I really tried hard, but I simply can’t resist playing the role of the devil's advocate in the discussion about Google’s role in font business. For those who want to even consider me as a sort of Faust after reading the following, I post the next photo in advance.
Personally I don’t like Google’s activities on the font market very much, and I never have made a secret of this on the GFD list. However, one can’t blame a company –small or large– for entering a certain market using a different model. I have seen large companies that produced image-setting machines dismantled in a relatively short period after the rise of desktop publishing. As a direct consequence a nice project that I was working on for ScanGraphic was never ﬁnished. Together with these companies the typesetting companies perished and I have seen people losing a lot of money in this business. Also companies that fully focused on supplying type in the different digital formats for the image-setting machines, like ITC, didn’t survive. And with these companies the digitizing that was done by third parties, like at URW for ITC.
At the same time new opportunities occurred for small companies and individuals like you and me. Before the rise of desktop publishing a ‘large’ IKARUS system for UNIX cost around DM 250.000. Ikarus M became available together with a tablet and lens cursor for DM 7500 (AFAIK, the initial price was even lower, but put under pressure by companies owning the ‘large’ IKARUS system). The prices of computers went down and programs like Fontographer made the production of fonts even less expensive. In the second half of the 1980s I taught at a graphic school in Haarlem (you know, the city of Laurens Janszoon Coster ;-) and my older colleagues ridiculed desktop publishing. They couldn’t believe that this was the future, and they were also scared for it. The changes came to quick for them; they actually struggled with the transition from foundry and hot metal type to phototypesetting still.
The font market has been already put under a lot pressure before Google entered it by extremely low pricing. Google is deﬁnitely diluting the market even further. At ﬁrst reactions (also on this forum) pointed at the low quality of the Google fonts. I think that this is basically good for Google’s competitors, because they retain a unique selling point: quality. However, the quality of Google’s fonts will surely increase, as there is a group of people (also present on this forum) that really believe in the ideology of making everything Open Source and for free in an attempt make the world a better place. This community-thinking must be the Zeitgeist, because also some commercial tools seem to ﬂoat on a dedicated group of followers that support for instance scripts for free.
A company like Adobe changed the font market with new technology. This is something Google is not doing; it simply changes the market by a different earning model supported by an immense power. IMHO Dave is largely responsible for this. I know him a bit as he was for a short period a student of mine in Antwerp and we kept in contact since. I’m convinced that he really wants to add knowledge, technology and quality to the métier. And I also believe that he will succeed. At the same time companies that for instance invested a lot of money and time in the development of global fonts see their market rapidly shrinking and the value of their proprietary technology reduced.
As I wrote in the ﬁrst paragraph, I don’t like much what is happening. But a changing or diminishing market in the course of time is nothing special. My grandfather built coaches like his father and grandfather did until the automobiles came. At the end he made the wooden stuff for cargobikes. Such is life: the survival of the ﬁttest.
So, that being said, I expect to metaphorically being tarred and feathered in the further discussion here.
I’d like to offer a somewhat different point of view to the “post-settlement” debate.
Tobias and Jonathan chose to work together years ago.
After years of working together, Tobias and Jonathan had a major business dispute.
Tobias and Jonathan used the appropriate place to resolve the dispute: a United States court of law.
Tobias and Jonathan settled the dispute. A settlement means that both parties entered a mutual agreement that resolved the dispute.
I’m happy that the dispute ended. I don’t have sufficient knowledge of the truth in the affair, and I’m not interested in learning how much which party agreed to give or receive (as little as I’m interested in knowing how much alimony a friend of mine is paying to his ex-wife after his divorce). Nor do I think I should be interested. Both Tobias and Jonathan decided to keep the terms of the settlement confidential, and I think I should respect that decision.
As far as assholes are concerned: there are many in the world. Many good musicians and actors are assholes. Some type designers are assholes, as well. There are even some type designers whom I personally like who are assholes.
As far as licensing or recommending somebody’s typefaces, I do take my personal relationship with the designer into consideration, but only as a minor factor. To be fair to the craft, I should be judging the craft and effectiveness of the typeface first, whether it gets the job done, whether it’s a good or perhaps the best choice for the particular purpose.
I ask myself: who am I to judge other people’s character? And, is it fair to let my personal opinions of, feelings about or relationships with a person dictate the choices I make regarding the craft? I feel my duty to the craft should be more important than that.
I make a distinction between whom to have a beer with and whose typefaces to use. If I didn’t do it, I might be running into the danger of nepotism. I might unfairly favor and promote type not by the type’s merits but because the guy who made it is my buddy.
Having said that, I look forward to seeing new typefaces from hoefler.com and from frerejones.com I think the future will best show whether, for the craft, it’s better that the two men went their separate ways or whether it might have been better if they continued to work together.
(To be clear: I do have moral/ethical limits, of course. But hearsay about one man disputing with another about something one man said to another 15 years ago but they never put it in writing isn’t anywhere near these.)
The way PDFs are linked in the forum is not ideal. Normally, if you click on a pdf, it is shown right in the browser. But here it is downloaded. This is especially annoying on iOS as you need to move it into iBooks just to have a look.