Why One of the World's Biggest Font Makers Is Getting Into Emoji

Illustration for article titled Why One of the World's Biggest Font Makers Is Getting Into Emoji

Helvetica and Times New Roman are legendary, instantly recognizable typefaces, and they're both owned by the biggest type conglomerate in the world. Now, that company is adding emoji and stickers to its holdings.


Monotype—which owns some of the most ubiquitous typefaces of both our digital and physical worlds—announced yesterday that it had acquired a small company called Swyft Media, which makes stickers and emoji—for $12 million. On the surface it might look like a relatively ho-hum business deal deal, but in reality, it also illustrates how we'll text and message in the future.

Swyft is based on a very unique business mode. It creates emoji and stickers that are given (or sold) to users on a huge number of emerging messaging apps, from Kik to Tango to Facebook Messenger. A good example cited by Forbes: A sticker pack created to promote Gwen Stefani's new album. Swyft created the pack and put it on Tango for free—and it was downloaded more than a million times. Swyft also works with brands and companies to sell stickers to users who are willing to pay for them, like fans of a particular sports team.

Illustration for article titled Why One of the World's Biggest Font Makers Is Getting Into Emoji

Some of Swyft's sticker packs, which cost users between 99 cents ant $1.99 to download.

So does this mean your next typeface will include emoji? Not necessarily—Swyft will still be independent—but it could definitely mean that you could be texting with a custom font sometime soon. As Monotype's CEO and president, Doug Shaw, explained to me over the phone, buying Swyft could let them put custom type on the next generation of messaging apps, from Kik to Facebook Messages—and let 2.5 billion mobile messaging user start to choose their typography.

"I think people are going to want to text in their own type styles," Shaw explained. Right now, Monotype works with giants like Apple and Google to license the typefaces that go on your laptop or phone. But thanks to Swyft, which works with dozens of messaging apps, it'll now work with those emerging technologies, too. "We work with pretty much every messaging and social app out there," added Evan Wray, Swyft's VP. "There's a huge opportunity to bring fonts to our partners."


That could mean you downloading a font pack to use for texting. After all, Monotype owns a font that proven to distract you less while you're driving. It could also, as Shaw says, mean Nike using its own custom font to communicate in text-based ads. As messaging apps boom and texting moves beyond an app controlled by your phone's OS, what constitutes messaging is changing. Your text might look different than your neighbor's. It might include custom emoji. There might be adds hidden in the stickers you're using. You might write using a font you chose, or even down the road, one you designed.


The texting culture we grew up with—where the keyboard limited the extent of our emoticons—is dying away. In its place? Endless customization. For a price.



Microsoft: "Psh. We were doing that before it was cool."

Hermann Zapf: "Quiet you."