Sunday, September 24, 2006

Why would a typeface designer want to give a font away?

1. To make a selfless gift to humanity.
2. To raise global awareness of typographic excellence.
3. To create a visual resource that will be used by students, citizens, amateurs, and professionals all over the world.
4. To contribute to a global design vocabulary.
5. To seed the world with a visual idea that could be built on and enriched by other designers serving smaller linguistic communities.

37 Comments:

Anonymous Si said...

Have you considered “Open Sourcing” your book Thinking with Type? I would have thought releasing it into the public domain would produce more understanding and appreciation of type than any number of free fonts. The community may even be able to improve and extend the work via some kind of wiki.

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Peter Bruhn said...

What if all farmers gave away their crop. What if all wineries sent me a bottle of their finest, to expand my awarness of good wine. What if all writers would write for free, if all teachers thought for free. What if...

2:16 AM  
Blogger Yves Peters said...

I applaud your idealism but I really fail to see the problem. There are a good number of decent freeware typefaces around, some of the larger foundries have fonts of them bundled with software and publications, ... So what more do people need?

There already is a problem of perception -- the general public thinks type is just "there", and is oblivious to the fact that creating good typefaces is an intensive, time-consuming activity. It takes considerable skill, an inhuman amount of patience and hundreds, sometimes thousands of working hours. If we reinforce the illusion that fonts just appear out of nowhere by casually giving them away, we undermine the type industry and the livelihood of countless type designers who'll have an even harder time trying to make a living out of their craft.

I say we leave it up to the type designers themselves. The OpenSource community is there to take care of things. There's really no need to start some kind of border-crossing initiative. Also, this movement you start up has the potential to make look bad and selfish the designers who wish not to participate, possibly because they are independents and just can't afford to give away months, sometimes years of hard labour. I don't want to sound pedantic, but I think your initiative could use a fair amount of discretion, because this possibly has already done harm to the type community without you even realising it.

2:38 AM  
Anonymous dberlow said...

The fact is, Ms. Lupton does not understand the underlying issues, or even whom to ask about them in order to make an informed suggestion on what "the world needs now."

What has been suggested here is ridiculous, not because it asks hard working "poor" to turn fonts over to a free license, but it is insulting because we already have. Hundreds of fonts, good ones, exist in this state, (free, for all the languages) through the hard work of hundreds from this industry with over 20 years of work.

To suggest that the world would be better if Latin "graphic designers" had more free fonts to choose from not only makes it seem like misers are in control here, but it also makes it clear that good thinkers do not exist out there.

Another way of putting this, is to say that when you come up with a "solution" that everybody on "one side" is cheering for, and nobody on the other side "takes seriously", what exactly have ou accomplished?
Fluff, I say, gone with the next breeze.

Here's the constructive part: Educate users correctly, from the em square on up. The good ones will become pros, paid, ya know. and then they can afford to charge their clients for fonts. Then, presumably well-paid graphic designers are funding the development of good fontsq by good type designers, because they know the difference, and graphic designers work harder as they aspire to higher pay and better fonts.

Hey, come to think of it, that's the way it is.

5:05 AM  
Blogger Ellen said...

I regret that I've made some people angry by discussing this question. I began with the question, "Is there an open source or copyleft font movement?" Clearly, such movements exist in many other creative fields, so I was curious about it in relation to this field. I have received good advice and tough criticism, all helpful, from people in the typeface industry.

David is probably right that highly-paid graphic designers, especially in Western countries, will always be the ones to underwrite the development of new and excellent typeface designs.

My larger goal concerns raising the understanding of typography in a broader population. For example, by exposing students to the good-and-bad of "free fonts," we help them respect typography and to be aware of the legal issues and the root of quality in the hard work of typeface designers. The amazing Adobe typefaces available to students via CS2 has been a fantastic resource for educators (and my students in the US are lucky to be able to afford CS2).

But what if they want to explore farther? Discussing this issue with them brings their attention to the nature of typography—and they can hunger for that day when they, too, might be a high-paid graphic designer.

In response to Yves, this is not "my initiative"; it is something happening in the world.

5:34 AM  
Blogger Yves Peters said...

Oops, my bad, I must've skipped something. My apologies for this incorrect statement.

5:43 AM  
Anonymous Peter Bruhn said...

Yes, this something happening all over the world.
The whole P2P community is breeding a generation of lazy idiots who think they can get anything for free. May it be music or typefaces. Why buy good type, when you can get it for free.

I'm so tired of this, just because a lot of people do P2P and wants stuff without giving nothing in return, doean't make it right.

In what way will there be food and shelter for my children just because a designer gets more "aware"? Good typefaces aren't expensive. Not even for a student. And if a designers can't see the difference between bad type and quality type, then perhaps he/she should do something else.

6:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Ms Lupton, kudos on the Republican apology: "I regret that I've made some people angry..." Brilliant. Really, you should regret the loss of your credibility.

"You say that type designers have no bread? Then let them eat cake."

7:43 AM  
Blogger Ellen said...

At least I have not remained anonymous. It takes some level of courage to participate in public discourse.

8:33 AM  
Anonymous pfraterdeus said...

Thanks, Ellen, for bringing this up.
Clearly, some people are seriously threatened by the very concept. I suppose you can count Bill Gates amongst them.

I won't bother to try to refute the ridiculous and absurd comments above, it's really not worth the effort. "What if all farmers..."? Where did Ellen say "all designers"? How pointless to debate with hot-heads, who can't be bothered to read and think before they make themselves fools.

To say that an "Open Source" font initiative would put designers out of business, or dilute the value of legitimate 'commercial' fonts is simply trying to lock the barn after the horses have long since left. Where have they been over the past twenty years?

How many font designers actually make a LIVING at it anyway? I expect that the number is very very small.
Much more likely that the distributors make what money there is, and the designers are waiting tables, or anyway, designing annual reports...

The best software in the world may be Adobe's CS Suite. However, the most useful software in the world is probably the Apache webserver, and the Firefox browser, both of which are, in their domains, some of the finest software engineering ever done.

The open source model will come to type, of course, as it has already come to word processing, and other productivity applications. I expect that Google will provide open-source outlines and web-rendering before long... I'd be happy to sell them mine ;-)

Why not?

Peter

10:15 AM  
Anonymous pfraterdeus said...

Thanks, Ellen, for bringing this up.
Clearly, some people are seriously threatened by the very concept. I suppose you can count Bill Gates amongst them.

To say that an "Open Source" font initiative would put designers out of business, or dilute the value of legitimate 'commercial' fonts is simply trying to lock the barn after the horses have long since left. Where have they been over the past twenty years?

How many font designers actually make a LIVING at it anyway? I expect that the number is very very small.
Much more likely that the distributors make what money there is, and the designers are waiting tables, or anyway, designing annual reports...

The best software in the world may be Adobe's CS Suite. However, the most useful software in the world is probably the Apache webserver, and the Firefox browser, both of which are, in their domains, some of the finest software engineering ever done.

The open source model will come to type, of course, as it has already come to word processing, and other productivity applications. I expect that Google will provide open-source outlines and web-rendering before long... I'd be happy to sell them mine ;-)

Why not?

Peter

10:17 AM  
Anonymous pfraterdeus said...

Thanks, Ellen, for bringing this up.
Clearly, some people are seriously threatened by the very concept. I suppose you can count Bill Gates amongst them.

To say that an "Open Source" font initiative would put designers out of business, or dilute the value of legitimate 'commercial' fonts is simply trying to lock the barn after the horses have long since left. Where have they been over the past twenty years?

How many font designers actually make a LIVING at it anyway? I expect that the number is very very small.
Much more likely that the distributors make what money there is, and the designers are waiting tables, or anyway, designing annual reports...

The best software in the world may be Adobe's CS Suite. However, the most useful software in the world is probably the Apache webserver, and the Firefox browser, both of which are, in their domains, some of the finest software engineering ever done.

The open source model will come to type, of course, as it has already come to word processing, and other productivity applications. I expect that Google will provide open-source outlines and web-rendering before long... I'd be happy to sell them mine ;-)

Why not?

Peter

10:17 AM  
Anonymous pfraterdeus said...

Si
I assume your comment about open sourcing is in good faith, as opposed to a sarcastic barb. This is, in fact, a very good idea, and is true of any number of excellent source books in the open-source softwarew movement.

There's no loss to the author, in fact, since an authorized paper edition will often get a sales BOOST from the release of an online edition.

P

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Peter Bruhn said...

Dear Peter,

" I won't bother...because the point is stupid." Some classical rhetoric there. It looks like you have a full blown politician lurking deep within.

I know I came on a bit to strong, but the fact is that there are a few of us making a living out of making type, and the last year there's been a lot of piracy and big companies not paying proper licenses. Why because " a font is something free in the computer!"
In what way would giving people with that mentality
more free quality typefaces help the udnerstanding of good type?

Peter, as a type designer/foundry owner, you know the time and effort put in making a typeface. Just because we love our jobs doesn't mean we want to give it away for free. But we still do, don't we? I have loads of typefaces taht i've given away for free. I've also given free copies for student work a.s.o.

The thing I'm opposed to is – when there are so many good typefaces out there for free, and the license fee is so low – why deny more people the possibility to make a living out of making type?

"The more you give away, the less you get back." That's not a saying – that is a fact. Getting people adjusted to the fact that everything created is free is just plain mean. Both to them and to the creatives. We have a generation growing up today who rather download a music album by their favorite artist from a P2P network for free, than buying the album, and support the artist.

When I was a student I saved up money to buy a license for the typefaces I liked. It was a good feeling, because I knew that the creator if this great work that I just had recieved would end up getting something for his/her effort.Am I wrong in thinking that way?

(sorry about the bad english, it's not my first language)

11:19 AM  
Anonymous clive said...

Peter, open source for fonts is probably *never* going to happen because there's no impetus for it and it will never build up any momentum. Why, because unlike things like Apache and Firefox there are lots of free and commercial options.

If you want free fonts just take a look at the Open Office "premium" distribution - something like 120 fonts, 90% of them by Ray Larabie.

In addition, every desktop operating system (without which, fonts are useless), comes with a gazillion, very usable, fonts. Who is going to argue with Linotype Palatino, Hoefler Text, Futura, Helvetica etc, all lurking out there in one distribution or another (plus all the non-Latin).

As to Ellen's point, I don't really know what her point is. She seems to be claiming that she didn't start this, but she is the only one posting new topics here.

Ellen also seems to be suggesting that students need more fonts - in fact they probably need less. And if they don't appreciate what they have then, unfortunately, that's probably a failure of their lecturers' rather than a need for more fonts.

From what I've seen modern design education is based on one thing: money. Design courses should have more than enough of this to provide a decent suite of fonts for their students.

David makes plenty of good points too. As there aren't any starving professional graphic designers out there, I think it's most likely that there aren't any starving graphic design students.

If there are students that cannot afford the resources to use specific fonts in their designs, then their lecturers should make allowances for this when the students hand in hand rendered work or make their own fonts. If the lecturers cannot do this then this is a failing of academia (again) - creativity isn't the application of a few fonts and some transparency functions in the latest design programs.

I think that, Ellen, if you want to move this topic on, then you really have to address some of the points people have raised already, that you so far have managed to skip over. Not least of which: consider Si's question as to why the books you have authored aren't freely downloadable, etc.

I don't think that anyone adds value to type by advocating free fonts - whether that's financial or by way of appreciation.

I also agree with "anonymous" - let them eat cake. If designers have no fonts, let them make them themselves. And that's not an off the cuff remark - that's exactly what is happening around the world for "minority" language support. This is probably the only area in typography where it does make sense for "community" effort to be focused.

A "proper" academic advocacy of this subject would have a solid evidence base with which to convince people. To my mind that would start with an analysis of the available fonts out there. If that research was done, then the researcher would probably consider that there was no point in debating this subject, because the number of "free" and usable fonts definitely numbers in the hundreds, and I wouldn't be surprised if it ran to thousands.

If you don't have that evidence, then, like David already wrote, this is all just fluff, blowing in the breeze.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Si said...

Si
I assume your comment about open sourcing is in good faith, as opposed to a sarcastic barb.


Peter, it was in good faith. I hope it wasn’t taken as being sarcastic. I think that before asking people to give up something for the typographic good of society, you have to ask yourself what you yourself are willing to donate or volunteer. I agree that if Ellen were to do this, and the effort were supported by others, future print editions of the book would benefit, and that would more than compensate her for any “lost sales”

Although I personally feel that Ellen’s manifesto is a bit naïve, I do think there’s a place for quality free and open source fonts. When I organized the ATypI tech forum last year I gave Victor a platform to promote his ideas and license.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Ellen said...

Regarding SI's comment about open source books: I took this to be in good faith. A lot of my writing is free on the Web, and most of what I have written over the last fifteen years is actually in the public domain. I'm afraid I don't know how to make a Wiki myself, but I like the idea and I'm impressed with Armin Vit's Design Encyclopedia, to which I contribute. A lot of the content from my book Thinking with Type is available for free on the Web. I suspect the site has been good for sales overall, but I know it is used by many people who do not own the book and never will. I was paid nothing to produce the site.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Si said...

Cheeky buggers :-)

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Joe Pemberton said...

Is this really a manifesto? If so, you haven't defended it very well. If it's more of a rhetorical question, maybe you should rename this thread and turn down the heat a bit.

On open source:
Don't confuse open source with "great foundries" each giving away a font. Open source would suggest a call for everybody to pitch in on a single typeface (or type family) for the common good. The best example of this already exists in the Gentium typeface family. What's being called for in this manifesto is not an open source project, but is just asking for free fonts.

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Joe Pemberton said...

(D'oh, if there were an edit button I'd fix my wrongly placed quote marks.)

10:28 PM  
Blogger Ellen said...

You're right, Joe, it was intended as a rhetorical question, and I agree that Gentium is the best example of a free font in the sense that I am talking about. It is typefaces like that that are "free" in the philosophical sense. I appreciate your clarification.

10:49 PM  
Blogger nick shinn said...

This is a great idea Ellen.
I am developing a free font which will make the world a better place. It may not be quite what you expect, but I'll let you know when I release it.

11:10 PM  
Blogger jfp said...

I don't see really the point to have free fonts offered to the world community by typefaces designers.

The two major operating systems have a vaste collection of quite good font families. Add Adobe fonts in bundle with previous versions of Adobe suite. Add the next Windows Vista fonts published in 2007…

If you are an average graphic designer, you are already able to use many of such fonts in your everyday jobs without any special missing fonts. When you have a special client who require special fonts, free fonts will not resolve the issue, as the fonts in questions are probably quite unique and specific.

If ou are a type lover, you want very specific font, or just the font of the moment, the last FF or Hoefler, House, Porchez, Emigre, Typotheque, Tankard, Feliciano, whatever… this font will not be a free font, because its a new trend, and new and rare stuff is not free :) Its why we like it, its rare, not easy to find, and not free -- do parallels yourself, there is many.

If even good "free fonts" exists, its just because some large organisation, company has paid the development of them at some point. Designing type take a while and need design knowledge + now technical knowledge. Its not a such thing you over a weekend with small background.

My last point, that I reased after your excellent talk at Lisbon, is that the ones, generally "graphic designers" to put it simple, ask to be paid in due time and ask for recognition from their pairs and clients. Without the money at the end, they don't work at all, or just not a full year for free on a particular project, as a typeface family can take.

Rather than a free font manifesto, I will ask "graphic designers" to push their pairs and clients for more recognition of the large amont of work need to design typefaces they need everyday in their jobs.

3:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't part of Ellen's point that non-professional designers, plus designers in third-world countries, might use some of these fonts? I don't see professional designers as the real issue here. "Thinking with Type" is aimed at liberal arts students, editors, and writers, not just design students, and it really has raised type awareness "out there."

8:13 AM  
Anonymous dberlow said...

Ellen, I'm not angry, so much as disappointed. I hoped your brainstorm was more towards education issues, and not simply a moral grab at our heart strings to keep the little buggers out of IP jail. I apologize if I seemed angry. The facts, as I see them, are that there is too little education down to the nuts and bolts, as there was in metal, literally. Now, that would mean educating about tables and point types of contours, but that is happening far too weakLy in schools, most teachers not feeling the need to truly understand the underlying atoms themselves, before skipping into the stylistic plethora we've all brought to the table. The digital type revolution on the desktop, initially severed the connection between practice and type education, by being shrouded in technological secrecy, (see Adobe). So, maybe the education can best be re-spun with their fonts, at least for print. Get more! Cheers.

8:44 AM  
Blogger nick shinn said...

For professional designers, I agree with David that improved typography comes through education, not mere access to tools.

Typography plays a small part in design school curricula, it has to compete with so much. However, having taught type design as part of the B.Des at York University (Toronto) for several years, I can say that it is quite feasible and useful to give future practitioners some experience at the sub-atomic level.

For society at large, now that everyone with a computer is a typesetter, I don't think the profession can presume to dictate what is appropriate for vernacular culture. The non-professionals are buying their script fonts and love Comic Sans; "better" fonts won't stop them using hash marks and faux small caps, which are what we really mean when we talk about better typography for the masses, but IMHO these are a non-issue.

More continuing education would be a good idea: Can we clone Ilene Strizver?

1:12 PM  
Anonymous dberlow said...

Yep. Education is the key, (cliché I know but...). There was a discontinuity in the teaching process brought on initially by the change from letterpress to digital typesetting. As we all know, type gets a small share of the budget at most places that use it, and educational facilities that could afford to make the leap from letterpress to pre-Mac digital were few and far between. Those who did however, ended up teaching both letterpress and inputting. That is to say, inputting commands to a typesetter and wrestling with getting results, both programmatically, and through an environmentally unfriendly process. If students and teachers did learn this stuff, they promptly chucked it all when the Mac became available, no small feat as most academic institutions were PC-based. But when the Mac did arrive, it was a black box, as far as the type concerned, Adobe going so far as to threaten those who tried to reverse engineer the fonts. Eventually, this was solved by commercial interests and Fontographer started showing up in classrooms. But the damage has not yet been repaired until Type 101 is about the nuts and bolts of fonts, and 201 is about typography and the vast array of typographic options, based on a sound understanding of the Em, pixels and on up from 101's base. Most teaching today is what I label 201, and 101 is an option. This is not good.

Besides, Ellen's proposal, more free fonts, is not what's required at any institution of middling to higher education I've ever seen. At most of their computer labs, you'll see at least one sign that says "DON'T LEAVE ANY FONTS INSTALLED ON THIS MACHINE!" — a far cry from not having enough room for all the job cases once desired in the laboratory circumstances I grew up in.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Josh Stratton said...

Ellen--
I think that overall it's not a bad idea. The audience seems rather limited, as the real beneficiaries would be typographers who could more easily build upon one another's work, rather than mere end users, who would just be along for the ride. This is similar to how Linux has been fairly popular among geeks willing to put up with it, many of whom are themselves programmers, but hasn't made a dent in the desktop market. What really tends to limit it, though, is that typefaces -- in the US, at least -- are quite weakly protected in a legal sense, and that unlike software, old typefaces are extremely useful. Plus, of course, creating a full face that's any good is a lot of work, and this tends to run counter to the piecemeal fashion in which a lot of open source software and documentation tends to be created. Wikipedia is a good example: people might be willing to contribute a paragraph or two, but it's often annoying to write an entire article of any real length. In typography terms, this might be like having one person design each glyph. Each one might be quite good, but you would probably not have much of an overall typeface.

Still, there's nothing to be lost by trying, and even if it takes a while, everyone has to start somewhere. I say you should go for it.

Peter Bruhn--
What if all farmers gave away their crop. What if all wineries sent me a bottle of their finest, to expand my awarness of good wine. What if all writers would write for free, if all teachers thought for free. What if...

And this would be bad?

There's absolutely nothing wrong with people acting generously. Practical concerns might limit their ability to do so, and generosity should not be manditory, but if someone is willing to give away their work, then that is worthy of praise, not scorn.

And in some contexts, giving something away can be more shrewd than it might appear. Consider the example of the GPL: people write software and license it freely. Anyone who obtains a copy is free to distribute it further, if they wish, and to make modifications to it. But if they do, then they have to offer it on the same terms, and with the same 'share-alike' proviso. So if you're willing to make the initial investment into writing a program, and it becomes popular enough to attract other interested developers, then you can use their improvements (saving you time and effort) just as they used yours (for the same reasons). Very healthy environments can come about from this, and it's more of an example of self-interest working hand-in-hand with generosity, rather than either alone. Powerful stuff.

I'm so tired of this, just because a lot of people do P2P and wants stuff without giving nothing in return, doean't make it right.

Meh. People who are motivated by copyrights or patents to create things are motivated by greed. They want the extra money that they can make by virtue of a temporary monopoly on the thing in question. This is not really different from the greed pirates exhibit in wanting the thing for free, or the greed the public exhibits (including the framers, who built it into the Constitution) in wanting it for free as well, which is why copyrights and patents expire.

There's nothing wrong with this on either side. People tend to be somewhat greedy, and while that might not be laudable, it's not terrible, either. And exploiting the greed of the creator is how we make things work: the monopoly is used as an inducement to create and publish, just like you use a carrot to make a donkey pull a wagon. And it would be foolish for the public to ever grant such monopolies if they didn't benefit from them. Mere creation isn't benefit enough, so the monopolies have to expire. Parallels can be seen in any municipal cable tv monopoly, which are used to induce cable companies to build and maintain infrastructure, which can later be publicly owned or competitively bid out again, rather than to help out Comcast or Time Warner because they're such nice guys.

In the main, I'd say that these entire systems, and everyone in them, is basically amoral. It's all based on utilitarianism, in which case pirates are merely acting counterproductively, but not immorally. In fact, if we really wanted to look into it, I'd say that morality lies on the side of the pirates: they ignore monopolies on creative or useful things, and instead use those things productively, help to disseminate them, and help to preserve them for posterity. Copyright and patent holders are monopolists that are more concerned with making money than in seeing productive use, et al, at their expense. The utilitarian argument against pirates is still significant, and that's why I'd be against piracy (provided that the laws they were breaking were sufficiently good laws), but that has nothing to do with morality.

In what way will there be food and shelter for my children just because a designer gets more "aware"?

Frankly, that's not anyone's concern but yours, so far as this discussion goes. If I ship a document by FedEx, the UPS man might lose his job, and his family might end up on the street. If I ship with UPS instead, it's the FedEx man that gets sacked. If I send a copy with each courier, I end up wasting a lot of money, and I lose my job.

I am prepared to say that 99.44% of people who pay money for a font are doing so because it is the most practical thing for them to do from their perspective. That is, they do so because it serves their interests to do so. They don't actually care about the typographer's family.

If they find a way of satisfying their goals that happens to be bad for typographers, then it'll be too bad for typographers. The fortunes and fates of typographers only matter to their customers to the extent that it affects what the customers want. Basically, this is just capitalism in action.

Now, if you want to talk about social welfare programs for people who lose their jobs, then that's great, and we ought to have those. But that has nothing at all to do with this discussion.

Yves Peters--
There are a good number of decent freeware typefaces around, some of the larger foundries have fonts of them bundled with software and publications, ... So what more do people need?

More can't hurt. And remember that freeware isn't a substitute for the public domain or certain forms of open source. Being able to modify a typeface to suit your tastes is important if you can't find one that is precisely what you're looking for.

There already is a problem of perception -- the general public thinks type is just "there", and is oblivious to the fact that creating good typefaces is an intensive, time-consuming activity.

True. But how will discouraging this effort possibly help? Currently there isn't a really an open source typeface project, and the public is ignorant as to typography. Why would it make any sense to keep on doing the same thing, expecting a totally different result? Maybe this won't help either, but I doubt it could make things worse. Especially given that plenty of fonts are already given away as freeware. End users will likely not care about this project directly, just as a computer user probably doesn't think much about modifying his own software. But the creative community that has the skills and interest to build on the initial wave of open source typefaces would either find it to be a valuable resource, or at worst, nothing that harms them. It's the creatives that are aware of more typefaces than Times and Helvetica, after all.

we undermine the type industry and the livelihood of countless type designers who'll have an even harder time trying to make a living out of their craft.

Meh. First, I have to wonder just how many type designers there are that make a living at it and would be adversely affected by this. I doubt there's many.

But secondly, so what? I work in the heart of the city, and I have a great view to a major intersection below. All day long, I see bike couriers. Bike couriers, like foot messengers and horse couriers before them, tend to be adversely affected by improvements in communication technology. The fax machine and email have just decimated their ranks. Frankly, I don't care. As someone who is not a bike courier, I just want what's cheapest and most efficient. Their job is not sacrosanct, it is not to be protected at all costs.

Typographers are in the same boat. I don't see the demand for novel or customized typefaces going away, but let's remember that digital typography and DTP killed off everything we had before. Seen much hot lead lately? And of course, movable type and the printing press killed the calligraphy industry that hand-copied books. And the rise of literacy (which was furthered by printing) killed off people who relayed information orally.

I sincerely do not believe that typographers are going to die out as a result of this. But if they do, then I'm prepared to chalk it up to the same unrelenting progress that caused typography to be born in the first place. Nothing is new under the sun.

dberlow--
Hundreds of fonts, good ones, exist in this state, (free, for all the languages) through the hard work of hundreds from this industry with over 20 years of work.

Are you distinguishing between freeware and open source/public domain when you say this? They are very different things.

To suggest that the world would be better if Latin "graphic designers" had more free fonts to choose from

Oh, it would be better, certainly. Having more available, for free, is always better. I like to read, and I have a bookcase covering an entire long wall, filled with books, and several other bookcases scattered around, also full, as well. But if I could have my own Library of Congress, for free, that would be better than having to buy books here and there at my own expense. Better still if everyone had such a collection. As a practical matter, it might not be feasible, but it's a great ideal, and there's no downside.

9:59 PM  
Blogger jpad said...

I've read a lot about this lately, and discussing it at Typophile. At this point I feel ready to reply to each of your five points.

1. To make a selfless gift to humanity.

Given how little money a lot of type designers make, they're already being pretty selfless. On a less naive level, capitalism still seems to work pretty well. In the last three decades people trying to "save" Africa have learned that giving stuff away doesn't solve the problems nearly as well as encouraging self-sustaining capitalism does, and I'm inclined to believe it works the same way with creativity.

2. To raise global awareness of typographic excellence.

There's no shortage of books, magazines, and web sties out there that do this, and they're rarely read by non-designers. Why are a lot more free fonts going to change anything?

3. To create a visual resource that will be used by students, citizens, amateurs, and professionals all over the world.

Amateurs don't need great fonts–they won't know how to use them well anyway. That's why their work looks bad when they're using Times and Helvetica.

Students already have access to thousands of free fonts, and it doesn't keep them all from using the thousands of pirated commercial fonts that float around every design campus in the world. More free fonts won't change this.

4. To contribute to a global design vocabulary.

And this hasn't been done for centuries with non-free fonts? How does making them free do anything other than skew the signal-to-noise ratio in favor of noise?

5. To seed the world with a visual idea that could be built on and enriched by other designers serving smaller linguistic communities.

This last one just sounds like pretentious gobbledygook. I'm pretty sure that you're trying to restate some of Larry Lessig's ideas in this point, but it makes little sense.

It's not that I entirely disagree with the idea that free fonts are a good thing; but you need to develop better arguments.

And, like some others out there, I'd be a lot more inclined to think that you're really committed to this idea if you started giving some of your books away, or took a sabbatical from teaching to develop some free fonts of your own. As it stands now, I'm just as inclined to see you as a leftist academic stirring up trouble.

9:23 PM  
Blogger Ellen said...

Thanks, Jpad, for your thoughtful response. You make some good points that are echoed by others on this site.

I don't share your contempt for amateurs. The typographic world is quite different now than it was five hundred years ago. Common folk today not only read fonts but use them. That may be distressing to some professional designers and typographers, but it is a fact. One of the tasks of the design professions is to educate people at all levels.

I've already addressed the idea of giving my own work away in other comments, but I will state again that I already do give a large part of my work away, but not all of it. I have never suggested that anyone give away everything, nor that everybody make any gift at all. Rather, there are some designers already doing this, willingly and with pleausre. That idea caught my interest, because it relates to my broader desire to raise general public awareness of and access to design tools and design thinking.

Regarding the leftist gobbledygook, I was referring to typefaces like Gentium and Linux Libertine, which are created specifically to reach diverse linguistic communities.

3:42 AM  
Blogger jpad said...

Regarding the leftist gobbledygook, I was referring to typefaces like Gentium and Linux Libertine, which are created specifically to reach diverse linguistic communities.

I think that in future revisions, you should be more specific. I was very confused by point 5, and at first thought that you might be talking about types that serve many audiences, but having read the pullout about Lessig in Thinking With Type (Yeah, I've read it enough times to remember some of the pullouts) I ended up thinking that you were referring to Lessig's writings about ideas propagating more ideas.

It seems to me that a big problem with your approach to this has been oversimplification, which lends itself to misinterpretation. It's certainly understandable; you're pushing an idea that's not easy to push–the free software movement has always had this problem. On the upside, you're a much more gifted educator than the free software proponents, so I think that with time and refinement, you'll be able to really take this somewhere.

Perhaps it might help to approach this problem in the way you approached the lack of great introductory type textbooks–write a good book on the subject.

9:31 PM  
Anonymous clive said...

Josh Stratton:
Meh. People who are motivated by copyrights or patents to create things are motivated by greed. They want the extra money that they can make by virtue of a temporary monopoly on the thing in question.

Um, yes, that's the whole point of IP protection, to reward creators for their work. If they couldn't have a *temporary* monopoly then there would be nothing to stop anyone copying that work (commercially or otherwise) and no reward for the creators - who may have laboured over a long period and invested substantial time and money.

If you don't like this model, then it's really easy - don't buy into it (but at the some time don't pirate such work).

This is not really different from the greed pirates exhibit in wanting the thing for free, or the greed the public exhibits (including the framers, who built it into the Constitution) in wanting it for free as well, which is why copyrights and patents expire.

It is totally different. Greed by pirates, commercial or otherwise, is driven by not wanting to spend money or do any work to acquire something. Creators have spent time and money developing their ideas, and society, as demonstrated in its laws, thinks it is appropriate to protect such work from piracy.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous clive said...

Ellen:
I was referring to typefaces like Gentium and Linux Libertine, which are created specifically to reach diverse linguistic communities.

As I have already written, I think this is probably the only area of type design that needs a community effort. However, your examples at:

http://www.designwritingresearch.org/free_fonts.html

don't really serve as a good example - three out of five of them appear to be Times clones. Which is to say that you don't appear to be supporting community type design, but community design piracy.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Ellen said...

jpad: I would be interested, down the line, to write or otherwise participate in a broader work about socially-produced design (a wiki or or other group-authored entity). A lot of designers right now, in many fields, are interested in collaborating on shared, open-ended projects. The interest or relevance may not be so great in the area of typeface development, as indicated in the response to this thread. (This page was, itself, an attempt to put out an idea and get responses from a community.)

clive: That's the conclusion I was coming to as I put this material together: that the best place for any "open" font development is in relation to underserved linguistic/typographic communities.

Regarding free fonts more generally, there will always be designers who want to give some fonts away for the fun of it, to get exposure and to participate in a social process. I'm curious if the typeface community considers such "gifts" to be a bad practice that undermines the commercial focus of the industry. For example, many designers or companies will give away a typeface for free in order to generate interest in other wares that are for sale. This is a common practice, like free samples in a candy store. Acceptable?

2:45 AM  
Anonymous clive said...

Ellen:
That's the conclusion I was coming to as I put this material together: that the best place for any "open" font development is in relation to underserved linguistic/typographic communities.

The general problem with this is that you're getting attention from Latin-based type designers, here and at your ATypI session, who generally aren't in a position to help in any serious way on such projects.

For example, I know of one person who has spent a great deal of time in Bhutan over the past five years, where he has helped the locals design and digitise fonts in their own script. This is a very specialised skill which requires a lot of dedication.

This is the kind of effort that is going to reap rewards - local integration, with the users, rather than random free font efforts.

Regarding free fonts more generally, there will always be designers who want to give some fonts away for the fun of it, to get exposure and to participate in a social process. I'm curious if the typeface community considers such "gifts" to be a bad practice that undermines the commercial focus of the industry.

I think that most people who make a living out of type aren't really that concerned about people making their own fonts - they don't see it as a threat. It's likely that some proportion of the people who do this will become professionals in the future.

However, there would be a perceived threat from those that are copying, or modifying, existing designs to try to circumvent the rights of the designer.

For example, many designers or companies will give away a typeface for free in order to generate interest in other wares that are for sale. This is a common practice, like free samples in a candy store. Acceptable?

I don't think that many type designers are doing this sort of thing. This is an area where the likes of Adobe are bundling lots of fonts with their software, perhaps Monotype are giving away a free font when someone buys something else, or the likes of Apple or Microsoft are bundling a lot of fonts with the operating system.

Type designers have to some extent become used to this style of marketing (it's been going on for at least 15 years) - I don't think they like it, and generally it does cut into the type market. But, at the same time Microsoft is commissioning new designs by those same type designers and Apple is licencing fonts from Linotype, etc.

Generally I think it would be true to say that type designers have adapted their marketing to target custom design work, rather than trying to earn a living purely from retail sales (they probably need both, but the former has become more important).

12:53 PM  
Blogger Ellen said...

Thanks, Clive. I find all your comments about the typeface industry illuminating. Clearly, it's a tough business that has been both expanded and threatened by the on-line revolution. On the one hand, there are more users of typefaces than ever before in history; on the other hand, there are more ways than ever to acquire fonts—and not just by stealing them or getting them outright for "free," but also by receiving them, without even asking, bundled up with design software and operating systems.

Similar parallels exist with regard to "content" such as music or text. For example, there is a now a huger-than-ever market for second-hand books, made possible by on-line services like Amazon. Authors and publishers never see any profit from these secondary sales, causing distress to many people in the book industry. Simple mechanisms like airport buy-backs do the same thing. However, one can accept such phenomena as a way that content stays alive and circulating into today's climate, generating its own curious economy (one that helps the pub business in other ways). Likewise, many authors and publishers see Google Books as a terrible threat, while others see it as a way to keep written words in active use, profitable or not.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Paul Fox said...

Just my two cents...
I recently worked on a project where I was working as a subcontractor. The project paid around $2k. My client was using Fruitiger on the Mac and I do my development on PC. I was forced to buy Fruitiger for $249 and will probably not ever need it again. I spent less on the application that I used to make the final file ($199). As a freelancer, I find it hard to spend on typefaces out of pocket and still price my work competitively. I'm afraid that good typefaces suffer from the same economic forces as real-estate and concert tickets. "If people will pay $650 for lawn seats we'll charge $650". I can definitely understand how hard it is to price something like a typeface, but it's liscensing and continued purchase continue to generate revenue long after the work is done. I don't want free typefaces. I want cheap typefaces.

12:36 PM  

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