Fontocalypse Now?

So, I wrote an article about some changes in the font biz over the past decade or more: so.

(the print article has a sidebar, which is why there is this random extra bit after the main article in the online version.)

Lots of people had stuff to say and I had actually a bunch of cool quotes and stuff, most of which got axed for lack of space. I killed some earlier on trying to make things fit, and then my editor had various things she wanted expanded on, which was fine, but more things had to go.   :/ 

@Bruno Maag @JoyceKettererand @Dave Crossland were all very helpful and had important perspectives, which you might see only slight bits of.


  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,335
    edited April 2020
    You painted free fonts sites to be a minefield...which they are but I don't think it has to be that way. I don't think there's anything wrong with offering a variety of license types. If some of these licensing schemes result in more income for designers than libre does, then they could be better for typeface design in general. The problem with most free font sites is that they don't indicate the license types clearly. Dafont allows designers to indicate a license type but the choices are too simplistic and outdated to be useful. My free fonts include a free commercial use desktop license but none of the categories apply. What libre offers is's easy for people to figure out what's allowed. Alternate license types could be better than libre in terms of supporting the designers but the outdated means of delivery and the proliferation of annoying "personal use" licenses is what makes it a minefield. I think some people outside of the free fonts world don't realize that it's actually quite lucrative. There's a reason I release free commercial use desktop licenses and not open source: I just can't make as much money releasing open source.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,584
    I certainly feel that dafont has mostly crap. Yet I certainly did not mean to give a negative impression of free and libre fonts overall. One of the big changes I tried to highlight was Google bringing some degree of quality bar and useful “filter” on the world of libre fonts.

    I will say that I think license terms are a real minefield, whether it is “free” fonts or not!
  • Loved the article, thanks for sharing!

    It would be great to have a zoom conference between foundries and independent designers to talk and share info about market issues, experience nad good practices. 
  • I think my main objection is to the title, which is often the case with a thoughtful article.  We all know editors write titles, or push for more histrionic ones.  The title sets up the reader for a much more negitive view than I personally have.  
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,584
    Nope, the title is 100% my fault!

    It was super late at night, I was wrapping up a round of revisions from the editor, and I had the title idea. So the most you can blame the editor for is “not changing it.”

    The editor was Esther Oh, and she was quite hands-on and made a lot of suggestions and asked for a lot of additions and changes—in a good way, for sure.

    The biggest editing challenge was with word count limit issues, which are of course not her fault, just a consequence of the physical print format. But cutting for length did sometimes feel a bit brutal. I did that more than she did, though.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 1,065
    Just the first paragraph of your article makes me want to raise a point.
    I agree with those who are pessimistic about the prospects of the small independent type designer in making a living. Not to the extent that I deny it's possible, if one makes the right efforts, but it will be difficult, and one's typeface will have to be one of the lucky ones to "catch on".
    However, if one sees the question in terms of "is there a fontocalypse", then there is a good reason for saying "No!".
    An apocalypse is when something that was going good is destroyed.
    When was this golden age for type designers that has come to an end?
    Many people, myself included, have nostalgia for old computers. In some respects, they were superior to new computers: for example, the keyboard on the IBM 3277 display station had a nice touch. (The Enter key, however, was in an awkward position.)
    But in the most important respect, the amount of work that can be done for a given price, well, old computers offer nothing worth being nostalgic about! Of course you can afford fancy styling and a nice keyboard if you are selling the performance of a 486 DX for several million dollars!
    Now then: when it comes to type designers being able to sell their wares without being hired by Adobe... computers did not create a "fontocalypse", since in the good old days, if you didn't work for ATF or Monotype or a few other companies, you were frozen out absolutely.
    So the real situation is that desktop publishing opened up a window of opportunity for the independent type designer... one that, perhaps, could not have been realistically expected to last.
  • The reason I say that most of my issue is with the title is that I don't think what we're experiencing is an apocalypse.  I think it's a big shift on the order of other big shifts fonts have experienced (away from metal; becoming software).  These things are always "adapt or die" situations... when it's done the industry will look very different but I think it will still be here.  

    I also think it's a bit lazy to focus so much on free fonts.  Free fonts are not new.  it's easy to vilify free fonts when a lot of them are coming from google but free fonts aren't really changing the industry - partly cause they aren't new.  

    From my perspective, most of the shift is happening in the revenue model because of  the combined forces of web fonts (self hosting being the main push) and adobe's hosting replacing desktop use.  For many of us, these forces are largely good.  I don't expect that Darden Studio is going anywhere any time soon.

Sign In or Register to comment.