The new app Fontstand (exclusively available for Windows OS X) allows users to test drive letterforms from major foundries and rent what they need. The system is smooth and functional and makes about 100 percent more sense than the old system of negotiating permanent access to fonts. Whether or not we’re due for a proliferation of fonts - mobile reading may dampen publishers’ enthusiasm - it’s nice to see design made accessible in a sustainable, mass market way. An industry that hasn’t changed a whole lot since Gutenberg tearing it up in the Electorate of Mainz is adopting a model that facilitates beta testing. That’s awesome.
The specific reason why the new system is awesome is that it paves the way for independent font designers to make a living in the same way independent app developers currently do. Sure, there will be a lot of bad options as Fontstand expands, but the choice is a virtue in design. In fact, choice is sort of the fundamental core of design so more choice will almost necessarily lead to better results.
The free hour functionality of Fontstand also allows users to play in the sandbox. That’s not a minor thing. Any time an otherwise opaque industry can put its product in the hands of users and let them have at it, they gain meaningful insights. It will be intriguing to revisit Fontstand in a few months and see what the user data is suggesting about modern readers. In the meantime, it’s intriguing enough to find new wingdings.