Before Typekit, what options did a web designer have for incorporating imaginative typography into her site designs?
That said, a lot of really interesting work went into those techniques, and they were formative experiments in web type. Many designers worked very hard to push these methods as far as they could, and we learned a lot about web type during that time. I also think the clear demand for better web typography helped define the need for products like Typekit, as well as WOFF (the web open font format).
What about type designers: before Typekit, how did they get paid when web designers would use their work? Was there a lot of typeface piracy -- was it simply expected?
Type designers were paid for a desktop license (which all type foundries of course continue to sell). Desktop licenses are typically priced according to seats (or users): an organization with many designers using a font would pay a higher price than a single, independent designer. Typekit (and other subscription services) open up a new model: pay per use (i.e., pageview), rather than per user. This is something many foundries have long been interested in, but the technology of a desktop font made it difficult to negotiate. A subscription model makes web fonts accessible to all (by keeping prices reasonable for designers working on very low-traffic sites), while also providing a recurring revenue stream for the foundries.
What technology had to become standard on the web in order for something like Typekit to even exist? How are these technologies changing in a way that helps web typography get better?
The two key needs were reliable cloud serving and advancements in the browser landscape. Cloud serving has been around forever, but only in the last few years has it matured sufficiently for most people to trust it for critical elements of their site.
How does "better typography" make the web better for everyone? Doesn’t it just make it prettier to look at for design enthusiasts?
In a word: no. Better typography improves reading and understanding, and makes the experience of the web better for all users, not only those who obsess over the details. Good typography can mean the difference between a reader getting all the way to the end of an article — and looking for more — versus giving up with fatigue after the first paragraph. When paired with smart copywriting and a good strategy, it can invoke a sense of trust in an application or service; it can help persuade someone to buy, or foster an emotional connection that keeps users returning.
Poorly considered typography, on the other hand, can alienate or offend, or signal the wrong qualities: think of a news site that uses a font that is too casual, and therefore evokes immaturity instead of authority; or a hip clothing retailer marred by a generic font that doesn’t communicate their uniqueness. Nearly everything we click or interact with on the web is type, making typography crucial to those experiences.
Additionally, using real fonts (and not font replacement techniques like sIFR) means that all the type on a site is searchable, indexable, translatable, and accessible. It allows web designers to craft exceptional experiences on the web, while also taking advantage of what the web does best: making content available (and discoverable) to all.
Now that Adobe has acquired Typekit, what changes or innovations are in store for the service? Will being part of Adobe force changes that Typekit users may not like at first?
The foremost advantage will be our ability to integrate web fonts into a designer’s workflow. Typekit has thus far been mostly about the production of a website, offering fonts in the browser and no where else. But designers work with fonts before they get to the browser, too: from early sketches to comps to client presentations, and then on to implementation. Adobe’s products are deeply integrated to that designer workflow, and we’re eager and excited about the possibilities of making type available throughout that entire process.
On the other side, Adobe benefits from a successful subscription service and our strong commitment to our community, both of which will serve us well as we integrate Typekit into Adobe’s forthcoming Creative Cloud service. A lot remains to be decided about how our two companies will work together, but there are several principles by which we will make those decisions: a deep concern and respect for the people who use Typekit, a love of good typography, and a healthy obsession with working fast and shipping often. Whatever else happens, these beliefs will remain a constant.
[Top image by Kevin Dooley]