Private Label

Props to Barnbrook and for not being “Indie”.


  • Thierry BlancpainThierry Blancpain Posts: 191
    edited September 2016
    I understand your frustration with independent, it’s a rather empty term. Not sure how replacing it with another term like that—private label seems entirely like a filler to me as well—is any better, though?

    You might argue that "private" means it’s a private company, not listed on a stock market (excluding Monotype & Adobe). Is that what you like about it?
  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 975
    edited September 2016
    "Independent" isn't perfect, but most people have some sense of what it means, even if that meaning varies. For me it means the label is not owned by a larger conglomerate, has the ability to make their own decisions about sales channels, and (if you want to be more specific) not reliant on any other single company for survival.

    "Private label" is surely less understood by the general public. It works fine in this brief intro, though. It's just a term chosen by FS newsletter editor David Sudweeks to describe Barnbrook opening his own firm. 
  • Private Label somehow says to me that it is not available to anyone other than this "private" group. As Stewf says, ' "Independent" isn't perfect'.  But it is certainly not a problem.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,005
    I don’t mind “independent”, but why bother?
    The vast majority of foundries are independent; if an epithet is necessary, it would make more sense to qualify the few with shackles.

    “Indie” is horribly lightweight, and appropriated from the music business. Among the other creative sector enterprises that have been described as such, the general vibe is edgy, anti-establishment, and non-commercial. That doesn’t fit us.

  • I don’t mind “independent”, but why bother?

    I think it comes with a certain intentional haughtiness in today’s market. People want to sell themselves as independent because it implies that they’re better than the riff-raff over at MyFonts,, and Fontspring. Sort of like running an international fashion empire and only selling in cities that the working class can’t afford to reside in, or visit.

  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,005
    But doesn’t it refer to ownership, not distribution?
  • Being independent used to mean being independent of Monotype, Linotype, ITC, or Adobe. I think that the meaning is changing to selling fonts independent of mass distributors, the knockoff type mills whose work they distribute, and the pricing models that can make it hard to gain market traction and earn a living.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,005
    edited September 2016
    I wasn’t aware of that.
    It gives more credence to the use of “independent”.
    I take it this means that despite Virus’ bolshy stance it no longer qualifies as such, being distributed by Myfonts.
    So “private label” is more apropos.

  • I think that the term “private” is well used here. If I recall correctly, Jonathan’s first typefaces were published by Emigre (at that time, _the_ exciting and independent font house). Then he started selling licenses to fonts on his own.

    While I’d argue that Jonathan is one of the most significant type designers in England of his generation, I don’t think that I would classify him as the same kind of professional actor as, say, Jeremy Tankard. In addition to designing fonts, Jomathan ran his own graphic design agency. Or maybe it is better the other way around: many Virus Fonts must have started out in Jonathan’s graphic design work first, and then he turned them into products in their own right. Virus Fonts is his private font label the same way that a Private Press is someone’s private publishing imprint (a printing press in the owners own home or studio, with which only works of the press owner’s choosing are printed; external orders the owner is not interested in are not fulfilled, etc.).

    England has a long line of private presses going back at least to Baskerville, if not much earlier, and David surely knew this. I applaud his use of the term. I think it enriches our typographic-marketing vocabulary, rather than muddying up the waters. 
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,005
    Interesting, but I don’t think that accords with the general understanding of the term, as represented on Wiki.

    Another definition, apt for the type industry and applicable to Virus: a private label is a brand that publishes only its proprietor’s designs.

    In this sense, the many foundries which began as designers’ self-publishing side projects and have gone on to publish and distribute third-party designs, under various licensing arrangements, are thus no longer private labels.

    At any rate, it’s a term that upclasses the world of indie font geeks.

  • Sure, a thing can and do change over time. What begins as a private label could later become an independent foundry (distributing the fonts of multiple designers, exclusively through its own website [or maybe through other websites, too]), and/or it could become a font distribution website. It is not inconceivable that the the website of a single designer selling her own fonts today could become one of the most-popular font distribution websites ten years into the future. I would not personally bet on such a thing happening, but it is within the realm of possibility.
  • I’ve always understood “private label” to be a marketing term, used by the fashion industry and by beer and spirits makers. In the case of the second group, it’s most often deployed by some big firm that is trying to market their gargle water as an elite line, the stuff they drink themselves. These are bald-faced lies (or, as they say in the type world, “boldface lies”), such as in “private stock” or the even more insidious “private reserve.” If it’s so private, why are they selling it?

    It was only a matter of time before this kind of marketing-speak caught up with type. Actually, I think it's pretty clever when you're first in the field to use it, so hats off to Barnbrook. I think "custom tailored" and "bespoke quality" are still up for grabs. Any takers out there?

    Many years ago, the British satire mag Private Eye did a spoof on some hyper-expensive car's ad campaign with the tag line "High price without the stigma of high performance."

  • Perhaps, "Designer Label", another fashion term might suit? The designer is presenting his/her own product to the marketplace and avoiding the controlled environment of long-standing distributors?
  • Actually, I think it's pretty clever when you're first in the field to use it, so hats off to Barnbrook. 

    Again, I think it was not Barnbrook but @David Sudweeks who chose the term for the purposes of this particular FontShop newsletter.
  • I think "custom tailored" and "bespoke quality" are still up for grabs. Any takers out there?

  • Extra points if you're located in New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, or Paris.
  • Max PhillipsMax Phillips Posts: 474
    edited September 2016
    Wikipedia's main definition seems shaky. Most branded products are produced by outside vendors to be sold under someone else's logo, but that doesn't make them private label. If your company only makes stuff to be sold under other people's names, you're technically a private-label manufacturer, but that's pretty inside baseball.  When I was in retail, private label was just a snooty term for house brand. It sounds prestigious, but Barney's-labelled goods are probably the least prestigious things you can buy at Barney's. I don't think it means much when applied to type foundries; if you only sell the things you produce, that's the opposite of private label. You wouldn't talk about Ikea's private label offering.

    The music business ruined 'indie', but I don't see why 'independent' isn't a perfectly good term for foundries that aren't part of a big corporation. Even those who sell through the big corporate marketplaces still make their stuff independently.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,005
    if you only sell the things you produce, that's the opposite of private label. You wouldn't talk about Ikea's private label offering.

    Right, but I’m talking about a designer-owned business.
    In the sense of private meaning personal.
    It has to be qualified with a personal pronoun, as in “…his private label, Virus Fonts…”
  • What you might want a term to mean is not always what that term conveys.  This is always the danger of coming up with a new term.  You then have the job of educating everyone how this term differs from the previous term.  Tomato tohahto.

  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 752
    edited September 2016
    So what you're saying, @Thierry Blancpain, is that couturie is still available?  
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,005
    Is Monotype MyFonts’ house brand?
  • Since many of Monotypes' most well known faces were designed long ago, many of the original designers have died and get no payment.  Surely, the percentage of profit on these works must be higher for Monotype than for their new designs?
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