I’ve used the finished product for several days now (along with a few other awesome people) and resumed work on a font that I had set aside until, well, now.
Last Thursday morning (4:30am EST) I launched the website. I was overwhelmed by the positive response (and this among others) and prepared to provide some sort of customer service but things went smoothly. Apparently PayPal is (still) incapable of linking to the proper file (via fetchapp, which I can’t recommend enough), but aside from that there were no major hiccups. People were patient, waiting for the delivery email that contained the proper link to the purchase. Many kind things were said via email, Twitter and Facebook. I went to sleep at 8:30pm.
I stated on the website that Guilder will disappear at 1000 downloads. What does that mean? Why 1000? Well at that point I will remove the “buy” button from the site and remove the product from my inventory. As stated in the license/readme, the font files are not allowed to be distributed anywhere by anyone other than on my domain. It would be naive of me to think that people will refrain from sharing the file(s), or that visitors won’t rip the source @font-face material from stylesheets, or even post it for someone else to download. It isn’t a huge concern, and I calm myself by thinking about the “why 1000?”
The appeal of Guilder is that it will never be overused. Popularity in a typeface is a curse, from a creative standpoint. Logos/websites become boring. When I embark on a new identity for a client I don’t even look at fonts, I start from scratch, for that very reason. But, even if the number of distributed copies of Guilder doubles over time (due to circumstances I mentioned above) it will not be a commonly seen piece of typography. It is in the best interest of the people who purchased it (well aware that it is “limited”) not to share the files. This isn’t an attempt to be exclusive for the sake of exclusivity, it is a way to keep usage unique.
Behind The Scenes
As I write this now I’m closing in on 200 downloads, leaving roughly 800 still up for grabs. A lot of people expected me to sell all 1000 in the first day. An “easy” $25K. Unrealistic (and after PayPal fees it is $23.97 per order). Some people also thought I was nuts for limiting it/sales at all. I expected to distribute 100 copies the first day and I was pretty close: 91! Unless the Guilder site receives several links from significant typographic/design sources I expect that it will take between 8-12 months before all 1000 copies are gone. Clearly I’m keeping my 9-5 (but my 5-9 seems to involve more fontmaking these days).
That said I think this is the first time a short-run, small release, limited edition, whatever you want to call it typeface has entered the world (but someone, please, correct me if I’m wrong). It was an experiment, one that I will repeat in the future but not now. I have 3 fonts in the works: one free (expect it on The League of Moveable Type by the end of the year) handdrawn font, a $9 (unlimited) slab-serif-ish release, and a super limited top secret family (100 copies). I wouldn’t be surprised to see this model repeated elsewhere, but I would be disappointed if it existed exlusively to drive up the profits of an otherwise ordinary product. Maybe some people think that is what I did and call this a gimmick. Ok. But that wasn’t the intention and like I said: I haven’t quit my day job.
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Some people have been asking why I changed my sursly.com site. That is an entire blog post in itself but the short answer is this: I’m transitioning my career away from graphic design to focus on filmmaking, photography and fonts. I no longer need a portfolio for what I want to do.