Are printed specimens just fun objects or do they really help sell type?

I always thought printed paper specimens are beautiful things and, as a typographer, I love designing them, studying them, criticizing them, and admiring the work that goes into creating them. As a graphic design student, I loved collecting them.

Realistically, they are expensive to produce and a lot of work to design, though. For those of you who BUY fonts, how do you make your decision? I am willing to guess that you decide online, not based on a specimen you might have received. From those of you who sell fonts over big platforms like MyFonts, FontShop, & co ... did making a printed specimen ever directly help sales? Better yet, do any of you still use the big FontBook?

Comments

  • kupferskupfers Posts: 246
    They certainly help to build a name and reputation. I think it is solely through their marvellous printed specimens (+ little videos) and not through their website that I consider using Typonine typefaces for instance. If printed specimens are made well, you keep them and they will lay around at the studio or stand on your shelf looking at you even when you’re not purposefully looking for typefaces. 

    In the end, it may not matter too much where and in what medium you present your typeface well, but it definitely always helps to put typefaces into context, show sample text (in different languages) as well as sample applications. Maybe that works just as well with a mini site these days? Or downloadable specimen PDFs? (Typedesigners don’t like these too much anymore but I can tell you that print designers do : )
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 874
    Or downloadable specimen PDFs? (Typedesigners don’t like these too much anymore but I can tell you that print designers do : )

    Yes! What the heck has happened to PDF specimens lately? Seems like hardly anyone makes them for new releases. I can understand not producing printed specimens except for special circumstances; the cost is quite prohibitive. But I, for one, always look for a PDF. And I am always disappointed when one seems not to be available. Online testers are not a substitute, IMO.


  • I've always provided downloadable PDF specimens. I'll let you know about the effects of a printed specimen since I have a catalog going to the printer in a few days.
  • Or downloadable specimen PDFs? (Typedesigners don’t like these too much anymore but I can tell you that print designers do : )
    Oh yes! I forgot about those. Yeah, this is what I provided with my last release. But I have no way of measuring whether this helped. I guess they are a good solution. These super fancy new mini-websites seem to offer almost too much tweaking options (which is fun, but a little gimmicky unless you need to check how a specific word looks in that typeface), and as a designer, sometimes I just need to see a well designed piece of text in use black on white on a paper, without having to design it myself.
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 527
    edited August 2015
    But I have no way of measuring whether this helped
    Adding a discount coupon to the Pdf? Just an idea
  • Nina StössingerNina Stössinger Posts: 150
    edited August 2015
    What Indra said, but in addition, I will say that when selecting typefaces for (long, printed) text – for instance for a book – I have been very happy to consult actual offset printed samples, as the impression one gets from a laser printed PDF is only very approximate, especially regarding color/weight and texture. From an offset printed sample and (in the next step) my own PDF layouts it is much more possible to “extrapolate” what the actual result can look and feel like. So in such situations, having a printed sample will likely increase my chances of licensing the typeface.
  • I collect every type specimen I come across. I love them. They're also a wonderful way to show paper and ink (as in the highly illustrative House Ind specimens with French Paper Co.) But I would say that it's probably worth it to ensure it's really, really well-designed. A badly designed or boringly designed specimen is going to hinder sales more than help. Re: PDF specimens, I appreciate that FontBureau provides them, but I do wish they weren't so templated, and employed more interesting graphic design.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,139
    I appreciate that FontBureau provides them, but I do wish they weren't so templated, and employed more interesting graphic design.
    Does that mean you are more likely to purchase a font that has better graphic design in the sample?  I agree that I am more likely to pay attention to a well designed specimen but I would buy type based on the quality of the type.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,405
    Diana, I don‘t think there are many type buyers here at Type Drawers.

    However, warming to the subject, may I say that my foundry continues to publish the occasional printed piece—primarily for the goody bags of type and design conferences.

    I don’t bother to try and figure out what effect they have.

    I also take out ads in Eye magazine and Slanted, from time to time.

    I continue to produce downloadable PDFs for each Shinntype release, at the 8½" x 11" size, as my primary market is North America.

  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,139
    I also use those specimens to show art directors and other not-as-type-savvy designers the versatility of a typeface.

    Good point!
  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 745
    edited August 2015
    Micro/mini/brochure sites dedicated to a particular typeface or collection can be effective, but I think printed objects often stick in the human memory in ways that online promotion does not. More than once, while trying to recall interesting new typefaces, I immediately thought of the specimens I got in the mail or conference goodie bag, rather than any particular website. I imagine this is even more true for someone who isn’t as obsessive about following foundries online.
  • @Veronika Burian Totally! It's the ephemera that's actually not that ephemeral!
    collections of type specimens are a nice piece of history :-)
  • Re: PDF specimens, I appreciate that FontBureau provides them, but I do wish they weren't so templated, and employed more interesting graphic design.
    I love interestingly designed specimen, but I think bland, templated specimen are actually more useful to evaluate a typeface and compare it with others. It may be ideal if a specimen contains both interesting and bland pages!
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,405
    edited August 2015
    I’ve always been fascinated by type specimens as a literary form, when they become a kind of concrete poetry.

    Alphabets to Order by Alastair Johnston of Poltroon Press is a brilliant treatise on this genre in the 19th century.

    I addressed the subject in my specimen for FF Oneleigh of 1999 (which was printed), including a short essay on page 2.
  • attarattar Posts: 209
    edited August 2015
    At Production Type, each printed specimen includes an essay (there are also simple black-on-white PDF specimens available for each typeface so as to make print runs before buying, which is a distinct thing). I'm told that the people who buy the printed specimens are dominantly not those who buy the fonts: they are people who like nice objects connected to design, or e.g. design students that seek information on the subject that the specimen tackles (it includes an exhaustive synthesis on their subject and also provides a bibliography for further research).
    For the foundry, I think they're not just cool objects to produce but they also help reaching more people.
  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 745
    edited August 2015
    the people who buy the printed specimens are dominantly not those who buy the fonts

    But these people are often influencers for those who do buy fonts.

  • I love interestingly designed specimen, but I think bland, templated specimen are actually more useful to evaluate a typeface and compare it with others.

    What I find useful in any (print/web/PDF) specimen is if they show a realistic combination of styles such as continuous text with some words or sentences in italic/corresponding bold weights/small caps.

    Many ‘templated’ PDF specimens fail to show this. They show strictly one style each, and it doesn’t help the buyer judge how the styles in a typeface work together.

    We started producing printed specimens in 2011, and we see our recognition grow since. But as Veronica says it is hard to say how it directly relates to font sales.



  • I think “templated” specimens really mostly make it easy to compare the typeface with others that use the same template – ie, if you’re trying to decide between various offerings from the same foundry. If that’s not the case (which in my personal experience has been more frequent), and you’re looking at different templates, you might as well be looking at individual layouts -- which could be better at individually presenting the typeface in an ideal way.
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