Google Fonts: Your Questions, Answered

2456715

Comments

  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 527
    edited December 2013
    The more “model 2” fonts are produced, and the more those fonts are being used, the harder it gets for those who produce “model 1” fonts to sell their fonts. The more the market gets glutted with “model 2” fonts, the less “model 1” fonts get sold. The free “model 2” fonts, will crowd out the non-free “model 1” fonts.
    Here is where we disagree. To me they complement each other. As I see it (and I may be wrong, but let's hope I'm not) the more "model 2" fonts get produced and used, the more the market grows for "morel 1", as more and more people become aware of typefaces in general. And those wanting to look different from the crow, will buy more "model 1" fonts, paying extra for a higher degree of exclusivity. That's basically the model being in use by the fashion industry (and pretty much all other industries) and they are doing pretty well. They make new products in order to look new and desirable, helped by marketing, while the older products gets to look bad and out of fashion. The entire consumer society is dancing to the "planned obsolescence" beat, and this planned obsolescence is key to keep the factories open.

    Customs fonts, for example: Some are made to solve specific design problems, but a big chunk is also commissioned because they just want something custom, exclusive, and different from the crow.
    It's my understanding (and again, I can be wrong) that the most of the people making a living by creating fonts, are doing it by creating custom fonts as their main source of income.

    OFL fonts are somewhat similar to custom fonts. They solve a specific problem. Not a design problem, but a licensing problem. They fill a void that neither proprietary nor free (as in beer) fonts were able to grasp.

    Typefaces, lettering, and everything type-related is now more popular the ever... and maybe.. just maybe... the advent of webfonts has had something to do with it.
  • > The free “model 2” fonts, will crowd out the non-free “model 1” fonts.

    Economics says this is unlikely. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_growth
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,645
    Thanks for the details, Dave. Okay, Pablo's post was a more compelling response to Jackson than I'd given it credit. Unless, of course, Jackson considers all the folks named to now have turd-like reputations.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,645
    edited December 2013
    Model 3: You are paid upfront to develop a font that is exclusively licensed by the client for X amount of time. After this, you sell commercial licenses to financially partake of the ongoing and potentially increasing value of your font to the people who want to use it.

    Model 4. You develop a font for a client because the project is interesting, even though they don't have enough money to really make it worth your while and are giving away the font under a gratis or free license. You retain rights to sell commercial licenses for derivative works, such as additional weights and styles.

    There are numerous other models. What most of them have in common is a recognition that the potential monetisation of a product is related to the value that it carries for the people who want to use it, not just to the amount of labour that has gone into it. The notion of being 'paid upfront' for a product that has ongoing and potentially increasing value , is always going to involve a calculus of cashflow, time, risk and regret.
  • Deleted AccountDeleted Account Posts: 739
    edited December 2013
    John
    I could make all the same open source fonts available from the Tiro website, and it wouldn't imply any kind of association between me and the people who made them
    Hu? it mightn't imply any association between you and the other people who distribute the same fonts. But any fonts I make available on "my" website associates you with the people who made them... I have years of scars, laughs, cash and hoarse mornings to prove it.

    Pablo
    Leaving the traffic generated by each website out of the equation.
    A good idea.

    And if ROI = $ invested / number of websites, but the stats are still saying many of the expensive fonts are doing well while other expensive fonts are disappointingly low? and the same goes for the amateur fonts? I have no doubt that there is a correlation between the successful and the not so successful regardless of source, but it would require a full review of all the font and use data by experts.

    Otherwise,
    it's impossible for me to see how adding to the number of open source fonts will help the situation, or how anyone could expect to derive valuable "exposure" by offering fonts through Google Fonts, an largely uncurated collection of stuff
    as Scott said.

    Dave
    I will ask the folks working on it to email you their next update and you can give then some tips.
    I'd need the entire font library (sources), complete access to font library's use data, and referral rights from google font search for all of my company's trademarked properties now and in the future, if that's okay. ;)
  • Ben BlomBen Blom Posts: 235
    the more "model 2" fonts get produced and used, the more the market grows for "model 1"
    What if more and more good-quality free fonts appear on the retail market? Will that really lead to an increase in retail sales of non-free fonts?
    And those wanting to look different from the crowd, will buy more "model 1" fonts, paying extra for a higher degree of exclusivity.
    Free fonts cannot differentiate themselves from other fonts, by being expensive. So those who value “exclusivity” or “expensive stuff”, might indeed like to buy non-free fonts. However, in any other way, free fonts can be like non-free fonts. For example, free fonts can just be as fashionable as non-free fonts. (Perhaps people have to get used to the idea that free fonts can be just as good as non-free fonts. Perhaps it will take time for this to happen. And whenever this may happen, the market for non-free retail fonts may shrink to only cater for people who value “exclusivity” or “expensive stuff”.)
    the potential monetisation of a product is related to the value that it carries for the people who want to use it, not just to the amount of labour that has gone into it.
    Fully agreed.

    What if someone who is looking for a new font, can choose from two fonts that he perceives both as offering the same value — and one is on offer for free, and for the other hard-earned cash has to be paid? Which of those fonts will he choose?
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 527
    edited December 2013
    What if more and more good-quality free fonts appear on the retail market? Will that really lead to an increase in retail sales of non-free fonts?
    Ben, Yes I do think so. Jos Buivenga's Museo became very successful offering the regular weight for free and charging the rest of the family, and many others foundries are now doing the same.
    Model 3: You are paid upfront to develop a font that is exclusively licensed by the client for X amount of time. After this, you sell commercial licenses to financially partake of the ongoing and potentially increasing value of your font to the people who want to use it.

    Model 4. You develop a font for a client because the project is interesting, even though they don't have enough money to really make it worth your while and are giving away the font under a gratis or free license. You retain rights to sell commercial licenses for derivative works, such as additional weights and styles.
    John, this two models (and model 3 in particular) are very very similar to OFL fonts.
    You can release the basic styles as OLF, and sell licenses for the full family or Pro versions.
    There are many people doing this very same thing. Plus, you don't have to wait years to start selling licenses, as you can start selling the full family right away. A few examples: Bree Serif, Alegreya, Latinotype's Sanchez, http://www.myfonts.com/foundry/Stiggy_Sands/ and many more

    If for some reason I became interested in doing pro-version of my own font to be put for sale in the future, I will be able to do it. There is nothing stopping me for doing that, If I ever want to.

    Plus, I'm also getting a steady stream of donations. People some times just wants to pay you, for gratitude or to show their support, even if they are not required to do so.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,645
    edited December 2013
    Pablo: If for some reason I became interested in doing pro-version of my own font to be put for sale in the future, I will be able to do it. There is nothing stopping me for doing that, If I ever want to.

    Are you sure? The Google Fonts agreement requires that 'all font files, associated documentation, and other materials created, conceived, prepared, made, discovered or produced by Contractor as part of the Services or any derivatives thereof' must be released under either the OFL or Apache 2.0 license. It seems to me that if you opted for the OFL license, you may have tied yourself into releasing any derivative fonts under an open license. I don't see anything in the contract that explicitly reserves you the right to sell non-open licenses to 'pro' versions of the OFL fonts, unless, I suppose, the fonts in question pre-existed the agreement with Google and hence were not created, conceived, prepared, made, etc. under the terms of the agreement. If the fonts are developed under commission from GF, it seems to me you can only produce non-open derivatives if you opt for the Apache 2.0 license. Indeed, that is the principal difference between the two licenses.

    Perhaps this is one of the questions to be answered?
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 527
    edited December 2013
    Good question... maybe Dave can clarify it.
    However, many of the quoted example fonts (and many more) are OFL and are selling licenses as well, without any problem
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,645
    I've added the question to Dave's list:
    If a font is developed under a services contract with Google Fonts, and released under OFL, can the maker of the font legitimately release derivative fonts, e.g. 'Pro' versions with more extensive character and feature sets, under a non-open license?
  • RalfRalf Posts: 170
    edited December 2013
    increase in retail sales of non-free fonts?
    Jos Buivenga's Museo became very successful offering the regular weight for free and charging the rest of the family, and many others foundries are now doing the same.
    Jos’ fonts sold as a combination of many reasons, but I doubt that offering free styles actually had a significant impact on the sales. Or at least we do not know that. Correlation is not causality. Maybe he would have made even more money selling the free styles as well.

    Yes there are always a few writers, bands or even type-designers who might have made big money by giving a lot of stuff away for free. That’s great! I do that as well (the giving away part, not the big money part). But it does NOT prove anything. It does not prove, that what worked once, will necessarily be a model for many or even a whole industry.

    If a font is developed under a services contract with Google Fonts, and released under OFL, can the maker of the font legitimately release derivative fonts, e.g. 'Pro' versions with more extensive character and feature sets, under a non-open license?
    The main problem with that would be: Since the STD fonts would be OFL, anyone could just re-create your pro version and offer that for free. There would probably not be much value in those extended versions.
  • Ralf, sorry to be short, I didn't mean any harm, just busy :) Market segmentation means that people who are interested in libre fonts don't overlap 100% with people who are interested in proprietary fonts, so even if the EXACT same file is available in GF and MyFonts (say) then the MyFonts sales will not drop to zero -- in fact, they probably won't change at all, because the 2 sites face different market segments.
  • Jos’ fonts sold as a combination of many reasons, but I doubt that offering free styles actually had a significant impact on the sales. Or at least we do not know that. Correlation is not causality.
    Exactly, we discussed this in another thread. Below are my FS stats for last year, free still reaches thousands each month, paid has all but disappeared:
  • RalfRalf Posts: 170
    people who are interested in libre fonts don't overlap 100% with people who are interested in proprietary fonts
    Exactly. That’s why offering free fonts has no significant effect on selling commercial licenses. The people who are looking for free fonts are looking for free fonts, not trial versions of font families they might buy two weeks later. (The latter will happen occasionally, but it is not a business model for selling fonts at this time.)
    even if the EXACT same file is available in GF and MyFonts (say) then the MyFonts sales will not drop to zero
    In my experience, as soon as people spend money on software online, they will compare the different offers. I often see our customers even try to make the purchase in a different currency if that promises to save a few bucks.
    So, I don’t agree. If a font is offered on MyFonts (paid) and Google Fonts (free) it will not sell on MyFonts. The customers will google the different offers first. And if they didn’t and find out about the GF offer later, they will be pissed and will want their money back. The losses concerning the commercial versions will outweigh the possible advertising effect through offering free fonts. And the existence of free versions (even with limited character sets) will devaluate the commercial offers.
  • Free versions of our font are out there anyway. They are called 'pirated' fonts and are not only used by murky guys in a distant country, many of these fonts find its way to reputable design studios, usually carried by interns. And what I've seen working in these environments is that once the studio has the fonts files it is difficult to make them pay for them. Sometimes they just buy just a couple of fonts from the same family to make it look like they own a full license but in most of the cases they just take the risk of using pirated fonts.
    Do you really believe that pirated fonts increase font sales?
  • Do you really believe that pirated fonts increase font sales?
    Yes. Obscurity is a bigger problem then convincing people to pay. And unlicensed users are a great business model, you sue them.
  • If a font is offered on MyFonts (paid) and Google Fonts (free) it will not sell on MyFonts.
    I wonder if myfonts would let us test this empirically...
  • Ramiro EspinozaRamiro Espinoza Posts: 732
    edited December 2013
    >>And unlicensed users are a great business model, you sue them.

    Really? Do you know the costs of policing type license infringement? And the legal cost involved in reaching a company in another country? I come from Latin America where more than 95% percent (if not 100%) of graphic companies use pirated fonts on daily basis because type foundries are not legally represented there and no one sue them. With very few exceptions, graphic design studios only buy fonts when they can not get them in some other way or when they perceive that using pirated fonts can lead to some sort of problem. You may argue that, well, developing countries are not famous for abiding to rules, but believe me this situation is also rather common in the Netherlands, the country where I live now.
    If you were right, places like Argentina would be a flourishing type business full of commercial opportunities for type designers :) But sadly this doesn't happen, because availability of pirated commercial font files (and I would also add "libre look-alikes") do have a very negative impact on legitimate font sales.
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 527
    edited December 2013
    Do you really believe that pirated fonts increase font sales?
    According to the latest research by Extensis, 32% use pirated fonts for mockups and then buy the fonts once they have the client approval on it. Hopefully with the new plugins that allow in-app preview of the fonts, they will switch to those instead of using pirated copies. And lately, a few foundries (Porchez, Rosetta, Swiss Typefaces and a few more) are starting to offer Demo Fonts that can be used for mockups purposes.
    So, it seems, that early availability of the fonts for mockups (demo or pirated) actually have a positive impact, if that allow the designers to sell the font to the clients.
    But does the entire consumer society's planned obsolescence "beat" has anything whatsoever to do with type? Take Helvetica...
    There are a few classics that sells forever, and that's great! But the majority of new releases sells for a few months while they are hot, maybe a year or two, and then never sells again, or sell very little. I've heard Ale Paul talking about this, on how he needs to keep releasing new fonts in order to keep selling, since most of the older ones sells very little. I have also heard/read many others complaining about the same "short lifespan of sales", that fonts sells well in the first months, and then have a huge decline.
    Even with the classics, planned obsolescence still plays a role, by selling the same font again and again under new formats: Metal, Phototype, TTF, OTF, OTF Pro, Next, Neue, super-ultra-nova...etc....
    Matthew Carter in a recent conference: "Historically, the type industries has made his money by selling the same fonts, again and again, under new formats ... People want to buy the latest OTF version... But what's wrong with the old T1? It does not work anymore? Yes, it still works... but people wants to have the latest version with all the bells and rings"
  • "new releases sells for a few months while they are hot, maybe a year or two, and then never sells again,"

    You must think type designers plan that obsolescence...

    "...but people want to have the latest version with all the bells and rings"

    Sure. But again, no planned obsolescence.

    "the latest research by Extensis, 32% use pirated fonts for mockups and then buy the fonts once they have the client approval on it"

    Lol, Extensis is in the research business for what purpose, I wonder. Nevertheless, if 32% use pirated fonts for mockups and then buy the fonts, it leaves 67.5% who don't.


  • You all probably know the name of Thomas Malthus, the 18th-century economist, whose renowned book "An Essay on the Principle of Population" was published in 1798. Here's his central thesis:

    "The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world."

    Now, I'm not entirely sure whether giving away free fonts falls into the category of "the vices of mankind" or into "pestilence and plague," but clearly it's a case of free driving out the paid in what is already a shaky and highly overpopulated marketplace. Just look at Jan Schmoeger's alarming statistic. Mind you, I don't think this giveaway has much influence on what designer's will buy or not, but I can imagine that an executive of a company or an institution not directly involved with design, who for years played by the rules and purchased font licenses, might one day wake up and say, "Henceforward we shall use only license-free fonts." I bet many have done so already. No harm in that, Pablo and Dave?

    I don't sell fonts commercially (my work falls into John Hudson's category #3, occasionally with some nuances), so I don't have a dog in this fight. But I think it's very important to encourage good work to come into existence. A young person getting started might once--just once--make an OT Pro family on speculation, to show what he or she can do, but to do more than that should be seen as a call for medical treatment.

    Judging from some of what's posted on Google Fonts, I would imagine there are people at Google who really have no idea of what serious, fully developed fonts might be worth, or what they might be used for, especially as they have no print culture on which to build their examples. Because it's not curated and because they have no skin in the game, it's a loser all around. Would Adobe create a platform for people to give away fonts?
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 527
    edited December 2013
    Light-bulbs used to be manufactured with a 100+ years lifetime, but manufacturers reduced the lifetime to 600 hs. in order to stay in business. The same happens in pretty much all other industries by using different strategies.
    If you are selling a product that last forever, then it's not surprise that it does not sell enough.
    Maybe its time to get together and start planning on how to introduce planned obsolescence, as all the other industries do (And I'm not talking about the design, which can be timeless, but about the format in which that design is delivered, or the tools in which the fonts are used.).
    If somehow, the lifetime of a format can be shortened to, say, 5 or 10 years, then everybody will be selling well, and piracy will become a minor problem.
    ----
    Any way, 32% is still a big percentage.
  • > Would Adobe create a platform for people to give away fonts?

    https://edgewebfonts.adobe.com/
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,420
    edited December 2013
    Model 3 is my preferred: you are paid upfront and negotiate a licence providing a limited term of exclusivity to the commissioner, after which time you may sell retail licences.

    **

    As an RGD I am against spec work—with regards to design work for fee.
    Developing retail products that might, if they go viral, provide massive passive income, or awareness of one’s product or brand at the global level, that’s a different kettle of fish.
    One way to leverage Google Fonts’ exposure is to release part of a family through GF, then the rest commercially.
    So I have no qualms about designing a font for Google, for a paltry fee*; I am interested to see what kind of results it generates.

    *Compared to one’s bestsellers. On the other hand I’ve published several designs that have generates an ROI of cents per hour…
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,151
    "Cents per hour" seems to much more the norm than sense per hour. Another way of looking at the human condition is to consider the rest of the animal kingdom, which is made up of either predator or prey. Large predator animals have been devouring smaller prey for eternity. It is how they prosper. The prey who band together in herds may in some degree, lessen their chances of being imbibed, but those weaker ones at the fringes are still the most ripe.
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 527
    edited December 2013
    Ralf:
    If a font is offered on MyFonts (paid) and Google Fonts (free) it will not sell on MyFonts.
    Sante Pro (Stalemate at Google Font) is selling more than Lady Rene, or Medusa.
    So, this assumption is relative, and I guess it will be different for each font.
    image

    Medusa would have had more sales if a Std version had been available at Google Fonts? I think I would, because it's an awesome font, but many people does not not about its existence yet.
  • RalfRalf Posts: 170
    Any way, 32% is still a big percentage.
    What does that number represent? I don't want to watch a 45 minute webcast to find out.
    But I am pretty sure it doesn't mean 32% of all illegal font downloads, but something like “companies we checked in the US” or “people who took part in our survey” or “Extensis customers” or whatever. It doubt it represents that 3 out of 10 pirated fonts are bought when they are actually used commercially. As Ramiro said, in many countries it's more like 10 out of 10 fonts used commercially are not paid for …
    So, it seems, that early availability of the fonts for mockups (demo or pirated) actually have a positive impact, if that allow the designers to sell the font to the clients.
    Again: You are making bold assumptions about causalities. When a pirated font will turn into a sale it does not necessarily mean there is a positive effect for the foundry.
    Let’s say from 100 illegal downloads 1 turns into a sale.
    If the pirated copy would not have been available in the first place, people with an interest in this font would have to buy it before they can try it. Of these 100 users, most will not buy it. But 10 might be “forced” to, because they really want to use this font or have to use it because it's a corporate font they have to work with.
    So without the pirated fonts available, the foundry would have made 10 times more sales. A drop of sales from 10 to 1 is not a “positive effect”.
Sign In or Register to comment.