Google Fonts: Your Questions, Answered

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  • @Nic Musolino. wow. super enlightened post :)
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,435
    edited December 2013
    Interesting, but I disagree with most of it. And I was a buyer of font licences from 1988 to 2000, and a maker of fonts from 1993 on.

    True, there is little scope for organized solidarity amongst type designers.

    Nonetheless, the market for fonts, from libre to commercial, is wide open, and trends in group behavior can quickly emerge and solidify, as happened recently with huge discounts on font introductions.

    The idea that licensing is moving downstream, driven by font licensors, in a manner similar to music etc., is not entirely accurate. The shift is from users’ one-time purchase of software and running it off their hard drive, to renting it off the cloud. This is a general internet trend, not just the type industry shooting itself in the foot.

    The type industry (businesses manufacturing fonts and selling font licences) has responded by coming up with all kinds of licences for all kinds of media and devices. My fonts are distributed by a variety of old and new (webfont) resellers, and the sales results vary wildly. With so much going on and so much uncertainty, and the future being, as always, unpredictable, I really don’t see how it’s possible to negotiate Google Fonts as a threat, it just is, in the same way that Adobe, MS and Apple have been with font bundling for the past 20 years. All one can do, if one is so inclined, is assess the ethicality of copyright philosophies; it’s impossible to say that such-and-such licence will be economically bad for so-and-so, there is no way to predict the numbers one way or the other.
  • Deleted AccountDeleted Account Posts: 739
    edited December 2013
    From the first sentence of the
    super enlightened post :)
    post, he completely lost me. To have seen no instance of evolution or innovation on the pricing of type, one would have to be living under a rock since 1993, missing everything from MS font packs to google fonts. Maybe for some, enlightenment goes with sitting around the campfire eating beans, telling tall tails and setting the results aflame.

    And this, Vern backwards moment
    ...how could the legal status of any contracts to create libre fonts effect the way libre fonts are used in the wild?
    , is telling. Stable typographic behavior in the wild is a thing people use fonts for. Wild behavior as a result of legal status, not so much.
  • And this, Vern backwards moment
    ...how could the legal status of any contracts to create libre fonts effect the way libre fonts are used in the wild?
    , is telling. Stable typographic behavior in the wild is a thing people use fonts for. Wild behavior as a result of legal status, not so much.
    What was so 'backwards' about that question?

    Also i can't see how the wording of the contract that JHudson is looking at would necessarilly cause "unstable typographic behaviour". Wish you would explain further.

  • missing everything from MS font packs to google fonts

    I was referring primarily to licensing practices inside the 'font industry' defined in this thread, and then mostly as a matter of individual licensing. Google, SkyFonts and TypeKit have all received some negative attention in this thread as undermining or damaging extant models, so I really don't think Google counts as being an innovative force within the font industry.

    As regards font packs, these date to the 80s, do they not?
  • >As regards font packs, these date to the 80s, do they not?

    LOL! Is this you? http://www.ispot.tv/ad/76Ke/jack-in-the-box-jalapeno-bbq-burger-social-media-intern
  • @sidaniels - I think you are trying for sarcasm but it's not tracking.

    Didn't MS release it's first font pack in 1996?

    Perhaps you could answer in the form of another inexplicable fast food commercial. Here, I'll help:
  • The 80s? was that like when all typographic behaviour was stable?
  • SiDanielsSiDaniels Posts: 273
    edited December 2013
    No, not sarcasm, your post made me think about the number of designers (the majority?) who think the font business started in 1984 - the "social media interns" of the typographic community?
  • Fair enough. I picked 20 years as a number because my knowledge of licensing starts there -- I'm honestly curious about how publishers licensed type in the pre-DTP era, but didn't want to trouble anyone for a history lesson (though one would be most welcome). Once a Random House owned a Bembo, did they pay royalties over time for publishing books? Transparency on this sort of thing might really help people conceptually grasp what is at stake or fair for webfonts or other types of electronic redistribution.
  • @siDaniels
    i'm not sure the 'social media intern' is the object-of-fun in that advert. Isn't it the clown in the corpsuit who still wears a watch?
  • The ad works on so many levels. I'm sure there are many who associate more with the intern than with Jack, and not just based on their age.
  • > I can see no instances of evolution or innovation on the pricing side of the equation

    > Google, SkyFonts and TypeKit have all received some negative attention in this thread as undermining or damaging extant models, so I really don't think Google counts as being an innovative force within the font industry.

    Those are all examples of innovation on the pricing side. As is the Typekit desktop font sync.

    Just because they may cause damage to other business models in the same industry does not make them not part of that industry. For some (Google and Typekit) their motivations are different, and they are coming from a different place, but that doesn't mean they are not part of the industry. Google is paying money for type design and is making money off of it (even if somewhat indirectly on the latter, so far).
  • vernon adamsvernon adams Posts: 82
    edited December 2013
    @SiDaniels
    the "social media interns" of the typographic community?
    I'm sure there are many who associate more with the intern than with Jack,
    It's the "Jack's" of the typographic community that probably see the 'social media intern' as the joke.
  • Vernon:
    What was so 'backwards' about that question?
    The question answers itself, so... I said the moment was backwards. Here,
    Basically; The owner of a libre font can develop and release proprietary versions of their libre font, aka release versions of their OFL'd fonts as fonts not published under the OFL. A non-owner can create derivatives of a libre font but if they release the font they must do so under the OFL.
    I'm just extrapolating from a place where the font family name and font style name can match, but proprietary and libre, originals and derivatives, licensed and pirated, make undesirable variations in behavior possible from the same "asset". Normally, the fonts are stable and its the rest of the soft and hardware that are responsible for variant behavior in typography

    Nic:
    I'm honestly curious about how publishers licensed type in the pre-DTP era...Transparency on this sort of thing might really help people....
    Then, perhaps you should read up on it and if that's not enough start a thread. To imply anyone here is obscuring history on "this sort of thing" (Google fonts), by failing to address the DTP revolution in the required detail is, I think, a bit demanding.




  • vernon adamsvernon adams Posts: 82
    edited December 2013
    Basically; The owner of a libre font can develop and release proprietary versions of their libre font, aka release versions of their OFL'd fonts as fonts not published under the OFL. A non-owner can create derivatives of a libre font but if they release the font they must do so under the OFL.
    I'm just extrapolating from a place where the font family name and font style name can match, but proprietary and libre, originals and derivatives, licensed and pirated, make undesirable variations in behavior possible from the same "asset". Normally, the fonts are stable and its the rest of the soft and hardware that are responsible for variant behavior in typography
    Ah i see. Thanks for that clarification.

    Yes, in theory, Libre licensing can produce much more 'variation' within a single 'face' than we have been used to with digital typefaces. With propietary digital fonts the trend has been much more the opposite; it's all about the 'original' and 'dis·tinctive·ness'. But I'm not convinced that variation, or even font diaspora, is necessarily a weakness for fonts, or that it necessarily lowers usage (it may reduce sale of font units though). You could argue that it is exactly this permissive, 'easy virtue' nature of libre fonts, that can make them more functional and effective colonisers.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,659
    I'm just extrapolating from a place where the font family name and font style name can match, but proprietary and libre, originals and derivatives, licensed and pirated, make undesirable variations in behavior possible from the same "asset".
    This can be to some extent ameliorated through use of the Reserved Font Name mechanism in OFL, which requires that derivatives or forks of the original font be release under different names. It isn't a foolproof mechanism though, because nothing prevents two different derivatives sharing the same name so long as it is different from that of the original font, and as noted earlier in this thread there are some user's whose openness needs extend to not having a Reserved Font Name clause (presumably because they actually want behaviour variations under the same name).
  • Theory? Trend? Original and Distinctive? I must have lost you somewhere, sorry. Eventually though, the people who are reading closely enough get the picture — a big hot dog. People generally don’t like what my grampa never used to say, but he never used to say it was okay if you couldn’t turn off the baloney machine, as long as you could sell big hot dogs.

  • there are some user's whose openness needs extend to not having a Reserved Font Name clause (presumably because they actually want behaviour variations under the same name).
    Not having a reserve font name (RFN) can increase (or alllow) certain types of functionality. So for example in the Adobe Edge example, removing the RFN allowed fonts to be altered and served, without changing the font names and / or without breaching the license. So it's not really about wanting variation under the same name, but accepting that extending freedom of functionality may trump total uniformity.
  • vernon adamsvernon adams Posts: 82
    edited December 2013
    Theory? Trend? Original and Distinctive? I must have lost you somewhere, sorry. Eventually though, the people who are reading closely enough get the picture — a big hot dog. People generally don’t like what my grampa never used to say, but he never used to say it was okay if you couldn’t turn off the baloney machine, as long as you could sell big hot dogs.
    translation: "urgh. ideas. yuck"
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,659
    allowed fonts to be altered and served, without changing the font names
    That's exactly what I meant by 'wanting behaviour variations under the same name'. I could perhaps clarify that it is possible, with care, to preserve behaviour for the common subset of characters, i.e. to ensure backwards compatible layout, but adding characters, glyphs, layout features etc. is still changing the behaviour of the font, such that, for instance, for the same text one version of the font might display it and another fall back to another font.
  • John, good points. It's a reminder that another reason for not using RFN's is that other parties are free to create derivatives that are improved versions of the original font and still serve them under the original name. I like that, but i can see that others may not, they see a danger that slightly different versions of 'MyWebfont Sans' start to proliferate and there will be no single 'authorative' version.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,435
    edited December 2013
    Engaging the possibilities of new post-modern forms of authorship via open source licensing doesn’t appear to be part of Google’s agenda. Where is the mechanism to feed back modifications (improvements or otherwise) and make them available to other users?

    At the moment, the situation is not much different than with many paid-for licences, which permit the licensee to make changes to fonts for their own use—as long as they don’t redistribute them.

    Of all the fonts served by Google, are there any with published third party upgrades?

  • Vernon:
    "translation: "urgh. ideas. yuck"

    Some. But this was your question:

    "...how could the legal status of any contracts to create libre fonts effect the way libre fonts are used in the wild?"

    So, some fonts just need more software than others to go along with their legal status and contracts. I think users want more software to get one kind of variation, and you and John think there's another kind, a variation in quality/compatibility per font, per text, per glyph. It's one that very few have asked for, mulitple versions, as opposed to multiple formats, or multiple subsets of the same font.

    But if you can get the open source tools for this, design tools and page description language support deployed to print and the web, that'd be huge dudes, just huge. I don't see a clear lane for commercial foundries sharing these capabilities, even if they have them.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,659
    David, to clarify, I'm not talking about multiple versions and hence variant behaviour as something that users in a general sense 'want', but as something that will arise. This isn't something specific to open source fonts. Every time Microsoft ships a new version of Windows or Office, there are likely to be updates to a significant number of fonts, which means there are multiple versions 'in the wild', with different capabilities, under the same name. Now, Microsoft has traditionally cared a lot about user document reflow, so goes to great lengths to ensure backwards compatibility for things like vertical metrics, spacing and kerning, even to the extent of preserving some bugs in font data. That's because Office users have a huge legacy of static documents produced for print, which they don't want to see messed up when they update their software. But on the Web, document reflow isn't a bug: it's the expected behaviour of the medium. Documents reflow for different devices, for different window sizes, for different enlargement levels, etc. So there is a much less concern about backwards compatibility and hence much more freedom in the kind of modifications that can be made to webfonts. Then consider that unlike a single corporation managing development and release of font updates, for any given open source font there could be multiple development forks, each producing fonts with variant behaviour, which in the absence of a Reserved Font Name clause can be served under the same name. Again, not because users in general want this, but because different publishers want different modifications and extensions, and no one is centrally coordinating these. Indeed, depending on the open source license, it is possible that some of these companies will create modifications and extensions that cannot be rolled back into the main distro (the Apace 2.0 license or the MIT license, for instance, put no restriction on the kind of license under which derivatives are released, so it is possible for a derivative of an open font to be non-open).
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,435
    edited December 2013
    @vern: …other parties are free to create derivatives that are improved versions of the original font…

    Adding encodings may be considered improvement, but proliferation of styles (interpretations) is a different kettle of fish. If I am designing a web site and my client doesn’t like the binocular g of the open source face we’re using, would a revised font with a single-bowl /g be an improvement?

    The idea that there is some kind of intellectual capital involved in “preserving definitive authorship”, that old school designers are greedily hoarding, is a bit of a straw man. Traditionally, if a typeface is fair game for re-doing—in particular the pre-20th century classics—then there has often been a profusion of interpretations. All those Jensons and Garamonds one hundred years ago, for instance. And such revivals are generally considered homage rather than travesty.

    As David observes, we lack the tools to manage motile proliferation of typeface variants.

    If such tools existed, I would be interested in using them, from a creative standpoint, and from a potential business standpoint, just as I’ve “signed up” for publishing webfonts with various distributors, just to see where it leads, from the inside, as it were.

    However, at the moment I’m still too busy with developing past ideas for types, to think about joining the League of Moveable Type. But maybe some day.
  • vernon adamsvernon adams Posts: 82
    edited December 2013
    Adding encodings may be considered improvement, but proliferation of styles (interpretations) is a different kettle of fish. If I am designing a web site and my client doesn’t like the binocular g of the open source face we’re using, would a revised font with a single-bowl /g be an improvement?
    I think there could be a difference between how type designers see type, and how type gets used in the wild. I'm pretty certain that making a libre webfont is a completely different thing to, eg, making a font for a corporate client.

    I've had enough conversations with people who i consider "don't get" libre webfonts at all, to know that there can be genuine perplexity at it. I think it makes little sense to compare libre webfonts to 'normal' fonts. To get a bit deep on you (baloney warning!) i think there's a 'threshold' (see 'Dāna' in Buddhism) that can be crossed when you design and create something and then allow it to go free, and go beyond your control. I'm certainly not saying that everyone crosses that threshold, what i'm saying is that if you have not experienced it, it is impossible to understand what it could mean. So it's not really about whether someone redesigning the 'g' is an improvement or not. This is how i understand Pablo's personal and poetic explanation of releasing webfonts, earlier in this thread.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,435
    @vern: So it's not really about whether someone redesigning the 'g' is an improvement or not.

    Well, that was the impression you gave:

    …another reason for not using RFN's is that other parties are free to create derivatives that are improved versions of the original font and still serve them under the original name. I like that…

    It seems to me that you are now saying that the licensing is part of the font, and the improvement is that libre fonts have the quality of Dāna. That may be true, but it’s a bit of a stretch as most people disregard Māyā and consider that the quality of a font resides in the appearance of the typography which it creates.

    If I have an idea for a typeface, and design and publish it, what difference does the licence under which I release it make to the quality of the design?

    Please don’t tell me I will never know until I publish a libre font!
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,435
    @vern: I'm pretty certain that making a libre webfont is a completely different thing to, eg, making a font for a corporate client.

    Yes, a brief from a client is different from one’s self-direction for a retail font.
    And a brief from Google Fonts for a libre font also comes with stylistic strings attached.

    I’ve designed retail types which target the market, but usually I try and do something original which catches my fancy, irrespective of users or market trends. Some of the designs make money, others don’t. I’d like to think there is a bit of Dāna in this philosophy.
  • Of all the fonts served by Google, are there any with published third party upgrades?
    https://github.com/khaledhosny/sahl-naskh
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