1888. That's the question.
I'll admit that (due to extenuating cirucmstances) I'm late to the party this one; Eco Font (free for the downloading) has, if not taken the world by storm, at least generated a bit of discussion.
Looking at the font:
It's easy to see how it does it's magic. The dots are engineered so as to not affect readability too much and only require about 80% of the ink used to print a similar solid-black letter.
As a concept, we can't argue with it. It's an original and surprisingly simple approach.
Would we actually typeset with it? Probably not, unless we were looking for an effect.
Type carries attitude. That's why you absorb the information of a Helvetica display without getting too hung up on the type design; that's why classic serif fonts make you think seriously when you read books and newspapers. The dots are clever, but a distraction.
I can't remember what they call it, but there's a principle out there that says if you want to eventually roll something absurd out, there's a way you can get the public used to the idea. You roll out an idea that's destined to fail, perhaps even beautifully so. Everyone notices and a lot of people laugh a bit.
But later you roll out a variation on the concept. People are not so surprised this time, and wondering what you've done to improve it. They're starting to take you just a little bit seriously.
If this fail, you roll out another variation in a while. More refined and more people are willing to see if you "got it right" this time.
Eco font is a silly thing, but inspiringly so. I don't think it will go anywhere except as a curio, as far as fonts go. I wouldn't want to read a book in it, but to really save 20% on the ink output and to make a difference, you'd have to use it a lot.
So people will see it as a delightful curiosity and react accordingly (and hey, everyone likes free fonts).
But this may inspire someone to refine the concept. I don't see how, but surely someone out there is thinking, now. And soon enough, a variation on the concept will emerge, and maybe it will be silly too, but it will be refined.
The second time won't gain traction either. But the third time might. And the fourth time could. And the fifth time ... ?
It's a cascading spark. That's the way change happen – evolution much more often than revolution.
And so it goes.