How big is the type design industry?

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  • Actually non-Latin type is still probably a very small part of real money spent.
    Morisawa alone had sales of 12.9 billion yen, nearly 114 million USD, in their last published fiscal year (source).
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 639
    edited May 14
    How much of that is font software?

    What about non-Latin and non-G7?
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 639
    edited May 14
    To be fair (and as has been brought up at Granshan and elsewhere) in practice "non-Latin" is a nebulous, and somewhat loaded term. Some people –often secretly– don't include Cyrillic and Greek in non-Latin, because of formal similarities; others don't include CJK, because those are "rich", and often don't feature a labor-of-love dimension... Surely a bit romantic. But just as Japan is G7 but its only non-Western member, "non-Latin" is a complicated thing... Something like non-LCGCJK is cumbersome and sounds comical, but is not totally irrelevant.
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 269
    edited May 18
    For 2016, Monotype reported $100M revenue for their OEM business and $100M for Creative Professionals, which includes various sales of both Monotype's own and third-party fonts (my wild guess is that it's about 50-50 between those two groups), for all the e-commerce platforms. Morisawa also reported $100M, fonts probably yielding half, which includes TypeSquare.

    In 2012, Monotype acquired Bitstream at $50M, while Bitstream’s revenue for 2011 was about $27-28M (that included MyFonts), so the company was acquired for the equivalent of biannual revenue. In 2014, Monotype acquired FontShop for $13M and reported that FontShop’s annual revenue was approx. $9M. In 2015, Global Graphics acquired URW++ for $5M, so it’s likely to assume their 2014 revenue was somewhere at $2-3M.  

    It’s hard to estimate the revenues of entities like TypeNetwork or Dalton Maag or units like Adobe Typekit, but I wouldn’t underestimate the combined annual revenue of smaller non-Asian foundries coming from retail, corporate and custom type. I guess it’s got to be around $100M, and it’s likely that Asia generates another $50-100M (here, retail is much less relevant than OEM).

    So my guess is that overall, the annual revenue that is attributable globally to type design, font development and licensing is in the ballpark of US$400-500 million.
  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 708
    edited May 18
    Sounds like a reasonable estimate, Adam. I'd just stipulate that this figure accounts for revenue from mostly retail and OEM licensing of existing type designs, and not the unknown size of the custom (commissioned) type market.
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 269
    edited May 18
    At Monotype, OEM is $100M and CP is $100M. I think custom font development is split there, because software vendors get their custom type visa OEM while branding agencies get it via CP. Asian CJK type has more OEM (because everyone sources CJK fonts in Asia, but these are often repurposed many times), and I guess it’s gotta be $100-150M total.

    I think the total non-CJK, non-Monotype business (retail, custom and OEM) is another $150M. If there are about 2,000 full-time or majority-time type designers worldwide and their average annual revenue (from new work, mostly labor) may be around $50K (smaller group higher, larger group lower), that gets you $100M. And the $50M would go to the capital (the larger or mid-sized companies). And that's rather optimistic counting. 

    So all in all it's gotta be around $500M worldwide, or actually less. 

    I think it’s fair to say that Monotype’s annual revenue accounts for about 40-50% of the worldwide revenue, so if you take Monotype’s figures and multiply it by 2 or 2.5, you'll get a sensible measure. It's not higher than that, I think. 
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 639
    edited May 18
    Adam, great analysis – thank you.

    > The development of high-quality fonts from scratch requires ....

    But my friend, most people don't want to pay for that quality... Even if they can afford it.* That's where our labor-of-love dimension comes in. And although anybody in any field needs some of that love to stick to it, I think type design has it way more than average.

    * A timely case in point:

  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 269
    Frank, 

    I should clarify what I meant by "cheap". Of course I didn't mean "cheap" in an absolute sense, because no such thing exists. 

    Yet the cost of digital type design is almost exclusively labor. Some other creative occupations require (as a condition) extensive travel, costly equipment with insurance, coordination of large teams, large offices. This includes filmmaking, most genres of music, photography. Compared to that, type design is cheap! much closer to writing.

    Of course within type design, some types of projects are more expensive than others — and depending on the project, the research cost may be significant (but still cheap compared to some other types of activities). 

    Cheers,
    Adam

  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 269
    Type design outside Asia is done in relatively small teams. Given that most cost of type design is labor, it's still pretty cheap. Most type design projects wouldn't take more than 3 man-years, so the cost is typically in the tens or maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's usually less than the cost of producing one TV film commercial (and in case of the commercial, you need to add airtime costs) or one piece of episodic television. 
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,139
    There is no such thing as a type design industry, just as there is no book writing industry, film directing industry, or automobile designing industry.

    The numbers being discussed here refer primarily to the font software licencing industry.
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 639
    edited May 24
    As an aside, it's "funny" that a party claiming non-Latin is now big still declines to get into it... (Cyrillic? Sort of a technicality.)
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,139
    edited May 24
    Further to my observation, the numbers mentioned shrink considerably once the income of third-party retailers is removed. Myfonts, for instance, is not in the business of type design.

    Is it customary to include retailer income as part of an industry sector income? 




  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,421
    As an aside, it's "funny" that a party claiming non-Latin is now big still declines to get into it... (Cyrillic? Sort of a technicality.)
    Just because the market is growing doesn’t make it a great place to try making money. Designing, programming, and testing for complex scripts is far more challenging than for Latin. Marketing products and services can be an even bigger challenge. It’s not easy to do if you’re a one-person operation. 
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 639
    edited May 24
    Not merely growing, but already big. Doesn't that make it worth hiring consultants, or at least partnering with non-Latin designers?
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,145
    There is no 'non-Latin' market, outside of a smallish number of software corporations with major localisation programmes and the branding needs of multinational corporations seeking consistent typographic presentation across some subset of scripts.

    Rather, there are lots of separate markets for fonts for individual scripts and, typically, individual languages. The state of those markets, with regard to growth, ease of entry, piracy levels, etc., varies very greatly. It makes no sense to talk of a 'non-Latin' market as if it were a single entity.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,139
    Marketing products and services can be an even bigger challenge.

    Marketing is crucial for retail fonts. Unless a western corporation licences a Latin-Cyrillic-Greek typeface family for a nice fee, there is insufficient return on investment for native Latin designers to provide Cyrillic and especially Greek.

    At least, that’s my experience. I have no presence in Cyrillic/Greek markets, and the few Cyrillic/Greek designers who licence the occasional Shinntype font don’t amount to much income.

     
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,421
    Not merely growing, but already big. Doesn't that make it worth hiring consultants, or at least partnering with non-Latin designers?
    Only if a client is paying for it. And there aren’t very many clients out there.
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 269
    Nick, 

    “revenue of a sector” is of course a very coarse, misleading estimate. My understanding of how revenue for a sector, or “industry”, is estimated is that it’s the total of the final prices that the entities outside of the sector pays to entities within the sector, as long as it’s directly attributable to the goods or services provided by that sector. 

    Going by the strict definition that you’re alluding to, type design produces zero revenue, because typefaces don’t generate any revenue once they’re designed, but only after they’re sold (licensed). This happens through distributing entities of various kind. The same is true for pretty much any industry or sector. 

    Revenue says nothing about profit. Also, I think isolating type designers and trying to somehow establish their part is not very informative, because type design is only part of the entire undertaking — there is also software development for the purpose of type creation and sales, there is type marketing, type sales, research etc. There are all kinds of people (and roles) involved: type designers, font developers, software developers, type marketers, licensing consultants etc. — who all enable the process. Sometimes, one person has several of these roles (a type designer may also be a marketer). Digital fonts as goods generate revenue, and that revenue is then distributed among different entities and persons. 

    I don’t think it’s possible, for any industry or sector, to isolate the portion of revenue and attribute it to a particular role. So we need to satisfy ourselves with a very coarse estimate — which still however is comparable to other sectors because those also use similar estimates. 
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 269
    Also, trying to attribute revenue to “type design” is of course moot because digital fonts work largely on the licensing level. Many fonts that are licensed to clients and customers today have been designed decades ago. They still generate revenue for the “industry” but the “process of type design” part often doesn’t generate any directly attributable revenue. This is similar to the music industry, for example. 
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 814
    The OP probably meant "type industry", and it seems most answers here assume that.
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