THE DADDY OF the web font industry, and much favoured by the design community at large, Typekit is run by Small Batch, a Silicon Valley-based team well used to being on the cutting edge of web technology. The group cut its teeth in web analytics, and made such an impression on Google, the search behemoth bought them out and employed them to overhaul its Google Analytics package. With Typekit, they’ve struck out on their own again. In certain circles, you can’t move on the web without stumbling across recommendations for the Typekit service, and it’s easy to see why. The service acts as a kind of conduit between type foundry fonts and webpages, allowing designers to circumvent any legalities over hosting or distribution of fonts. For range of fonts (it has partnerships with most major foundries), site usability and samples of application, Typekit is leading the pack. If there is any further innovation to be done in the web fonts arena, you’ll have to be quick off the mark to beat these guys.
FIRST UP IS THE FontsLive site, from Ascender Corporation, which offers typefaces from five individual foundries (Ascender, Microsoft, Monotype, Bigelow & Holmes and Font Company). The sets available from the site include a mix of well-respected and B-list fonts, with very usable examples from Monotype, Font Company and Microsoft. The site itself is functional but rather minimal and in some respects perhaps favours simplicity over warmth of service. The search function appears limited to font names and a search for ligatures, for instance, returned no results. It’s also difficult to get a real feel for some of the fonts. Working previews are limited, but on the plus side you can view entire character sets for most of the fonts available on the site. Considering the not-insignificant costs for larger websites wanting to use the service, potential customers might wish to shop around a bit first, but on the whole this is a trusted option worthy of a look.
FONTDECK STRIKES a rather nice balance between professional and informal, and although there’s not the greatest selection of fonts available through the service (about 100), having a limited choice is perhaps not a bad thing during the period of change the web is going through. The fonts that are available are serviceable enough for everyday needs, though you won’t find any of the more popular typefaces on offer here. The FontDeck site lets you search by designer as well as by style or foundry, so makes a nice resource for type fans as well as designers looking for fonts to try. FontDeck includes the work of 21 separate typographers, arranged alphabetically from Charles Bigelow through to Optima and Palatino creator Hermann Zapf. The site’s function of allowing a limited use of its fonts for initial design work is a great added benefit for helping designers decide on which fonts to purchase.
FONT SQUIRREL OFFERS free commercial fonts, with a slightly concerning disclaimer that it hopes all the fonts you can download for @font-face usage are devoid of any licensing issues. Still, it has an impressive breadth of styles available on the site, with some nice looking faces available for the tip of a hat. These are full typesets, available to designers in all the standard formats. A perfect playground for the amateur or small budget designer, but probably not the best place to go for your type if you have a bluechip client and a reputation as a professional agency to uphold. The site also has a lovely friendly tone, and despite the reservations mentioned earlier, does give an impression of professionalism. It’s obvious these guys are doing this for their love of type rather than any particular desire to undercut or take advantage of either the commercial foundries or, more to the point, the up-and-coming type designers whose labours they distribute.
THE AMAZON OF the type industry, with over 7,000 typefaces available, Fonts. com’s WebFonts has quickly established itself as the place to go for a wide selection of popular fonts for use on the web. Favoured by type legend Erik Spiekermann – which certainly doesn’t do the site any harm whatsoever – Fonts. com’s WebFonts service has a wide variety of licensed fonts available for the professional web designer. Amateurs can probably find a cheaper solution elsewhere, but for those who are serious about good typography, this should prove one of your most popular of bookmarked sites. As well as a selection of web versions of popular print fonts, WebFonts offers everything that print type-fiends have long enjoyed in their creative arsenals. In addition to the variety of faces, many fonts enjoy the benefit of various weights and subsets, and a full range of special characters and ligatures. There is also a range of free fonts available too.