Crushed by the Font Industry (Please Read)

Dear Font Community,

In January 2012 I started my career as a font designer and founded Cultivated Mind Fonts. Prior to that I had so many struggles being a graphic designer. From low wages to clients that wouldn’t pay. When I discovered font design I was so happy to be selling fonts. I loved typography, I could work remotely and could also do graphic design work for my poster graphics. As my fonts became more popular the demands of the vendors poured in. I did everything I could to please and respect the vendors, the font community and the brands. I helped pave the path for other designers who where not using high quality poster graphics to sell their fonts. Others followed and copied. I helped mentor new font designers from creative market that reached out to me and needed guidance trying to create fonts. I was constantly giving everything I could to help my brand, inspire the font community and the vendors grow. 

I was disrepected by the vendors. I didn’t count. I continued to create fonts and as the years went on the demands of the vendors and customers started to mess with my mental health. To the point of a break down in 2018. I couldn’t figure out why vendors stopped promoting me in 2018 when my fonts were still very popular and sold well when promoted. When not promoted, my fonts will not get seen. I felt shadow banned. They just decided to pull the plug on promoting me. It was a shock as we had a dedicated partnership. It took my income down 90%. I can hardly survive as a font designer now and there hasn’t been a soul in this industry who has tried to reach out to me. I am absolutely crushed by the font community and I just need to express this. 

Also I see my fonts everywhere by huge brands but I am not seeing any of these extended licensing payments from the vendors. I reach out to brands for receipts and they either ignore me or say they don’t have to show payment receipts to my OWN ASSETS. No payments have been made to me on any licensing deal, no Invoices are shown ever… I can’t afford a licensing agent to help me. I have also found some vendors do deals behind my back that I have caught. I hope there aren’t licensing deals going on behind my back. Something is fishy…..I don’t know how these huge brands are profiting off my fonts but I can’t pay rent now. I am so sad and still am great at making fonts. However, ever time I try to make a font I have PTSD and start crying because this community has only taken, copied and destroyed me….Hope that the people pocketing the money off my fonts know how hard I struggled to make and maintain these fonts. It literally takes me 1 year or more to create a font family. I am saddened. Please speak out!



  • Low hanging fruit promotions:  you say your fonts are everywhere but there are very few entires on fontsinuse.  Everyone I know says that website is one of their top referrers. To that end, are you doing any direct sales?  Shopping carts are complicated to set up but it might be worth considering.  
  • So much of the type world is based on trust—trust in users to follow license terms, and trust in resellers to be transparent in their dealings. Cracks in the sense of trustworthiness really make the bottom fall out of the whole thing. 

    If specific vendors do bad by foundries (here I'm talking not about insufficient promotion but about things like sales kept secret to avoid royalties, as implied by the OP), it'd be good for all foundries to be aware of who they are. But I suppose if somebody feels like they can't afford an agent to pursue the case, it also might be fiscally risky to cast accusations at well-lawyered corporations. 

    Maybe a whitelist instead of a blacklist is safer: who are the most trusted vendors?
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 780
    edited December 2021
    @Cindy Kinash I'm sure it feels to you like we're nibbling at the edges of your problem.  To some degree, that's true.  I hope that what you can get from this is that your problems are common in this system and you have a community of people willing to share our strategies for dealing with them.  Unfortunately, I think the over all take away is that to be successful you have to be your own agent to a large degree.  You can place your fonts with resellers but you can't expect those resellers to be more than a sales platform.  

    @Ray Larabie I don't want to weigh in too much on the question of license infringement.  I understand your perspective and in many cases I agree with it.  That said, in my experience, almost literally all license infringement is a good faith mistake (especially the very big violations by very large companies). Therefore, my approach is client education and kind hearted correction of those mistakes. But I also think this is a premature conversation in Cindy's thread.  Sure, there are probably some large ticket license infringements of her fonts but she doesn't even have proof of purchase from her resellers.  So, she doesn't have the ability to identify violative uses.  And, even if she did, we don't know anything about the license(s) her fonts are issued under. 

    Cindy, I think you will one day want to think about licensing and when you do feel free to reach out to me.  The sheer number of details will be overwhelming when you're ready for it, and completely paralysing now.  

  • @Craig Eliason @Ray Larabie @JoyceKetterer @Nick Shinn Thank you greatly for the tips and you are kind to take your time to explain strategies. I am aware of what needs to be done but its a lot of work and every time I attempt to do it I feel I have burn out from 10 years in the font game. I feel unsupported now so there is no motivation after burn out.

    I also was writing my experience so others can understand what happened to my foundry and how vendors and brands will take advantage. Maybe newer font foundries can learn from my failures to get control independently and not to rely on vendors to promoting you. Also why don't vendors share extended licensing invoices/deals to our own assets?

    Currently I have a massive library of assets that need to be secured with extended licensing. My fonts don't need work as they have been updated by a font developer. Are there any Font Management companies that specify in font licensing by a commission fee? Basically I need a licensing agent/agents that need to contact these top brands and request receipts for extended licensing. I was recently advised by vendors not to contact brands for licensing verification as it scares them away. So do I do nothing based on what the vendor says?
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 185
    edited December 2021
    Cindy, it seems like you’ve been relying on vendors too much, but vendors have no interest in promoting any specific foundries. Your name only shows 5 pages in Google and there are 6 pages for “Cultivated Mind Fonts”. Consider focusing on promoting your works more.

    Also, the style of most of your fonts looks very niche and you may be experiencing changes in what people need (happens to any niche).

    Piracy-wise, chances are you’re going to spend a lot of time and money catching companies and going to the court, but the outcome of that activity is likely to be pretty low, even if you’ll win a few times. Just saying!
  • Hi Cindy,

    I remember you were a featured designer on myfonts, when they still had a handful of designers they were promoting, with lovely sketched portraits- I remember it was in the left hand margin of the main page. I really liked that idea, such a nice touch :)  I also remember when they suddenly changed their homepage which removed these, and thought - how odd.

    But I think they have changed their market or their business model - they are now taking on a lot more fonts, that seem lower quality - more like quantity over quality is the order of the day. It's a shame, as it's kind of hard to wade through all the bad fonts there now. I wonder if another vendor will step in and take over that role. But then again - you couldn't count on them sticking to that methodology of quality over quality indefinitely either. You can only really ever rely on building a following for yourself these days. I wish you all the best Cindy! And remember its better to not have all your eggs in one basket :) 
  • Also - this thread might interest you - you aren't alone...
  • No NameNo Name Posts: 11
    edited December 2021
    @JoyceKetterer your advice is amazing and I agree with everything you detailed. Fonts in use can be a step for sure as it seems like a gain. Makes sense to pay a licensing agent rather than commission. Do you do licensing freelance work @JoyceKetterer ? I am trying to rebuild a new creative business in another industry as I need a new Creative Outlet...I'm more of an artist than a font designer....  I will need to come back to Cultivated Mind updates/licensing/promoting when I can pay a team to recover it. But I will not let Brands take advantage of my failure to secure licensing. Hopefully by the spring I will have the energy and money to invest in promoting Cultivated Mind. I sure appreciate your words @JoyceKetterer.
    @Alex Visi exactly. I did depend on vendors too much. I was naive to think that they would continue to promote me. And this is unrealistic in any industry. I hope new font foundries read this thread to learn to not have all their eggs in one basket. I had to learn that the hard way.
    @Fontfruits thank you greatly for the kind words. You opened my eyes to understand that there indeed is a change with Vendors from accepting Quality Niche Creative fonts to now accepting cheaper basic fonts for profit. Although I think most vendors still have high guidelines to submitting quality fonts.
    I really appreciate all your posts. It gives me hope in the font community.
  • @Cindy Kinash no, I don't. If I did I'd not give the advice away for free.  I'm pretty sure nobody does.  It's too hard.  If you really just want out maybe consider selling your ip?  But, the first step for that would also be increasing your profile.  For the sake of clarity, I'm not a potential buyer.  My foundry is far too different.  That's said, I think you have a shot at righting your ship if you have the energy to try again.  It will be work but I don't think it will feel futile so probably you can get past burn out.  If you want to talk pm me and I'll send my phone number 
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,957
    edited December 2021
    Regarding an extended licensing agent, Font Bros. will negotiate licensing in exchange for a commission.
    Edit: I would also like to add that I am very happy about my relationship with Adobe. I encourage you to give them a try. If you’re scared to take the plunge with your entire library you can always start with a few typefaces and add more later.
  • Regarding an extended licensing agent, Font Bros. will negotiate licensing in exchange for a commission.

    Edit: I would also like to add that I am very happy about my relationship with Adobe. I encourage you to give them a try. If you’re scared to take the plunge with your entire library you can always start with a few typefaces and add more later.

    How does one go about approaching Adobe for applying as a foundry? - I've tried finding a link somewhere in the past but to no avail...mind you it could just be me being blonde :)
  • @Fontfruits I have messaged you an email address.
  • Die in-dryfounDie in-dryfoun Posts: 25
    edited December 2021
    Important message to rookie type designers: Be very very careful with what you sign when you are presented with a draft distribution agreement. Always ask for legal advice and also consult with more experienced type professionals (well, at least the ones who haven't sold their souls to big type/software corporations).
  • @Fontfruits I have messaged you an email address.
    Thanks so much James!
  • Thanks for the tips... I think the main thing is to always try and be independent. These font vendors are not supportive. 

    However the font community needs to be more supportive to each other in compliments  of each others work rather than criticizing others work.

    I had a conversation yesterday with a well experienced font designer who literally told me I need to take a calligraphy course or brush font course. It was such an insult since my fonts are all over the place unlicensed. So many brands definitely like my fonts but don't extend their licensing with me. I had top sales on all vendors from 2012 -2018. I don't see his fonts anywhere..Yet he knew I was down and then insulted my artistic skills...THIS IS NOT SUPPORIVE! THIS IS KICKING ME WHEN IM DOWN!

    I will need a new creative industry/community that supports, compliments not the latter. Let's support not criticize please. Let's inspire not criticize. Let's compliment not criticize.
  • kupferskupfers Posts: 259
    Really? Frankly, I’m a bit shocked about the tone in this thread, which was immediately set by the first dry, factual answer to a heartfelt, relatable story. One would wish this community was a bit more empathetic. How can any of us know who “properly” tried to participate? What kind of accusation is that? Is the rate of Type Drawers comments the score to go by? 
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 780
    edited December 2021
    @kupfers yes.  really.  Trying to deal with the problem as presented because we simply can't help with the emotional fall out is hardly dispassionate. I think it's clear that we feel for the human suffering in this thread and were trying our best.  At some point we are reasonable to push back against insults.  
  • Cindy, I just want to say that I am really sorry that you have had such a bad experience. But I hope you know that from our previous private conversations!

    For what its worth, I have not had such negative experiences in the font biz overall. But I have certainly had some bad moments, and seen some bad things going down without being involved in them. I am sure Cindy is hardly alone in her travails.

    That said, I do want to say there are a LOT of lovely and supportive people out there, in the type biz. And they include plenty of big name people.

    Without knowing the details of the various contracts, it is hard to comment much (other than to say that contracts often favor the party that drafts them). And getting a lawyer to help you review your contractual rights with vendors, and possibly help you approach especially large 3rd parties who are using your fonts, seems like a real option to me. Not a cheap one, though.

    Beyond that, I don’t think I have much to offer to the thread, beyond supporting ideas I thought were good, and disagreeing in a few spots.
  • No NameNo Name Posts: 11
    edited December 2021
    Again, trying to be know it alls doesn't help support each other @JoyceKetterer
  • @JoyceKetterer is a very good example of how the font community lacks empathy. She is quick to give detailed solutions just like many other educated font designers in this post. It comes off as a "know it all". 

    All I was asking for in this article is EMPATHY and HOPE.... I wanted to hear other designers related stories to bring awareness and maybe change my mind about the lack of support in the industry. It seems other foundries will support you when there is something for them rather than inspiring one another.

    I know everything I need to do but I lack income to pay a team and I have burn out from being too giving in this industry. I don't need a competition of who's the most knowledgable font designer. Start supporting each other and listening. Start inspiring one another rather than competing.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,641
    edited December 2021
    Cindy, I think this just shows the division between people who heard your story and wanted to offer “helpful advice” because they thought that was what you were looking for, versus you just wanting emotional support.

    Re-reading the starting message in the thread, I don’t think “please speak out!” tells us which it is you wanted/needed. I tried to do both, but I could have just as easily only done the “helpful advice” part, thinking that would be helpful. And I still offered that advice, because I thought that was at least part of what you were asking for.
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