Part 1: Demographics & Distributors Check out Part 1 to see the demographics of survey respondents, this year’s list of most popular font distributors, and how this list stacks up to site traffic data.
Part 2: Font Features, Evaluation, & Pricing Part two contains information about the font features customers want, how customers evaluate fonts, and the prices they are willing to pay. Additionally, part two contains Likert scale questions and four new questions asked this year about licensing, budgeting, spending, and managing fonts!
Part 3: Font Feelings & Customer Segments My new favorite section is all about font feelings. See part three for information about how customers and type designers feel about variable fonts, major font brands, and if fonts are still sexy. The presentation will wrap up with a dive into the customer journey and data-based customer segments.
What is the Font Purchasing Habits Survey? The third annual Font Purchasing Habits Survey ran for 45 days from May 5 to June 20, 2018. I asked 56 questions related to font preferences and purchasing habits. Respondents who completed the survey received a pack of 15 fonts great Monotype fonts for free. The results of this anonymous survey were debuted in August at TypeCon2018 in Portland, Oregon. This article contains the talk and the original slides.
This new section called ‘Font Feelings’ is my new favorite category. Here we’ll dive into how customers and type designers feel about variable fonts and major font brands.
For fun, I asked respondents if they think fonts can be sexy:
Variable Font Feelings
I asked the following question about variable last year too, so now we can compare answers year over year to see how variable font awareness and perception changes over time.
These 2018 results may seem very familiar to you if you read last year’s results; very little has changed since 2017.
Additionally, type designers still have very different responses than the rest of the population:
Additionally, I asked four Likert scale questions related to concepts behind or functions of variable fonts. I wanted to see if survey takers may have a need for variable fonts, even if they may not know what they are.
Font Company Feelings
There were five new questions this year to really dive into brand perception. I asked the following question about five major design brands related to fonts: Adobe, Monotype, MyFonts, Creative Market, and Google Fonts. The respondents were also shown the logo of each brand.
This word bank was carefully crafted to reduce value judgement. No overtly positive or negative ‘judgement’ words were used — there was no “good” and “bad”, “ugly” or “pretty”. Instead, the goal was to collect responses to form a more nuanced view of how users see each brand. You may also notice that there are some words with loose foils; monopoly vs. democratic, cutting-edge vs. historic, accessible vs. elite.
I was also curious to see how type designers vs. the rest of the population perceive these brands. In general, type designers are using the words “monopoly” and “democratic” more than the rest of the population.
I’ve had an idea for quite some time, and with this survey I now had data to be able to present and provide evidence for it.
Let’s look at the journey of the type customer. We can start by creating an x and y axis. Y is volume of customers. X is the monetary value that customer brings to the industry.
Customers get on this map by first discovering or consciously recognizing that fonts exist. Perhaps they discover different fonts they like from a drop down menu in Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Maybe they see something that is designed with a really illegible font and they have a negative reaction. Maybe they even see a meme or funny tweet about fonts. The first dot appears on our map:
At this point, there are many customers(font users), but they have no or little monetary value; they’re not spending money.
The next step is when those customers decide to download a free font — illegally or legally. They make the effort to go out and search, evaluate, download and install a font.
This dot is lower in volume, because not everyone who knows fonts exist will go out and download a font. But the value increases slightly because perhaps when they do this, they are seeing ads.
Next, something happens to cause the customers who download a free font to make the jump and purchase their first font. Perhaps they download lots of free fonts and their font education increases; they start to encounter technical or quality issues with free fonts and thus need a better solution. Perhaps they encounter a licensing issue and must buy the font to be compliant. Maybe they even get to a place where they have the budget to actually buy a font. Whatever the reason, they’re now in and providing real monetary value.
From here, customers will then move to purchasing fonts regularly.
The next step is needing different licenses.
Finally, the last step is for the customer to become someone who truly values type:
Perhaps they are commissioning custom type, buying very large licenses, or advocating for the considered use of fonts in their business as tools for success. These customers bring the most value, but these are the fewest.
Font subscription users fall along the path in the middle, for people who need to purchase fonts regularly or need different licenses.
Now this may be a nice theory. However, to really make this actionable and useful, we need to look at some data. We can do this by grouping users based on a survey question that maps perfectly to each of these steps:
In the following profiles, there are three primary questions that help to show how each customer group changes: their use of software with OpenType features, the categories of licenses they need, and their skill level. At the bottom of each panel is a grid of other factors that may produce interesting results and could be indicators for behavior.
Let’s dive into each customer group, starting with those who only download free fonts:
As you can see, 39% of these users don’t know if they have access to software with OpenType Features! These users need the most personal use licenses, and the skill levels are skewed towards the lower skill levels. The red blocks are the lowest percentages you’ll see, and the green blocks are the highest numbers you’ll see in the following profiles. This customer group has the highest percent of casual users, the most people who don’t know about variable fonts, and the most percent of people who agree that fonts are too expensive and font licensing is too confusing. This group has the fewest people who know a type designer, the fewest percentage of people who are a type designer, and the fewest percent of people who pay for a subscription music or video service.
With the group purchasing 1–10 fonts, we see that more people now have OpenType software, Desktop licenses become the primary license needed, and the skill level now becomes more normally distributed. The lowest figures are now increasing and the highest figures and now decreasing. For example, the percent of causal users dropped from 56% to 31%, and the number of people who pay for a video or music subscription increased from 59% to 73%.
For those that buy 11–25 fonts, OpenType use has increased, desktop license use has increased while personal license use has decreased, and the skill level is now skewing towards advanced.
Again, we see the same trends as in the previous profile continuing, with more people knowing they have and using OpenType, and the skill level skewing more to the right. Extended licenses use is increasing here too.
In this profile, we see extended licenses jump past webfont licenses. Skill level is high, OpenType use is high, and the fewest percent of people think font licensing is confusing, at only 19%.
Now we jump backwards and look at subscription users. This group has the most need for webfont licenses, and you can see that the skill level distribution has backed down to being more normally distributed, at intermediate and advanced. This group has the highest percent of people who pay for a music or video subscription, at 83%. The pie chart showing results to the question about OpenType use is now most similar to the results for the “11–25 fonts” group.
The goal is to take customers from discovering fonts exist to becoming people who value type.
But the problem is that this graph is going down, because there are so few people who value type. To make the group of people who value type increase in volume, there are a few things we can do.
1. Type Education
By ‘Type Education’ I don’t mean just traditional type education. If someone is going out searching to learn more about type, they’re going to find it. And it is important to ensure that there are good resources out there for those who want to learn more. What we also need to focus on is educating those who aren’t looking actively to be educated about fonts. Finding ways to educate users while they are browsing or shopping, or along the purchase path will generate impact.
2. Font Awareness
Font Awareness is very different from Type Education. Increasing font awareness will get more people into the first step of this diagram. There are so many people out there who become very interested in or curious about fonts once they discover on a conscious level that fonts exist. We can help the public connect the dots that fonts are made by humans, that fonts can be a valuable tool in business, that fonts are intellectual property, and that fonts are actually quite accessible.
3. User Experience
The final step to increasing the number of people who value type is providing a superb user experience. I’m not just talking about UX in the traditional sense, but instead holistically about the experiences of buying, managing, and using fonts. Accessible customer support, font management solutions that are delightful and effortless, and ways to make licensing more palatable are they keys here, because they are the biggest pain points.
Thank you for your time, and for making it to the end of this long article series! For more font research, follow me on twitter and here on Medium.
Mary Catherine Pflug is passionate about the type designers who make fonts and the graphic designers who use them. She leads the foundry team at MyFonts, managing 2,500+ foundry partners, and spearheads the Font Purchasing Habits Survey research initiative. She helps run TypeCon as the treasurer of the SOTA board and volunteer coordinator. She also sits on the city council of Bay State Design Shop, a community design organization in the New England area.