Anyone up for a Game of Hypotheticals?



  • Nick CurtisNick Curtis Posts: 118
    Alex Visi Posts: 117

    If literacy no longer existed as a skill, because people used pictures and the recorded voice for everything instead, obviously type designers would be out of business.

    The data kinda shows that we’re safe:
    I can trump your assertion with one word.

  • Nick CurtisNick Curtis Posts: 118
    k_l Posts:
    Jacques Attali: Noise. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1985.
    (Different style, different angle, along these lines though, poetic too.)

    Trump Card—

    Steve Jobs, 1996: "Picasso had a saying -- 'good artists copy; great artists steal' -- and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas."

  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 769
    edited July 2021
    @Oliver Weiss (Walden Font Co.) Do you feel like your argument is stronger if you make the a-historical assertion that you're responding to a new phenomenon?  Legal action to enforce font licenses is as old as printed contracts.

    That said, I both agree with your main point and disagree with your details.  The problem isn't size or consistency.  The big players are unavoidable and therefore it feels worth it for a customer to sift through their often very badly written terms and then refuse to go anywhere else for fonts.  The real problem is the lack of clarity within the industry about whether we want to be in the software or the IP business.  They want to have it both ways by doing incoherent things like attaching Logo, e-pub, and broadcast licenses (which are from the IP world) to what starts as a software license. The big players are often the worst offenders with this stuff.

    Additionally, there are almost no "law suits".  What there are is instances where a large company violates a license (probably by accident) and then refuses to resolve the situation without lawyers because they think small companies can't afford to hire lawyers. It's a bullying escalation tactic which they then turn around and use as "evidence" that font licensors are in "bad faith".  I expect no better from them, but I do expect you to be smarter than to fall for it.

    I'd be curious to know what specific "absurd assurances" you've had to make? I work closely with customers and do have to spend a lot of time helping those purchasing large licenses to make sure they are covering everything.  Yes, this includes a lot licensing wack-a-mole, repeated emails back and forth saying over and over again that each new example of a print or non-embedded use is still covered just like our license says it is.  That's the job with sales and customer support, not absurd. 

  • @JoyceKetterer I most often deal with the people in charge of purchasing fonts, or with the designers themselves. Typically, neither of those are lawyers, and their language is imprecise. But from what I gather, they attribute whatever hoops their legal dept. is making them jump through as "fear of lawsuits", so that's what I call it, too. I have heard some names mentioned in confidence, and they were not big ones. 

    You put your finger on it though - it used to be that you could buy a software license and were good to go for most common usages. Now, licensing is often so fragmented that a breach is practically unavoidable. Bottom line - I think - legal departments started paying attention. They don't like the idea that some freelance production designer who shows up with their own tool kit somehow gets them into hot water, so they turn to the big foundries that give them clear rules and certainty. 

    As to what absurdities I mean: I was recently asked to customize my EULA to change the license term to "eternal" instead of "perpetual", and the license scope to "across the universe" instead of "global". You know, just so their ass is covered 400 years from now, when my fonts are in wide use on Titan.  

  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,827
    edited July 2021
    As to what absurdities I mean: I was recently asked to customize my EULA to change the license term to "eternal" instead of "perpetual", and the license scope to "across the universe" instead of "global". You know, just so their ass is covered 400 years from now, when my fonts are in wide use on Titan. 
    Well, that is genuinely absurd, and almost certainly not originating from a legal department. In my experience, lawyers like to talk to other lawyers, and to use standard terms and language of their profession. The only times I have had lawyers question the wording of an agreement are when either a) I’m dealing with lawyers in different jurisdictions who may have different standard language (in which case, what matters most is the jurisdiction of the agreement), or b) I have suggested plain English alternatives to terminology with specific legal meaning.
  • I assure you that this came from the legal department of a company that is well known for going to extremes when it comes to matters of intellectual property. 
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 769
    edited July 2021
    @John Hudson I buy that these could have come from lawyers. The most absurd requests probably do come from lawyers because they have no clue about fonts.  I got one, that was definitely from a lawyer, pointing out that our license no where specifies that they have permission to "resize the font" and asking if we could fix the typo.  I swear to you I had to explain that fonts as software* don't have predetermined sizes.  No way that request came from anyone in design or IT.  

    @Oliver Weiss (Walden Font Co.) Depending on who the client is I'm actually going to disagree those examples are absurd.  We got requests like that from AT&T for a very big license and we appreciated that they think in centuries when they do things.  It was a real eye opener for me.

    That said, I've gotten a lot of requests like that over the years that I batted away and said no to.  Often it's a new attorney trying to prove they read it, with the only way they have to do that requesting a change. I'm sorry to be the jaded old lady here but maybe I should be saying "welcome to the big leagues".  You do a certain number of sales with high rollers (even small licenses for start ups) and you're going to get these questions.

    *I take it back.  Maybe it wasn't a young lawyer.  Maybe it was a very very old one thinking about metal type.

  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,601
    Futura has been in use on the moon since 1969, so maybe they've got a point.
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 769
    edited July 2021
    @Mark Simonson I didn't address this before because I thought everyone would think I was kidding.  But since you bring it up, if I was asked to switch "perpetual to eternal and global to galactic" I'd definitely have said "no," and "that will be a 10x mark up". 

    I really am not kidding.  Eternal isn't so much an absurd request as a stupid one because the point of the switch would be for use in the past.  I guess maybe they think they might have a time machine and so need to cover use 300 years ago, on Jupiter?  Regardless, no, because I have no way of notifying my prior self about the license. 

    Galactic really should cost more than global, if we're bothering to specify either.  My licensing is location agnostic if we stick to standard metrics.  Location only becomes relevant if we are issuing what we call a "group license" (no head count covering everyone in a defined group).  Therefore the example would be something like "Global license for all staff of XXX".  Sure, a minute ago I was using global to indicated "everyone" but now that you've asked I realise that it is also limiting.  I'm not going to give away off-world use at the same price.  Limiting scopes is most of my job and how I keep kibble in my cat's bowl.   
  • @JoyceKetterer My point was not that high rollers demand special treatment, it was that the same high rollers that I've been doing business with for 25 years are suddenly (on a scale of months) behaving very differently. I'd be interested to know if this is just my experience, in which case I'll need to investigate if there's something I need to fix. 
  • @Oliver Weiss (Walden Font Co.) Ah, well, I'd read meaning into that too but I think it would be a mistake.  I can assure you that this isn't new and isn't specifically the fault of small foundries. I have heard stuff like that for the better part of the 13 years I've been doing this.  The split is about 50/50 monotype refugees (who come to us because we're on an indie foundry list) and people like the ones you describe (who are more scared of us because we're small and they had a run in with a small foundry that had an incoherent license). Probably your people just had staff turn over.  
  • Nick CurtisNick Curtis Posts: 118
    Originally, I wanted to open this thread with another Einstein quote…
    “Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

    ¿ ‽

    In Einstein's defense, I don't think was thinking about the Gordian Knot when he dispensed that advice. Aloso, we passed TLDR Junction awhile ago.

    So much for the absurdity, bring on the simplicity!  Untying the Gordian Knot, Part 2 awaits…

    As soon as y'all give me a Hall Pass.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 1,068
    I see that I missed my chance to correct the typo of "context" for "content". I was saying that if people only used the printed word to choose between video and audio media with the actual content... never engaging in prolonged reading... there would be no reason not to just "use Helvetica for everything", which would be bad.
    But the original poster's latest post highlights another issue.
    Copying an entire font design, if it's sufficiently recent, is legally prohibited in many places. Stealing a "great idea", however, i.e. putting Egyptian serifs on a typeface with stroke contrast, like Clarendon, but also with a squarish shape like Microgramma, if that's what somebody's great new typeface has suddenly made fashionable... is basically against the law nowhere.
    I'm not sure how this relates to the original issue, since if type designers go into the business of coming up with great ideas instead of typefaces, they'll make even less money: so being more original in one's type designs, although potentially good if one's design catches on, is no panacæa.
  • Nick CurtisNick Curtis Posts: 118
    I see that I missed my chance to correct the typo of "context" for "content". I was saying that if people only used the printed word to choose between video and audio media with the actual content... never engaging in prolonged reading... there would be no reason not to just "use Helvetica for everything", which would be bad.
    Patience is its own reward.

  • The Typophile Armageddon ended up with Goliath conceding without a single stone being thrown.

    Now the Old-School Goliath is in the same boat as the David while the New School is comprised of vultures fed by algorithms.

    When I started this thread, I had on idea of how bad the situation had gotten; after all, I don't know what I don't know until I know don't know it.

    After reading most of all the comments, now I know that there is a much, much bigger and scarier problem, e.g., a literally literal existential threat. "Okay, Boomer" isn't just a flippant remark: it's a death-threat to the way Boomers do everything.
  • Hello @Nick Curtis

    I certainly didn't know all that you know when you started this thread, because I still don't know what the thread is about.  That said, I did know the thing you seem to be calling out here as something you didn't know you didn't know.  Rumsfeldian wisdom (ug) aside, I want to comfort you that I don't think these things are exactly industry death threats. 

    Sure, for years now, I've regarded my primary job as "surfing the wave of change for this industry and not getting pulled under".  I've known many will get pulled under.  So, on an individual basis I think it is an existential thread but I really do think the industry will survive as an industry.  I also think some of us will survive just as some did in previous shifts.  

    Fortuitously, the tangent I and others went on is exactly the thing I think will be the difference between the survivors and the crushed.  I believe this is the shift that will finally cement the reality that fonts are software (till one day they are something else).  Those who can function in the software world without resting on IP thinking are more likely to make it.  This includes Monotype, which currently seems like it may be on the list of casualties.

  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,337
    edited August 2021
    Nick, I'm sorry to hear about what happened to your wife. I can only image how hard that must be and it's understandable that it's put you in a bad state of mind. I'm sure if it happened to me, I'd be way more unhinged.

    I think you're barking up the wrong tree. Sure, there are always people conspiring to make us earn less from our fonts, but the problem is plain and simple. The number of new fonts released in a week exceeds what used to be released in a year. People already have lots of fonts and lots of excellent fonts are free. If you release a free font, you might get 2-3 retweets, but it will likely be ignored and fall into obscurity on free font sites. Nobody planned it be like this. It's the result of 30 years of independent designers creating an accumulation of wonderful tools for designers. Now they have enough. All these lawsuits and monosponies don't matter: people don't need fonts anymore.

    But you're especially susceptible because you decided to eschew trends and focus on a style that's in a downswing right now. We're headed into a revival of the Y2K aesthetic and from looking at your library, it's not looking good. While I'm not an example of having the best promo graphics, you need a minimum of 5, and you need 4:3 versions for social media. I hate it...I'd rather be cranking out fonts too. But single promo graphics have been required for at least 15 years. Three graphics have been the norm for over a decade and 5 is the basic now. You've made so many wonderful typefaces but when I check you out on MyFonts, the lack of presentation, frankly looks pretty lousy.

    If you're going to give up, that's your choice but if you're going to moan about it, get your shit together and give these fonts the presentation they deserve. You should be proud of what you've done but it doesn't look like that to me.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 1,068
    After reading most of all the comments, now I know that there is a much, much bigger and scarier problem, e.g., a literally literal existential threat.

    I would like to make one thing clear. I am not an expert on the market for typefaces, and I do not know if the "existential threat" I mentioned is, in fact, a serious threat.
    Instead, the reason I mentioned it was because you had referenced the book "The Gutenberg Galaxy", and I was familiar enough with the writings of Marshall McLuhan to draw the conclusion - apparently a completely mistaken one - that if you were casting the problem in terms of the contents of that work, then you must have been thinking in terms of this "existential threat". That, of course, can't be the case if you didn't know of that threat before reading the comments here.
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 185
    edited August 2021
    people don't need fonts anymore.
    Let me disagree here. People will need new fonts as long as new companies keep getting formed and existing ones keep doing rebrandings. It seems like there are gazillions of fonts, but once you start looking for a font for your specific project, turns out 99.9% of them are unusable trash (objectively speaking) and among the remaining ones, it’s a luck to find 5-10 options which suit the project’s needs. Sometimes it’s more like 1-2 options only, if the need is specific. So... I think type designers should not worry about the demand, but about what they supply :smile:

    But absolutely agree with you on the social media and promotion.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 1,068
     Typefaces from a specific storefront may be associated with a trend and customers can feel like they trust that brand's fonts to harmonize with that trend and with one another. This is something that the big retailers such as Monotype can never accomplish. Their websites fuction to simply vend fonts and they're designed to please everyone. They don't have a specific attitude and they bury new and challenging font releases. Their trend forecasts are always behind, pushing whatever was already popular last year because they are required to avoid risks.

    Your posting seems to be filled with sage advice for the little guy.
    However, in my ignorance about these things, I do have one question. You've mentioned House Industries and Hype for Type as companies which, unlike Monotype, were up-to-date with the current fashion for a time, but then fell behind. When I think of a company, though, which, unlike Monotype, consistently offers typefaces that set the latest trends, I think of FontFont.
    As I haven't paid enough attention to this field to really know, not being a professional layout designer either, of course, I may be entirely mistaken.
  • Nick CookeNick Cooke Posts: 177
    FontFont are owned by Monotype. 
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 769
    edited August 2021
    @Ray Larabie I'm completely befuddled by your post.  I am referring exclusively to the licensing model.  You have come at me with a romantic argument about design. There's a lesson to be had in this misunderstanding, for both of us, but it's not what you think it is.

    I'm frankly quite hurt, that you think so little of my commitment to design innovation that you thought I was commenting on design at all when I was discussing the IP vs software question.  I'd have thought by now that I'd have earned credibility regarding design. I run Darden Studio!  Have you seen our fonts? I've been doing this for nearly 15 years, if I didn't get the importance of design innovation I'd have destroyed Darden Studio by now.  

    I pretty much agree with everything you said, except that I literally have no idea why you said it in response to what I was discussing because, again, I was only talking about the licensing model.  I'm advocating for a license that's in the software world.  This means permission based on how the software is used rather than were the fonts are seen.  I'm in opposition to licensing requirements for logo, broadcast, epub, social media (as long as it's all static), etc.  

    My stance should have no effect on design other than to enable the designer to get paid for it.  
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 769
    edited August 2021
    I HATE anonymous disagreement!  Can whoever hit disagree please tell me why?
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,337
    @JoyceKetterer You made it sound like those who continue to consider fonts as IP will be crushed and those who treat them as software will not. Unless I misunderstood, I think that's what you were getting at. Maybe I was on the wrong track and I'm sorry if that's the case. 

    Mainly what I was responding to is your notion that it's a choice between being crushed and treating fonts as software. All these big distributors do is deliver software and they do it well. But it's not getting any better and it's hard for Nick and me to watch it all sliding downhill. And I don't think it needs to.

    Darden Fonts: of course: beautiful. In no way did I mean to disrespect Darden Studio...I'm always in awe of that choice typeface selection. But all typefaces are subject to changes in fashion. Mine, Darden's, everybody's. As for what I proposed...I don't think it's a romantic notion: I think it's the only chance we've got. It's capitalist as hell and I don't think it's much different to what the other industries do to connect with their customers generate a feeling of need, a feeling of dissatisfaction with that they already own and to keep the trend mill rolling. In the future there will be more and better free alternatives and maybe patching up what worked in the 1990's-2000's isn't the solution. What will it be like when Google fonts has 10x the selection? In 30 years, maybe 100x the selection?

    You can keep honing your EULA but if people are satiated with fonts, that's not going to fix it. It'll help a bit but weird EULAs never stopped buyers in the past. The 2000's font gold rush occurred despite atrocious license agreements. I'm not saying don't improve licensing terms, but I don't think it's the solution to not getting crushed.

    @John Savard I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't been keeping up with FontFont since I had a catalog in the late 1990's. No disrespect intended but I haven't visited their website so I have no idea.
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 769
    edited August 2021
    @Ray Larabie we're talking past each other.  Or, rather, probably the fact we're typing instead of actually talking is a big part of the problem.  

    What I'm saying about the fonts being software isn't meant to affect the design process at all.  This whole tangent started because someone said something about existential threats to the industry in the form of customers giving up on us because the licensing is too confusing.  I agree that could happen and I'm saying the reason is all the licensing clauses that come from the IP world.

    It just doesn't make sense to a customer that they should need to pay for broadcast licensing for a font, even customers who think nothing of it for music or images, because they don't think of fonts as IP.  I get that you're making a different kind of distinction between IP and software.  Though I find your framing confusing I agree with your conclusions. All of that is completely separate from considerations of design and fashion (on which points you and I agree).
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,337
    @JoyceKetterer To clarify one point: I didn't mean to imply anything about the designs of the typefaces themselves, only the marketing and presentation.
  • @Ray Larabie. PS - I didn't mean "romantic" as an insult.  Sorry it came off that way.  As I keep saying, I mostly agree with you.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,337
    @JoyceKetterer It's all good.

    And everyone, I'm sorry for derailing this thread. I'm worried about Nick...I hope he's going to be okay.

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