All designers have their process when it comes to choosing fonts for a project; but they can get in a rut of using the same fonts, from the same sources. The joy of discovering something new that will work for a client, can also be a time consuming process, where timelines don’t always allow. So how can designers find balance with tight deadlines?
Build a way for designers to source quality fonts, from typographers they trust, with project and brand requirements in mind. This project is currently being developed further*.
Some of the main outcomes wanted from this tool would be: lower discovery times and more relationships with type foundries. Some indirect indicators would be: designer/client satisfaction, and active users per month.
Next, I needed to understand how designers were currently searching for fonts, their sources, and the average discovery time (excluding custom built faces).
Who was this product for and what were they like? I conducted market research and interviewed 17 potential users in a group setting to learn more about their current process and pain points. From those findings, I was able to develop a target audience for the new tool.
My target persona was an urban 20 something year old designer, who spent their time using and learning tech, drinking coffee and wearing trendy sneakers. They live busy lives and are often social, which meant they relied on their peers and the industry for advice. Quality was the number one element they wanted from the fonts they sourced.
Some existing tools that let designers search for high quality fonts were: Fontspring, Fontfabric and Fonts by Hoefler&Co. Trusted sources for reviews on the best fonts were: Smashing Mag, Behance and Creative Bloq. These tools usually grouped fonts into categories of their distinguishing characteristics (serif, hand lettering, script, etc.), some with sort buckets that would let the user search by what was new, what was most popular and price.
Often competitors would even show which other typefaces would match well with a selected font. Helpful information such as web font options or language support was also provided. These were features common across all tools, and I was mindful of considering features designers were already used to using, so on boarding to a new tool would be easier.
Something I wanted to bring to the new tool was a place for designers to learn more about the foundries they were purchasing from, their history and craftsmanship. Also was the idea to have a Learning Hub where designers could learn more about typography through interactive tutorials. I was impressed to see that Hoefler&Co offered a “Learn” tab as part of their navigation.
With tools already out there that allowed clients to find high-quality fonts, why would designers need another? In the past, having a direct contact at a font foundry meant your studio could have dibs on new fonts, customized faces (this is why some font names have ITC before them) and support throughout the design process. Designers also often received the best price on printing as font foundries often worked in tandem with printing companies.
But why should designers care? Quality products matter. The industry has changed and designers are expected to be the expert in the holistic branding cycle. With websites that replace the need to meet in person, there’s no personal touch or service. No master typographer hand selecting a font for you, suggesting one font over the other for its characteristics, no specific advice related to your project’s needs.
There needed to be a way to deliver the same personalized, master opinion of a typographer without an appointment. The solution — AI.
It was a complex idea — merge ultra modern technology like AI and machine learning with historic typography processes. It was also the new way designers could leverage the expertise of the industry in seconds. Font foundries could tag their fonts in the tool’s system; capturing emotional value (bold, energetic, stable), font characteristics (serif, script, symbol) and output (web, OOH, magazine) to name a few. AI would then ask the designer a series of questions to narrow a selection of font options that would match their project needs.
With a better understanding of how designers currently use font search tools and some of the direct competitors, I created an experience map of how designers would feel during the experience. The experience map was based on the feedback provided by designers in the group session.
It was important to reduce as many of the pain points as possible. Each step / action the client would take had to add value to the overall experience. If a portion of the flow was not necessary (didn’t capture relevant data, didn’t provide relevant content, etc.) then the section could be removed or steps reduced. As part of the assessment, I built an end-to-end high level user flow diagram, aligning to the User Experience map. I listed all of the “screens” at top, and captured necessary “components” per page under each “screen”.
A rough layout helped later guide the visual design of where things should be placed for ease of use. I laid out the screens by “flow”: login, home page, font directory, font details page, cart. This way, I was able to see the user journey from entry to exit.
More to come soon!
Agency: Designer Driven
Project: UX + Product Design
Design: Erica Fontana