As seen on Oprah: Ecofont, the Dutch font-with-holes in it

In 2008, entrepreneur Alexander Kraaij and his coworkers at communication agency Spranq came up with a deceptively simple solution to cut toner costs: a font with holes in it. They thought it could save on toner costs – not to mention the ecological benefits of using less (toxic) printer toner.

While the idea was simple, getting it to work wasn’t: it took months to come up with a passable prototype. It’s actually so hard that even today, Kraaij doesn’t deem it necessary to patent the process, he told the Financieel Dagblad today:

‘It’s about a lot more than priting a few holes in the letters. Our algorithm is very complex.’

The first version of Ecofont was a piece of software and the font Bitstream Vera. It was accompanied by a short press release – that was picked up by Oprah Winfrey, The Associated Press, Nationa Geographic, The Economist and CNN. Says Kraaij today in FD:  ’We reached 500 million people with a 500 € press release.’

A sample of Ecofont. “It’s about more than punching a few holes in the letters,” says entrepreneur Alexander Kraaij.

Ecofont was such an overnight success that the entrepreneur had to spin out Ecofont into a separate company and find technical help and financing to cope with the demand.

Four years later, Ecofont offers hole riddled versions of the 5 most used Microsoft fonts – Arial, Verdana, Calibri, Times New Romand and Trebuchet MS.

It has  50 000 paying customers who license the software, among which Türk Telecom, CIBC Mellon and even a newspaper: Diàrio do Comércio. Consumer licenses are priced at $ 25, larger corporations contract a separate license deal. Dow Chemical, the Dutch government and Telegraaf Media are interested in the font. The company claims that you can save “up to 50% of toner costs” thanks to its solution.

Ecofont has a turnover between € 500 k and € 1 million, according to the FD. The company was recently named ‘Challenger of the Year’ by Dutch entrepreneur magazine Sprout.

Read more (Dutch): Duurzame letter met gaatjes gaat als inktvlek de wereld over

Photo, Djsoundwave, Flickr

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About the author

Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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