How to begin a commissioned font project?

I am very new to the idea of landing typeface design gigs for clients...When you get approached to create a commissioned typeface, what are some general questions I should be asking to help understand the end goal? Obviously, character set seems to be first and foremost but are there other things to be aware of? How does pricing differ among these specific things as well? 

Appreciate any guidance you all can give me!


  • SiDanielsSiDaniels Posts: 277
    I'd imagine they'd come with a design brief and rough idea of character set, weights, and styles. Beyond that the next most important thing would be the rights they need - are they buying the design outright or would it be some kind of license? Then I'd ask to see the contract details and review what kind of guarantees, warranties, and indemnification they require.
  • @SiDaniels
    Appreciate the response! Agreed, the licensing is key – thanks for the guidance!
  • @John Hudson
    Thank you very very much for the detailed response, I truly appreciate it! That's exactly the kind of answer I was looking for and it's extremely helpful for someone like myself getting started. 

    As for the glyph "spreadsheet" do you provide a visual spreadsheet since some clients may have no clue what certain glyphs are by just reading the name? Hope that makes sense.

    Thanks again for the help!
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,940
    As for the glyph "spreadsheet" do you provide a visual spreadsheet since some clients may have no clue what certain glyphs are by just reading the name?
    Most of my clients tend to be fairly Unicode savvy because they're either in the tech sector or are publishers dealing with multiple scripts and languages, but you're totally right that this isn't going to be the case for all clients. I typically include one or more columns of representative glyph shapes in the spreadsheets, using existing fonts, but that might not cover all variants such as smallcaps, etc.

    [For complex scripts, I tend to include columns of full input character sequences for the target glyphs, even if I don't have existing fonts that represent those sequences in the way we intend in the new fonts. This then becomes the first level of shaping testing for the new fonts.]
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 786
    edited May 2018
    You can see right away that having different customer bases effects this process.  Most of our clients are companies seeking identity fonts.  
  • @JoyceKetterer

    Thanks so much for adding your thoughts as well! Those are excellent questions to consider with new clients. Thank you very much for the guidance, seriously so helpful!
  • @Thomas Phinney
    Appreciate you sending over the link to that – it's perfect. This thread and everyones comments have given me lots to consider with new projects so thank you again for the help!
  • @John Hudson
    Ah that makes perfect sense regarding the spreadsheet. Thanks for the follow up answer – I need to do the same with new projects. Cheers!
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 786
    edited May 2018
    @Scott Biersack I just reread your initial question and realized none of us responded to the part about pricing.  The reason for that is that it really isn't appropriate for us to tell you how to price.  That's for everyone to decide for themselves.

    That said, I can give you a rough outline of the questions to ask yourself: 

    1.  There can be a difference between the price you get from your tables and the price you end up charging.  I usually give the client the first and then display a transparent discount to the second (if applicable). Do you want to do it that way or just give one price?  The amount of the discount is determined by a combination of client budget and how much you want to sweeten your offer.
    2.  Do you want to have a flat rate per style/master or do you want to get more specific about the project? 
    3.  Do you want to calculate the cost based on the hours for labor?  If so, it's often still the case that you will translate that into a project fee for the client.
    4.  Do you want to split labor from licensing in your fee?

  • @JoyceKetterer
    That's okay! I know pricing is certainly a difficult thing to account for especially since it's a case by case basis. 

    That's certainly helpful to allow me to decide which direction I'd like to take commissioned projects. Never thought about a per style rate. Interesting!

    Can't thank you enough for all the time and guidance you've given me. Greatly appreciated!
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