Cronos Follow-Up

A sad story about webfont licensing.

August 26, 2019Filed under blog#design#licenses#typographyMarkdown source

Assumed Audience: design types and typography nerds… and digital economics and licensing geeks.

Yesterday, I wrote a post extolling the virtues of the lovely (and quirky!) typeface Cronos. Today, I’m back to report on at least one of the reasons why it’s not in wider use. In short: Adobe has made it available for web font usage only if you’re on a subscription plan through Typekit or one of their other partners (e.g. Fonts.com).

For context, most web fonts are licensed on a per-pageview basis, where once you exceed the number of allotted views using that web font, you need to pay again to extend or increase the license. The aim—whether it works well or not, I can’t say—is to make it so that high-volume sites pay more to the type foundry (and hopefully designer). The idea makes sense: if your brand relies heavily on someone’s design work, and specifically you’re raking in the profits becuase of your website’s use of that design work, one way to monetize that effectively is to align cost and usage.

Many foundries allow you to get this two ways: either via a subscription, or via a one-time purchase, which you only need to revisit if you exceed the number of page views you paid for. This is how the fantastic type faces at Klim Type Foundry work, for example—and it’s one of the reasons I went with Tiempos for the Winning Slowly site redesign last year. Unfortunately, Adobe is not one of those foundries.

As I’m in the process of reworking this site—you can see the work-in-progress version here; I will probably launch it in a couple weeks—I wanted to move off my subscription to Fonts.com, and simply pay for these fonts on a one-time basis. I don’t use anything near the actual page views a normal license would account for, so that would be far, far more cost effective for me than paying $300 every three years. But… I can’t, if I want to keep using Cronos. Worse: that Fonts.com license is the lowest rate I can pay. If I try to get it directly through Adobe, I have to pay for a Creative Cloud subscription—which starts at $20/month for a plan that includes their fonts (vs. the ~$8.33/month that Fonts.com works out to).

These plans no doubt make sense for Adobe, and they’re no doubt economical if you’re a designer who is providing typography work (including web fonts) for a large number of clients. But I’m not. I’m just building my own website, and I only need a couple typefaces for it. The math isn’t there for me.

And the net of that is that I might drop Cronos from v5.chriskrycho.com and replace it with something that I can justify price-wise. The prospect makes me genuinely sad—because I meant every word of yesterday’s paean to the typeface.

This is one of those places where the absolute best commercial outcome for an organization is at odds with the best overall outcome: because the point of a typeface is to be used. And Adobe’s current licensing means Cronos (and many other of its fonts) will get used a lot less than they otherwise might. Alas.