anderson films.

Calluna from Exljbris

Calluna sample

A solid, highly legible serif by Jos Buivenga.

Sommet Rounded & Sommet Slab from Insigne

Sommet Rounded sample

Sommet Slab sample

A lovely sans and serif pairing by Jeremy Dooley. See also Parachute’s Centro Sans and Centro Serif for a matching pair.

Swingdancer from Chank Co

Swingdancer sample

A lovely quirky script font by Chank Diesel.

Egyptienne URW by URW++

Egyptienne sample

You may recognise this solid slab serif from the headings in Clagnut.

To the future

We’ve put together a great little team between us at Clearleft and OmniTI. We’ve got some amazing plans for Fontdeck, and I’m really excited about what we’re going to be doing over the next weeks, months, and years to come. 2010 is going to prove a great year for web typography.