Morisawa, Japan’s leading font foundry, turns to Stripe to support its subscription service

The inventor of phototypesetting continues its century-long development of typography with a cloud-based font subscription service powered by Stripe.

Nobuo Morisawa invented Japan’s first phototypesetting machine in 1924. In the century since, his namesake company has created a library of typefaces suitable for almost any kind of expression. Today, people all over the world interact with Morisawa fonts in nearly every aspect of daily life, including video game interfaces, signs, apps, and catalogs.

While Morisawa has deep roots, it’s also a frequent innovator. It was one of the first Japanese firms to take up OpenType fonts developed by Adobe and Microsoft, and it was an early adopter of mobile messaging fonts.

Then, last year, it launched Morisawa Fonts, a cloud-based subscription service that provides access to the company’s more than 1,500 fonts. The addition of a SaaS business model allowed Morisawa to offer a greater variety of font-related services to an even larger set of customers. It also created a new set of payments and finance challenges that Morisawa solved with Stripe.

Morisawa Fonts

Morisawa’s skilled artisans and designers create exquisite kanji, hiragana, and katakana characters around a consistent aesthetic vision. Each typeface is hand-drawn, then digitized using the firm’s patented software. The fonts can be set horizontally or vertically, and must fit in their own uniformly sized box.

Morisawa Fonts, which is currently available in Japan, makes it easy for customers to take advantage of the variety of fonts and use cases Morisawa offers. Previously, it’s been hard for customers to manage their fonts, and time-consuming to maintain font licenses. Morisawa Fonts solves these problems by providing online access for font management and device-independent licenses, which allow fonts to be used anywhere.

Developer-friendly solutions

Morisawa knew it would need outside help to launch its first SaaS product. It considered using Japanese payments companies, but they required physical payment modules, which took two weeks to be delivered and bogged down the development process.

Morisawa also looked at other payments firms outside of Japan, but found their documents were only available in English, or all the development had to be done on-site.

But working with Stripe was easy.

“Stripe’s solutions were developer-friendly in every way. Services were global, APIs were publicly available, the test environment was available simply by signing up, we could ask questions in the community, and we could go live just by replacing an API key. The difference in lead time was staggering,” said Takashi Omuro, senior technical manager of system development at Morisawa.

Morisawa used Stripe Elements to tailor a checkout page to its corporate design, while freeing the company from having to manage confidential credit card information. Morisawa also uses Stripe Billing to simplify subscription management.

“The accounting team is happy with the simplified credit management that Stripe enables. We used to process sales numbers and income timing manually, but Stripe automated this,” said Omuro.

Morisawa also had to enable bank transfer payments, which many of its large Japanese customers prefer. Morisawa opted into Stripe’s Bank Transfer beta and worked closely with Stripe engineers to launch this option successfully.

Now Morisawa is planning to offer Morisawa Fonts in more countries, which will require processing payments in additional currencies and through international-brand credit cards. Stripe provides the scaleable, global solutions that will make this possible.

“When we take Morisawa Fonts global in the future, we know that Stripe will be a key partner to us,” Omuro said.