I just watched Young Type Lovers Anonymous
. It got me thinking about how a font foundry might provide discounted licensing to students based on the courses they take.
I do offer a student discount through TypeTrust, but I don't advertise it and do not receive many requests. I'm generally suspicious of the offer being exploited similarly to the way any recent (or not-so-recent) grad might flash a school ID for a discounted ticket at a movie theater or theme park, etc. I can only assume that some of my fonts are being shared among students for school projects, and that many of these fonts continue to be used after graduation which is when my concern hardens. I might agree that font licensing seems too expensive for a student’s budget—even with a hefty discount, but I hope the following proposition might be a viable approach to dissuade software piracy, and foster a professional respect among young type users, their instructors, and type designers.
I haven't been a student for a while, I've never taught any college course, and I haven't even had any involvement in academia for quite a while, so I'd like to hear if this approach might actually work in the academic sphere.Fonts as Course Requirements
Instructors who write their own syllabi might choose and assign textbooks or supplies as part of the course materials. As far as I understand it, these items are ordered in bulk from the publishers/distributors and sold to the students through the university bookstore. In a similar way, could a collection of relevant typefaces be assigned as required materials? One benefit might be that every student completes each assignment with the same tools, which narrows the focus of grading/critiques to how
they have used the typefaces, rather than what
typefaces they have chosen to use. (I assume this would be most beneficial in first-year foundation coursework.)Instructor Participation: Typeface Selection and License Request
This approach would absolutely require due diligence on the part of the instructor, and the school as well if all purchases might go through the bookstore. (I'll get to that below.) A typographically informed design instructor (the only kind to have) would know what current/popular/quality typefaces will provide the most potential for good design, a good variety of project applications, and the ultimate goal of good student portfolios. The instructor could even present a wider selection of vetted typefaces to the class for discussion and final selection per assignment, which might even present an excellent exercise in real-world typographic decision-making and type awareness: having the students actively participate in the selection, budgeting, and purchasing of font licenses.Foundry Participation: Classroom Discounts
From the font foundry side, one multi-user license would be drafted to cover the whole class. The cost of that license would then be shared among the students taking the course at a fraction of the base license price. Apply an educational discount, and the price per student on any current, professional-quality font wouldn't be more than a few bucks. And how much do textbooks cost? Add up the license cost for the collection of fonts that the instructor has assigned. The total might still only come to the average price of a textbook or any heap of assigned tools and studio course materials. The foundry could also set the specific terms of the license. Would it extend to cover use outside of class, or outside of school, or for post-graduation freelance work? I'd say YES to all these. (I still have the compass and French curves I had to buy at art school in 1993.)School Participation: University Bookstore Distribution
This approach would be most effective with school/bookstore participation. The licensing could be handled in bulk and purchased by the bookstore, an accurate and approved cost to the individual student could be calculated, and the foundry or type designer would receive a single payment per semester based on how many students are taking the courses. Everyone would be appropriately covered under a single legitimate end user license, and perhaps the school might provide a roster of covered students if the foundry requires.
Since I'm so out of touch with academia, I've been wondering whether schools have yet adopted any system of eBook distribution in place of hardcopy textbook sales, and if there's already a third-party provider of eBook licensing for academic use. If there's already a system in place to handle the distribution and licensing of electronic goods, font distribution wouldn't really be any different.
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Let me know what you think. I'd like to hear some perspectives from other foundries and type designers, but more importantly from design instructors and students.