I’m probably going to be excommunicated from the “web community” for asking this, but is it really a good idea to rent fonts for a website? There’s been a lot of positive talk recently about Typekit which allows for more aesthetically pleasing typefaces to be used on a website—though for a cost. My interpretation (which could be wrong) is that a person pays a monthly fee to have certain external files used to render specified typefaces on screen. Anything that allows for more options when choosing a typeface is a good idea right? My concern is what happens the month after I stop paying. All the work I did in designing around my rental typefaces are lost. The design goes back to default.
To me the spirit of using a typeface is something that lasts, it’s not an arbitrary thing. Compare type that has been carved in stone, or type that has been taken off a storefront to a virtual digital sign. One has staying power while the other is at the mercy of the pipe that distributes the typeface. Sure the default typefaces of Arial and Georgia are brutal, but they’re shipped with almost every computer out there. You know what results you’re going to get. If I’m designing a site that will hopefully last a long time, though evolve every month, I can’t possibly see in my own mind about having to worry if I’m paying a monthly font bill. Even if I paid for a full year, I still have to renew the following year. But what about hosting and domain costs you might ask? While it’s true that I pay monthly/yearly, it feels different to me. Type should be a one time cost. It should be like a carving in a stone. The remnants should last forever. But this is the digital age where everything is a service… True, but system fonts are shipped on every single computer out there. They’re not all pretty but no matter what they’re reliable.
If I was designing a simple brochure site for a conference with a short shelf life, renting a typeface might be a good idea. After a couple months no one is going to visit the site and I can kill it. This is probably an extreme example. But let’s say I design the most endearing type heavy site that everyone in the industry thinks is a great example. Years go by and everything we see on the walls at the Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design & Typography at the Cooper Union is on screen. The shows organizers want to show how the site works, not with a screen shot but how it truly interacts. If I haven’t paid my bill for twenty years it’s not going to render properly. The work is lost. Sure this is an extreme example but I think that any type solution to how type is rendered on screen that is based on not owning the file that renders the type is not a good solution.