This should be an Interesting discussion - where do YOU draw the line.

I thought this should make for an interesting discussion  ;)

I'd love to hear everyone's ideas on this. The discussion topic is :
Where do you draw the line when it comes to your typeface looking similar to another typeface, considering if it's plagiarism or not.

There is obviously a line....and I'm interested in knowing where that line is for everyone - as maybe one person's 'similar' is another person's vastly different', another person's straight out plagiarised copy.

For instance - There are umpteen versions of Garamond similars out there, and umpteen Helvetica offshoots etc -  that are all of course remarkably close to each other, but different enough to not be considered direct copies. Now I'm not talking about point for point vector similarity ( as is useful in font software copyrights) -  I'm talking about the actual similarity in 'visual shape' and outline of the letters.

I'll give you an example - which actually got me thinking this would be a good discussion to throw in here. Here is an image showing two fonts from different typeface designers. I recognised the similarity between the two as I have a business that uses the original font extensively in our branding, and I use it frequently for collateral and ongoing bits and pieces.

I took it upon myself to make you a little comparison graphic, as I have the original font on hand, and I thought it would be interesting to compare for this discussion.

The yellow one is the original font made around 2 years ago, and the white underneath is a recently released font. 

Granted - both fonts have different ( albeit very similar stylish alternates) the basic skeleton of the typeface - the main characters are incredibly similar. It is quite obvious (to me anyway) that the recent release is inspired by the original, when comparing letter over letter. Some of the letters have been widened or shortened a smidgen.

Now, for me - I personally wouldn't get that close. But that's when I thought - this actually happens quite a bit in varying degrees -perhaps others actually have a different ' gauge' on the limits, and what's considered actually 'ok'? If you add extra ligatures and extra stylistic alternates to the typeface - it's then considered different enough to be ok perhaps?

I still not sure I would test the theory though :# 

And now over to you - Where do you draw the line when you design your typefaces? How would you class the example below since we do have so very many 'serif similars' out in the world today?  


  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 792
    All great fonts become a genre.  Our Omnes is only 17 years old it has already transformed into a genre.  

    The word "similar" is such a problem for so many reasons not least of which that it means one thing to expects and another thing to the public.  Therefore experts find themselves trying to approximate the lay person view.  That's how I arrive at my line, confusability.  Also, it needs to be confusability when set in text, not when looking at individual letters or parts of letters.  

    It is possible to have a lot of differences in a font that are inconsequential in use, resulting in a font that is basically a copy of the "inspiration".  The opposite, that a collection of letters that look very close to an original don't look that way when set, is also common.

    Omnes is used in a lot of grocery product packaging so I tend to walk the isles looking for new examples to add to my collection.  There's a font I won't name that I see often which, from a distance, looks a lot like Omnes.  As soon as I get close I know definitively that it is not Omnes, the tone is different.  That font is fine by my standards – its contributing something new to the genre.

    The reason I care about this is because I care in general about supporting creativity.  It's so easy to have a chilling effect on creativity if you too closely guard your work.  No one should be able to own a genre, even if they invented it.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,145
    I never draw the line over a scan of somebody else’s work.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,970
    I don’t do the most wildly original stuff but I would definitely drawn the line at tracing something that’s only a few years old. There’s old metal type and lettering I can rip off that’s only got a basic alphabet and maybe punctuation which still leaves me dozens of design decisions. What’s the fucking point of being a designer if you aren’t actually designing anything?
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,145
    Actually, I have done a tracing, but the intent was to create what Paul Shaw calls a “restoration”. The goal there was to make a font that could create a facsimile of old typography.
  • All great fonts become a genre.  Our Omnes is only 17 years old it has already transformed into a genre.  
    Interesting — which genre is this?
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 792
    @Kris Sowersby forgive me for being unclear. I didn't mean a literal named genre.  simply that there are so many inspired fonts that you can put them in their own category.  There are lots of fonts like this.  Within my creative team we refer to them as a genre, which is probably us taking a little poetic license. 
  • Yves MichelYves Michel Posts: 152
    The example you provide is simple piracy. It' not as if the fraud "designer" is inspired by an existing font, it's pure copy! I don't draw a line, I draw a cross.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,398
    The first three images in the OP's post don't bother me that much: if I sat down to create a soft, extrabold, humanist-axis font (an idea I think not "owned" by anyone) from scratch, it might well end up looking quite a bit like this. It might even overlap to a surprising extent on such an overlay graphic.
    The swashes in the last two images on the contrary ring plagiarism alarm bells for me. 
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,748
    Although it certainly looks troubling, I would really want to see an overlay in which the shapes underneath were not obscured so much. If the overlay had transparency that would help.
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 185
    The answer is the same as for anything else in life.

    There are “rules” or “standard approach”, which you have to follow to an extend to make a good font/music/painting, etc. That’s literally copying, but the worst label you can get here is “faceless “ or “average”.

    There are also “ideas”, “rule-breaking stuff”, if you will. Copying this stuff gets hairy quickly. Copying is inevitable, but to do it well you need to mix ideas, push them forward, find sub-ideas, missed opportunities and so on. This is your added value.

    There’s also post-modernism which praises copying, parody, but it haven’t really made its way into type design that much.
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