Web fonts, free fonts, t-shirts

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Blank's picture
Joined: 25 Sep 2006 - 2:15pm
Web fonts, free fonts, t-shirts

Wired is running an article about how web content creators are making money selling t-shirts, partly because it’s easier to sell a t-shirt promoting web content than it is to monetize the content itself.

This leads me to wonder: could this be applied to free web fonts? A big market for web fonts is about to open up—all the major browsers are close to supporting some sort of web fonts, and designers are itching to use them. Unfortunately, there are a lot of annoying licensing, piracy and DRM issues in the way. Why not just give away fonts and make money selling merchandise? An entire foundry could be modeled after Threadless—promote the foundry with the fonts, have contests to design merch using the fonts, sell the merch, the merch then promotes the site.

Of course this doesn’t work for all fonts—Fontshop can’t give away all 999 Meta/Meta Serif fonts and make the money back with merch. But this might be a viable business model for display type.


Simon Daniels's picture
Joined: 11 Apr 2002 - 6:37pm

Helvetica might be a good example of a font that's generated a ton of merchandise... hundreds of shirts, mugs, pens, a documentary, various books etc., but these have generated little direct revenue for Linotype.

James Arboghast's picture
Joined: 20 Sep 2005 - 1:09pm

Don't believe everything you read in Wired magazine. They get the future wrong *often*. They're known for how often they get it wrong, too, and that's why I don't pay them. If I invented a new folding bicycle they would claim it will save the world, or some forgettable blather like that.

The problem is Red vs. Blue is a popular claymation series featuring appealing characters with human-like qualities and personality traits who get into a heap of trubble each week. Peeple love that. They love pretty fonts too, but do they get sufficiently enthusiastic about them to buy t-shirts and other merch featuring the fonts?

Yes, some type enthusiasts would go that far, but the numbers are too small to make it worthwhile. I estimate a scheme like that for a font would only generate sufficient revenue to meet the cost of having t-shirts and mugs printed. Would there be profit in it? Only for really trendy overwrought, overstylized, overblown commercial juggernauts like Bello script and Dolly.

Sii, I guess Linotype aren't benefiting from the revenue generated by Helv t-shirts, mugs, pens and such like because it's mainly third parties and after marketeers who are selling the merch.

j a m e s