Selling display cut of text family separately: Good or bad?

Hi all,

I'm developing one or two display cuts for the text family I'm currently working on. Since the text cuts still require a lot of work (to establish a spectrum of weights), the display cuts are going to be finished much sooner.

Now, I'm tempted to start selling the display cuts before the rest of the family is ready, as a sort of teaser for the upcoming text cuts. However, I'm not sure this is a good idea, since it might take some impact and novelty out of the family release. On the other hand, it could generate interest and anticipation. I'm rather inexperienced with the politics of font release, so I'm curious to hear your opinions on this.

(1) Would you advocate pre-releasing the display fonts?

(2) If so, should the display and text font all bear the same family name (such as the different optical weights of Minion Pro) or different but related names (like Satyr and Faunus)? I am currently tending towards the latter, though I'm afraid it might reduce the attractiveness of the family by making it less obvious that it has both display and text cuts.

(3) In case of (1) pre-release and (2) keeping an explicit family name; would you advocate releasing them as two separate font families on MyFonts (like Brandon Grotesque and Brandon Text), or as a single superfamily (like Minion Pro)? I guess the former would be preferable here, since otherwise the upgrade from the display font to the complete family might just go unnoticed. Then again, my worry in (2) applies here too.

(4) Dave Crossland proposed that we get paid by Google Fonts to make our font freely available. I am, in principle, interested in this concept (though I haven't made a decision yet). Would you recommend restricting this to one or two weights of the text cut, leaving everything else for the paid Pro version on MyFonts, or releasing everything through Google Fonts? Or would you not recommend going Google in the first place?

Thanks!
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Comments

  • James ToddJames Todd Posts: 198
    I’m working on a big optical family at the moment so I’ll share my thoughts:

    1. I wouldn’t suggest it. It would likely have a bigger initial draw if you were to release everything at once.

    2. Personally, I like to have them in the same family. As time goes by, it’s less likely that people will remember that there are two different cuts. Not to mention that it’s already hard enough to get people to use the correct cut for the correct usage; removing “text” or “display” or whatever indicator you put after the name won’t make it any easier.

    3. I’m planning on releasing my own as a superfamily but also bundling the type optically. My guess is that the only reason Brandon wasn’t done this way is because there was probably no initial plan for a text version.

    4. What makes you interested in the GF route? I assume it’s not the money. If you want to give away a few weights, it would be better to do what Exjlibris did and just give away a weight or two.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,349
    1. Can provide a compelling reason to use them independent of the text fonts?
    2. Marketing will be easier if the family has one name.
    3. See 1.
    4. By releasing a font through Google you’re giving away years of license fees for a small payment up front. Is it really worth losing money in the long run so you can see your work used in a lot of low-budget projects?
  • (2) the "different but related names" gambit strikes me as, as they say, "too clever by half."
  • James, since you haven't been in contact with me about GF in years, I must say your opinion is rather stale :) That view of a GF deal could be conceived of when we failed to make a deal, although I still disagree with it then, but times have changed.
  • Thanks for your feedback!

    @ James Todd (1): Yeah, I was afraid it could be a drawback. I can imagine that people might buy the display cut and then call it a day, whereas they would have bought the entire family in one go if they'd had the chance right away. Too bad, though; I really could use the motivational boost of an early release. It's been a while, and the display cut is going to be ready soon.

    @ James Puckett (1): Not quite sure how you mean that; is that a statement (it could provide a compelling reason!) or a question (can you provide a compelling reason?)?

    @ James Puckett (4): If I'm going to release the Regular weight for free, for example, why shouldn't I let Google pay me for that...? Would that mean I couldn't include the free Regular in my MyFonts releases anymore?

    (4) in general: GF tempts me because I'm not in it for the money, and I like my work seeing use. I do enjoy selling licenses — it's an ongoing source of gratification —, but as a non-professional user of fonts, I greatly admire the people who make things like Alegreya, Open Sans, and EB Garamond available to the masses. I've heard the argument that most of the freeloader users are going to use the fonts badly, if at all, but as a free-font user myself, who am I to judge? And is a professional designer really going to refrain from using a font they like simply because it's free...? Apparently it didn't stop Google, Mozilla, WordPress, and everybody and their dog from using Open Sans...

    @ Dave: I've heard a lot of doubtful or even derogatory opinions on GF; I would be interested in hearing your pitch for fairness' sake. What's in it for me?
  • I will recommend giving it a try, even if it is as a little experiment so that you can experience it for yourself and see how it works out for you. I've been doing it for a while and can't be happier.
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 732
    edited April 2014
    Would that mean I couldn't include the free Regular in my MyFonts releases anymore?
    I don't speak for MyFonts, but last time I chatted to Their People, one could release libre fonts on MyFonts; MyFonts rule is that you can't release the same font anywhere else for cheaper than you sell it with them, but $0 is still $0 eh :)

    However, I wonder if MyFonts would consider the similarity to Times New Roman problematic... I heard they are getting stricter about these things. For me, if you say you really drew everything and can show the process from day 1, I'm cool to publish similar yet original designs.
    (4) in general: GF tempts me because I'm not in it for the money, and I like my work seeing use. I do enjoy selling licenses — it's an ongoing source of gratification —, but as a non-professional user of fonts, I greatly admire the people who make things like Alegreya, Open Sans, and EB Garamond available to the masses.
    Cool :)
    I've heard the argument that most of the freeloader users are going to use the fonts badly, if at all, but as a free-font user myself, who am I to judge?
    'Use them badly'? This is up there with 'fonts have a soul.'

    Who says that?!?! :)
    And is a professional designer really going to refrain from using a font they like simply because it's free...? Apparently it didn't stop Google, Mozilla, WordPress, and everybody and their dog from using Open Sans...
    Mozilla have their own, and even DaMa was using Open Sans via GF for a while :)
    I've heard a lot of doubtful or even derogatory opinions on GF;
    I think http://jessicahische.is/thinkingthoughts is typical of this [FUD](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear,_Uncertainty_and_Doubt) :
    I’ve said some disparaging things about Google Fonts in the past, mostly because I think type designers already have a hard enough time getting paid so their “everything is free forever” model bothers me. Don’t start with the whole “the internet should be a place for a free exchange of ideas” line, and I know plenty of you guys think we should open-source everything ever, but type design is one of those professions that really does take a lifetime of experience to master and every typeface takes endless hours and sometimes years to create. The typefaces available through Google Fonts were made by type designers that were paid a one time flat fee for their work along with the promise of exposure to a large audience (and we all know how I feel about that incentive). Because of this fee structure, the fonts that are good often only come in one weight or aren’t available with an italic. All this said, it’s definitely one of the easiest services to implement on your site since there’s no need for a membership, login, or payment. I shake my fist at them for making something so easy to use that I have to dislike on principle.
    This seems fairly typical, and, well, rather anemic ;)

    Jessica's point though, that full families are much more useful than single styles, is true; and that's what I'm more interested in these days.

    The full blooded objections I've seen are in http://typedrawers.com/discussion/504/google-fonts-your-questions-answered and https://groups.google.com/d/msg/googlefontdirectory-discuss/k2Rx0lanVss/atm7-KWBiRIJ - and http://typographyforlawyers.com/why-google-web-fonts-arent-really-open-source.html
    I would be interested in hearing your pitch for fairness' sake. What's in it for me?
    Rather than listening to those who haven't published large families in GF, maybe you should speak to those who have :) You can see all their names in the GF directory, and contact them via G+ or their homepage. Or invite them here. Or ask them on the GF forum.

    While I'm happy to answer any general questions, I'll also be happy to answer any questions you wish to ask me privately about your specific project via email
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,349
    > That view of a GF deal could be conceived of when we failed to make a deal, although I still disagree with it then, but times have changed.

    You’re welcome to enlighten me. Given the criticism Google Web Fonts gets from type designers it seems that you would be happy to refute us.
  • Hey Dave, you didn't include my blog post in your list: was that because it wasn't critical enough? http://www.thomasphinney.com/2013/10/free-fonts-revealed-and-reviled/
  • D. Epar tedD. Epar ted Posts: 670
    "I wonder if MyFonts would consider the similarity to Times New Roman problematic... "

    Is this face more Times New Romanesque than Starling?;)
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 794
    edited April 2014
    Is this face more Times New Romanesque than Starling?;)
    I personally don't think it looks anything like TNR. Certainly less so than any two typical "workhorse sanses" look alike, or any two contemporary grotesques, for that matter.

    @ Pablo: How are things working out for you? Are you releasing all your fonts through GF, or do you keep some cuts "premium"? Are you seeing your GFs in use more often than your commercial fonts?

    @ Dave Crossland: Would I have to make my font Libre to work with GF, or would somewhat more restrictive licenses be acceptable too? I don't know my way around the different licenses that well, but I would certainly want to require Attribution, and prevent people from releasing variants of my font under a different name.

    @ Thomas: I remember reading that a while ago. It doesn't seem all that negative. In particular, considering that I'm doing type design as a hobby, the fact that I could earn something in the ballpark of a low-end wage for doing it is pretty damn cool, all things considered. :)
  • edited April 2014
    Too bad, though; I really could use the motivational boost of an early release. It's been a while, and the display cut is going to be ready soon.
    Since you mention Satyr as an inspiration, you should know Sindre spent three years getting it ready for release and is still working on the family. Faunus is not a Satyr Display anyway. It is a separate entity.

    Following the strategy of a young new schriftverlag that still has a lot to learn might not always be the best idea. We are bound to make some bad decisions. Hopefully, we’ll learn from them.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 907
    " I really could use the motivational boost …"
    I feel your pain. Just do it. Release the display and don't worry about it. Your soul needs to be fed.
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 485
    edited April 2014
    Pablo: How are things working out for you? Are you releasing all your fonts through GF, or do you keep some cuts "premium"? Are you seeing your GFs in use more often than your commercial fonts?
    I release everything at GF and I'm super happy so far.... I don't know what else can I say without sounding pretentious or irritating other folks around here, which is not my intention, so I will leave it here.
    Do whatever you want, both approaches are valid. Just follow your instincts and you will be fine.
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 794
    edited April 2014
    @ Frode: You guys certainly know Satyr and Faunus way more intimately than I, but to my eye, they look extremely much alike, apart from the obvious difference in contrast and spacing — certainly much more so than the display and text versions of Minion, for example. Not that this is a bad thing, of course, but nobody would have taken issue if you'd called Faunus Satyr Display... So I do believe it's a relevant example to the question at hand. In fact, doesn't your desire to keep the two fonts recognized as two distinct, individual entities suggest that it might be advantageous for parts of a genetic font family not to be lumped together under a single name?

    As for being a young and new foundry: You're also a highly acclaimed, award-winning, and successful foundry. Apparently things worked out just fine. Perhaps it's my turn to make my beginner's mistakes now? ;o)

    @ Chris: Thanks for the sympathy! :)

    @ Pablo: Thanks, I'll ask my further questions by PM, then.
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 794
    edited April 2014
    I'd also like to address Jan Schmoeger's comment from the Traction thread here, since it fits the topic:
    In your place, I would just finish it and release it, it will be seen as entirely different from the text family anyway.
    This same argument was given further up as a negative consequence, in that splitting the family between text and display would make either half appear incomplete and thus less valuable than the whole.

    Doesn't it also have advantages, though? Two different pages on MyFonts, two different names on GF, two different announcements on Twitter might just give the family a second chance to be noticed. I just saw Mariné released on MyFonts, which is a variant of Amelia, but apparently its roman cut is identical to that of Amelia, and its supposedly different upright cursive and italic cuts look so close to Amelia to me that I can't tell the difference. Yet Mariné is doing just fine (#35 Hot New Font after 11 days). Not that I'm suggesting to do the same, obviously: My display cuts and text cuts would be visibly and functionally non-redundant with each other. Perhaps the marketing material could make the connection to the other half of the family obvious on the title page so that the information is not lost on the casual viewer?

    @ Craig:
    the 'different but related names' gambit strikes me as, as they say, "too clever by half."
    As you know, the text font family in question is Traction, and the display and stencil versions would be called Attraction and Subtraction. Isn't that close enough to be obvious...?
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,349
    As you know, the text font family in question is Traction, and the display and stencil versions would be called Attraction and Subtraction. Isn't that close enough to be obvious...?
    Frutiger’s numbering system is obvious. That doesn’t mean anybody bothers to remember it.
  • Frutiger’s numbering system is obvious. That doesn’t mean anybody bothers to remember it.
    I'd call it logical, but not exactly obvious. The Traction/Attraction/Subtraction sequence for the utilitarian/glamorous/stenciled cuts makes sense on an intuitive level, on the other hand, and hopefully might even be perceived as clever occasionally...

    In any case, if the marketing material makes the existence of complementary text/display cuts obvious, the naming shouldn't be an issue in terms of font sales. A designer who expects to use the font in both display and text contexts would likely go for the economical family bundle.

    I can see how designers who own a plethora of fonts might then forget they bought a display version of Traction if they don't see it next to Traction in their font menu. This would lead to the "bad use" problem that's been controversially mentioned above. Don't most designers keep sorted lists of fonts for display and text use, though? (I wouldn't know, not being a professional graphic designer myself.) Is it really my job to ensure graphic designers do their jobs properly, though?

    Ultimately, though, if I'm more interested in people using my fonts than people paying for them (particularly through the Google Fonts route), perhaps I should be more worried about this issue.
  • doesn't your desire to keep the two fonts recognized as two distinct, individual entities suggest that it might be advantageous for parts of a genetic font family not to be lumped together under a single name?
    It doesn’t suggest anything else than a bunch of delicious optical sizes in the works. I’m not endorsing one above the other. Traction, Subtraction and Attraction is at least something clearly different from a typical release. It might work.
  • I love a good pun as much as anybody, and those names are quite clever, but I would think it would be a mistake to have names that don't appear next to each other in an alphabetized menu. In a sense you're taking a major selling point--that you've gone to the trouble of having optical variants--and making it easier to overlook. I'm not a graphic designer either, but I would imagine there is a non-trivial number of them who, at least some of the time, just peruse the font menu for type-selection ideas.
  • The chances of someone looking for/expecting a stencil font under the same name as a text family are pretty small, I think. Not so sure about a display cut, though.
  • @ Frode: So there's going to be more optical weights of both Satyr and Faunus? Nice!

    @ Craig, Jan: So does nobody use the category tabs in Font Book and the Mac typography dialog to sort their font list? (I don't, but I don't own that many fonts.)

    Also, don't fonts usually only appear as family names in menus, with different cuts hidden in submenus? In this case, having three font names rather than one would increase visibility.
  • Would I have to make my font Libre to work with GF, or would somewhat more restrictive licenses be acceptable too?
    Yes, all GF fonts are libre. That's the point. :)
    I don't know my way around the different licenses that well, but I would certainly want to require Attribution, and prevent people from releasing variants of my font under a different name.
    The SIL OFL is what you want, and what everyone else uses too.
  • Sorry, I read that wrong; the OFL has an option to require people to release variants under a different name.

    There is no way to enforce such a requirement I've ever seen.
  • prevent people from releasing variants of my font under a different name.
    There is no way to enforce such a requirement I've ever seen.
    Well, to enforce such a requirement as Christian described, Christian would need to write his own bespoke license.
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 794
    edited April 2014
    I'm not the lawyer type; I'd likely want to use a pre-existing license rather than constructing one of my own. OTF seems to be what everybody's using, though I've heard the concern (from Hrant) that Apache would be preferable in case other designers want to expand the font, e.g. with a non-Latin script. Is that also possible under GF?
    Sorry, I read that wrong; the OFL has an option to require people to release variants under a different name.
    My thought process here was that I don't want an amateur designer to fudge around with Traction and then re-distribute it as "Traction". I wouldn't want them to re-distribute it under their own name either, though... is there an option to require a format such as "Traction Variant Blabla"?
  • Jack JenningsJack Jennings Posts: 142
    edited April 2014
    I'd say, on general principle (and having more experience with software than font-software), don't release stuff under a permissive license if you aren't comfortable with people messing with your stuff without reading the license.
  • (On GF or otherwise)
  • Yeah, I guess I'm overthinking this.
  • The thing to watch for is that if uses that Reserved Font Name clause, the SIL Open Font LIcense does not permit a user (or a web font service) to subset the font without changing the name.
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