Fonts Ninja (online type index)

Axel CORJONAxel CORJON Posts: 12
edited July 5 in Miscellaneous News
Hi there!

We're working on a new project: a font index to help graphic designers discover typefaces from different sources (distributors, online services, independent foundries, etc..).

We posted a thread on Twitter explaining what we want to do:

For this to be useful, we'll need a lot of foundries onboard. We won't build a dynamic type tester (that would require access to font files and would be a major security/licensing issue) but multiple screenshots of the typefaces.

We could automatically build this huge font index using screenshots from websites we parsed (by injecting a custom CSS and taking a screenshot of the typefaces), but we want to do this by the book and ask for your feedback and authorization first.

I hope you'll appreciate this project and if you have a few minutes to spare, I would love to hear your feedback :)

Comments

  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,867
    Seems like a good idea to me.
  • Axel CORJONAxel CORJON Posts: 12
    edited July 6
    Glad you like it :)

    Looking at the thread from @Jan Pietkiewicz I was hoping for more answers/questions from the community 😅
  • Jasper de WaardJasper de Waard Posts: 540
    The idea sounds absolutely great! I've been thinking for years that something like this is exactly what graphic designers need, and it could allow 'indie' type foundries to stay indie while driving buyers to their websites. Perhaps eventually it won't feel like a necessity to join resellers like myfonts or fontspring. 

    Of course the question is: can you pull it off? (Hopefully you can!) Will your AI-powered recommendation algorhithm actually work? (With time and enough traffic, it could.) Will your website be appealing to enough graphic designers? (So far, it looks good.) Is not having a live text preview box something they can live with? (Hopefully yes, for many of them. See the success of futurefonts and fontsinuse. Though I still think adding it would make this even better.) Will this be actively developed over coming years? (Time will tell, I suppose.)

    Also, what's in it for you? How is this generating income for Fonts Ninja? 
  • Axel CORJONAxel CORJON Posts: 12
    Of course the question is: can you pull it off? (Hopefully you can!)
    > It's not finished yet, but we have built enough to be confident. That said, it will only be really efficient if enough foundries agree on being listed on it.


    Will your AI-powered recommendation algorhithm actually work?
    > It does :) We created a new font classification system (we used Panose as a starting point but we forked it). We wanted to provide an easy way for graphic designers to filter/search this index. 
    Our ML model classifies fonts using these characteristics. So far the results are pretty good (we're still fine-tuning it). The similar font recommendation will be based on the % of these features present in other typefaces. Font pairing will actually be based on the websites we're constantly crawling.


     Will your website be appealing to enough graphic designers? (So far, it looks good.)
    > thanks :) I hope so, I've been a graphic designer for the last 15 years :) (I could be an old but crappy one though, but I'm fairly confident it will be appealing enough)


    Is not having a live text preview box something they can live with? 
    > Yes. Before starting this project I interviewed a lot of graphic designers to understand their workflow (and see if it matches mine).
    Turns out the live editing box on foundries website is not that useful... what they want is to try typefaces in their own designs (that's why we'll add a "trial font available" tag on Fonts Ninja when they're available)


    Will this be actively developed over coming years? (Time will tell, I suppose.)
    > Yes. If that's any good indicator, we've been working on our browser extension since 2014.

    Also, what's in it for you? How is this generating income for Fonts Ninja? 
    > It will probably not generate income. Maybe at some point, we'll add sponsored ads, but I'm not even sure we will.
    We have other projects (mainly Font Radar) that are generating income. The goal of this project is to build a place for graphic designers to discover new typefaces to add more diversity in font usage. We want to build a tool that will let people discover fonts from any sources (independent foundries, distributors, Adobe fonts, Google fonts...)

  • Jasper de WaardJasper de Waard Posts: 540
    Thanks for your answers! I'd sign up, although my foundry is very insignificant :)

    For finding 'similar' fonts, I would have thought that you went with a more human-based approach. For example, you could ask type designers who sign up to list similar fonts to their own. Or you could have a simple question on every font page: 'which of these two fonts looks most like this font?' With machine learning, loads of data are key, and I think you need to find ways to collect that data.

    Given the priority of trial fonts for graphic designers, will they be downloadable directly from your website? I think that graphic designers would appreciate that, and type designers could always be given the option to refrain from this if they don't want to have their fonts on your server...
  • Axel CORJONAxel CORJON Posts: 12
    Thanks for your answers! I'd sign up
    > Great :)

    With machine learning, loads of data are key, and I think you need to find ways to collect that data.
    > Indeed... and labeling is really time-consuming (but kinda fun) :) So far I labeled almost 4000 typefaces

    Given the priority of trial fonts for graphic designers, will they be downloadable directly from your website?
    > We already made a tool to make secure trial fonts available to graphic designers. We plan, on making it free in a near future(we did not make any money out of it anyway). But we will also share a link to foundries' websites making trial fonts available only on their own website only (a lot of them ask you to create an account first, which I completely understand)
  • Matthew SmithMatthew Smith Posts: 64
    Love this idea! I’ve got a few questions/ideas:

    Will there be a sort by popularity option? (I urge against this since popularity tends to be a self perpetuating system—as indicated by your Google Fonts tweet.)

    Will the fonts have tags outside of the typical font descriptions? To be more precise, outside of just labeling fonts by sans, serif, slab, script, etc., will they also have more descriptive tags like “Art Deco,” “Art Nouveau,” “Sign painter,” etc.?

    Will there be an option to flag fonts or correct information? I suspect there may be a few reasons to flag a font such as incorrect tags or metadata.

    What metadata will be included for the fonts? Type foundry (I assume), designer(s), release date, number of styles or sub families, price? (I am skeptical of whether or not including a base price is a good idea since licensing varies across foundries.)

    Will foundries be able to determine the preferred place for purchase or will you simply list all of the places the fonts are available for purchase?

    Will users be able to bookmark/save lists of fonts?
  • Axel CORJONAxel CORJON Posts: 12
    edited July 8
    Will there be a sort by popularity option? (I urge against this since popularity tends to be a self perpetuating system—as indicated by your Google Fonts tweet.)
    > I hesitated a lot to add this filter too, but most graphic designers I interviewed asked for it... a lot of them to avoid using the most popular fonts to try to dig some new gems. At the end of the day, I think it will be useful, but I could be mistaken.


    Will the fonts have tags outside of the typical font descriptions? To be more precise, outside of just labeling fonts by sans, serif, slab, script, etc., will they also have more descriptive tags like “Art Deco,” “Art Nouveau,” “Sign painter,” etc.?
    > No. I think those usually don't give the expected results (at least when I tried them)

    But we're working to find a relation between font in use and typeface trends. We have a huge website database and are trying to extract the main theme/subject/area from them to see if we can match font characteristics with them.
    The goal would be for a (not too experienced) graphic designer to be able to search for the kind of typefaces to use for fintech, architecture, or cosmetics branding for example. We're still experimenting on that, so I'm not sure it'll work as expected.


    Will there be an option to flag fonts or correct information? I suspect there may be a few reasons to flag a font such as incorrect tags or metadata.
    > There's a form + contact email on the about page. If we receive too many requests to correct information, we'll add a flag option on every single-page fonts, but for now, we're trying to avoid cluttering the UI


    What metadata will be included for the fonts? Type foundry (I assume), designer(s), release date, number of styles or sub families, price? (I am skeptical of whether or not including a base price is a good idea since licensing varies across foundries.)
    > Type foundry, designers, release date, numbers of fonts (roman+italic), Variable font (boolean), trial fonts (boolean), licensing type (classic, global, company size based, open-source... and maybe more), starting price, purchase link (foundry's website and/or distributors)


    Will foundries be able to determine the preferred place for purchase or will you simply list all of the places the fonts are available for purchase?
    > When displaying a purchase link to distributors, we'll focus on MyFonts and FontSpring (as they offer affiliate links, in case we could limit our expenses on this project).
    For foundries distributing on other platforms (type department, future fonts, YWFT, etc..), we'll also list as much as possible, but probably not all of them (some foundries have an extensive list of distributors).


    Will users be able to bookmark/save lists of fonts?
    > Yes. they'll be able to bookmark typefaces, create public or private boards to organize them and also create collaborative boards to work with a team (or a client).
    When creating a public board, it will be visible to other users who could follow you. So if you know someone good at finding nice typefaces, you can follow her/him for inspiration :)
    BTW, you can also follow foundries and get a notification when they release a new typeface (or at least when we'll notice and be able to list this new typeface)

  • Jasper de WaardJasper de Waard Posts: 540
    Will foundries be able to determine the preferred place for purchase or will you simply list all of the places the fonts are available for purchase?
    > When displaying a purchase link to distributors, we'll focus on MyFonts and FontSpring (as they offer affiliate links, in case we could limit our expenses on this project).
    For foundries distributing on other platforms (type department, future fonts, YWFT, etc..), we'll also list as much as possible, but probably not all of them (some foundries have an extensive list of distributors).
    For most foundries it's much more interesting if customers are sent to the foundry website. That way we build a customer relationship and we get 100% of the price. To compensate for the lack of affiliate links, I would expect that many foundries would be willing to pay you a fee for linking exclusively to the foundry website instead of Myfonts. 
  • Miles NewlynMiles Newlyn Posts: 180
    related to this, I'd recommend any foundry interested in recouping lost income from websites using unlicensed fonts to use Axel's FontRadar service. It has been great for us.
  • Axel CORJONAxel CORJON Posts: 12
    @Jasper de Waard
    That's a good idea. So far I just designed the UI to put the foundry's website first and more visible. But You're right, there is definetely something that we can improve here

    @Miles Newlyn
    Thank you! 🙏
  • Georg SeifertGeorg Seifert Posts: 662
    When I search for fonts it is usually when I need on that fits with a particular history period (like (19)20th, or Renaissance. So those meta keywords would be very helpful for me. This information can be given by the foundry so you "just" need to supply a standardized way to input it. Maybe a range of years?
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,220

    What I’d like to see in a search tool is a separation between what a typeface is and what a typeface can be used for. A search for a medieval typeface could bring up typefaces based on real medieval alphabets while a search for a typeface for medieval themes could bring up Arts & Crafts “medieval” typefaces. A search for Greek typefaces could bring up typefaces designed by Greek designers. A search for typefaces with Greek support could bring up typefaces which support Greek but otherwise have no Greek connections. A search for a typeface which can be used for Greek themes might bring up pseudo-Greek and stereotypical angular designs. In current search tools, a search for Greek usually prioritizes the latter.

  • K PeaseK Pease Posts: 167
    I believe (though I have been told I'm wrong) that once a font catches a shopper's attention, what they will most want to see is the complete glyph set, to know exactly what they're getting. Without the font, you wouldn't be able to provide an interactive one, but perhaps you could devise a tool that someone who has the font, like the consenting foundry, can use to automatically make an image of the glyph set that is standardized for your site, which they could submit to the entry.
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