How can small designers' fonts ever sell successfully?

Peter_SchoenwaldPeter_Schoenwald Posts: 1
edited April 22 in Type Business
Hi !

I'm a designer starting out. So let's say I work hard on a font - I nail down the concept and hammer at it for a long time to make it into a worthwhile product both aesthetically and technically. After that, the time comes to release the font, and it becomes available on MyFonts.

How will anyone ever find it and buy it? I myself am an unknown designer/foundry, with no real channels of marketing my design. MyFonts wouldn't put it on the front page as I'm unknown. And people wouldn't search for the font by name (which is meaningless in itself) if they don't know it exists.

What am I missing here, how can small guys avoid their work sinking in the infinite sea of fonts either new or established?
For example, could a new type designer ever realistically get on something like MyFonts' "Hot New Fonts"?

Thank you all
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Comments

  • K PeaseK Pease Posts: 71
    This is one of the few things MyFonts is actually good at. You make sure to tag it with every applicable description, and people searching for something specific to meet their needs will find it in their search results. This is of course a "long tail". If you want a hot start, it's all about the deep introductory discounts they recommend so fervently. There are strong arguments for and against it, which you'll have to weigh and decide what you're willing to do.
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 58
    That’s the only thing that can possibly happen with this strategy — an unknown designer gives 50% to myfonts just to bury their font deep in the search to never be found by anyone.

    A better option would be to contact some foundries or start your own and put some time and money into promotion.
  • Going independent is expensive and time consuming. Ever since the beginning, Terminal Design has been independent and has never relied on resellers. It does help that I have a large library and a few very popular designs, but I can't imagine what I would do now, if I only had a few font offerings. And I agree with @Andreas Stötzner the market is rotten.
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 383
    Another option is to not go to myfonts at all but to try to arrange for foundry with a compatible estetic to publish your font.  You lose some control this way, and possibly a larger share of royalties, but you likely save on marketing costs because that's probably something the foundry will take on.  Also, a foundry usually has a natural audience that will see your font.

    If you don't have connections to foundries this may be impossible but it's certainly an option that's still a kind of "independent" since the foundry would itself be "indie."  There are also options like Village (really good incubator and has launched a lot of careers but their licensing is a major blind spot).
  • The catalog there is so massive
    To illustrate this point, here’s some anecdotal data on the increasing quantity: In the first 110 days of this year, MyFonts has added 134 new “foundries” (not fonts) to their catalog. Go figure.


    And about 1550 new fonts.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,207
    To put that into perspective, though, only about 155 are any good (see Sturgeon's Law), so maybe not quite as bad as it sounds.  :)
  • For example, could a new type designer ever realistically get on something like MyFonts' "Hot New Fonts"?
    I am a self-taught nobody with no ties to established brands, but I got quite a few typefaces into Hot New Fonts, as well as one into Text Typeface of the Month (even though it wasn‘t a particularly texty typeface). It‘s not that hard really. 

    The bad news is that even so, my total MyFonts earnings over the past seven years or so are of the order of magnitude of a month‘s full-time salary at my day job. It‘s really more of a well-paying hobby than a job. Of course, I‘m not pursuing type design extensively enough to expect to get rich from it, but still. 

    Now, the pay from working for Google Fonts is very respectable indeed, but it‘s notoriously difficult to get a contract signed. 
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 537
    edited April 24
    The market has suffocated under its overabundance. Big names still win big, smaller fish get by harder, if at all. The field is subject to Zipf's law and this topic has been discussed at various times on the board. I have a steady job to pay the bills and fonts are a side thing. I'm not bitter or anything.

    Not only that, but everything concerning visuals has been so much transformed by the media and the internet that the public can get impressed by hardly anything anymore. At one time a simple b&w type specimen was sufficient, than type presentations had to get a lot better to get the edge and now more and more one has to use 3D and animation to get more eyes, prostitute his art on Instagram, Dribble and whatever new thing comes along (for everyone to snatch for their project), and that's how the game goes. I am not even mentioning piracy.

    Not only that, but also the intrinsic disrespect for the professions associated with imagery has increased. People think that because they can see something creating it is no big deal, something not typical for, say, programming, which seems untouchable voodoo to the masses. Once it was hard to learn the craft, you had to buy books and study at a higher learning institution. Now everybody can learn it from the Internet. Of course most results are subpar (and this feeds Zipf's law), but this does not concern the majority of people - they think images and fonts are generated automatically by "tHe Camputar", are freely available on the web, imformations should be free bla bla bla, and of course they can do it themsleves. I let them do it themsleves.

    I think in this context the programming side of font production will gain even more ground. Companies will want a certain font to work good in a maximum cases and enviroments, and this is where there will allways be work, especially if it is some font from the overcrowded pool the guys at the company picked but that the designer(s) did not pay much attention to the coding.
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 58
    edited April 26
    An alternative thought here: from personal and not personal experience, I think it actually is possible to make a living by selling fonts, and market isn’t overcrowded yet. Although there are tons of poorly made fonts, high quality and contemporary in aesthetics options are still quite limited, especially if you need something more than a typical sans.

    Of course, you need enough people to care about your fonts, understand the market trends, have big companies purchasing bigger licenses on a regular-ish basis and stuff like that. That requires a “name” – either develop yours (hard but possible) or join an existing one (more realistic).
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 596
    edited April 27
    I have departed from expecting notable income from fonts in any general sense of the business, long since. The market is just rotten.

    Yes, I suspect that is the case...

    Alex Visi said:
    Of course, you need enough people to care about your fonts, understand the market trends, have big companies purchasing bigger licenses on a regular-ish basis and stuff like that. That requires a “name” – either develop yours (hard but possible) or join an existing one (more realistic).
    And although he was more optimistic, I think this is the reason why.
    Ad agencies and the like are interested enough to pay the prices charged by FontFont in order to get a unique and fashionable look.
    For nearly everyone else, if the typefaces that come with Windows or the Macintosh don't fill the bill, the Bitstream clone library of the classic fonts will have what they're looking for. If they have a taste for something different, well, there's always Google Fonts.
    So the people who are going to pay good money for fonts will be industry professionals. And the lion's share of their money goes either to places like FontFont or places like Adobe. There isn't a mass market looking for more original or slightly more economical solutions, because who would be the buyers in that market?
    Not being a font designer myself, my concern is that the market conditions mean that if there is a talented individual out there who is the "next Hermann Zapf" or who has designed "the next Times Roman", not enough people will ever see the work in question for it to become known. Thus, the terrible waste of the effort of talented font designers does not just hurt them, it hurts everyone.
  • Dusan JelesijevicDusan Jelesijevic Posts: 40
    edited April 27
    If I am in situation to enter the market now (again, with this experience), I would release every typeface carefully. Not just to announce that there's another new type designer out there, but that there's one new worth attention. It means that I would invest all necessary time to publish quality typefaces, technically on high level, with good metrics, with balanced and equalised drawing and original, unique personal website. Make a good picture of your self right at the beginning. Money can't be the only motive, it can be starter, but not the first thing on mind. 
  • ValKalinicValKalinic Posts: 43
    edited April 27
    If I am in situation to enter the market now (again, with this experience), I would release every typeface carefully. Not just to announce that there's another new type designer out there, but that there's one new worth attention. It means that I would invest all necessary time to publish quality typefaces, technically on high level, with good metrics, with balanced and equalised drawing and original, unique personal website. Make a good picture of your self right at the beginning. Money can't be the only motive, it can be starter, but not the first thing on mind. 
    I'll dare say I think first impressions are overrated in this context. It's not as if all eyes are on a new foundry when it starts. I don't think anyone would hold it against you later on if you had started too slowly (or even remember what you were back then, in the sea of new offerings).

    In other words, to really announce there's a new foundry worth attention, one would need to have more than a few families ready for release right out of the gate as a foundation for their identity and go on from there, which is not realistic for an independent designer. More akin to what @Igor Petrovic said earlier, I feel that (as a "small designer" as the thread title suggests), it's much more viable to progress and build up both the quality and resulting image bit by bit. My point is that this process being gradual is hardly avoidable, and you've followed it through very well - so don't worry about those regrets.
  • The catalog there is so massive
    To illustrate this point, here’s some anecdotal data on the increasing quantity: In the first 110 days of this year, MyFonts has added 134 new “foundries” (not fonts) to their catalog. Go figure.


    And the quality is also, more than often, so lousy that I could cry. :-(

    To reply to Peter's question: I think “marketing” is not something abstract. It depends in what you are putting in your work. If your effort is serious, you are probably trying something new either design-wise or culturally, or both.
    So I would say marketing will not be a mere “utilitaristic” exercise, rather it will be related also to how you relate to your own work, and decide to show/propose/talk about it.
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