Do you always start over a new font from scratch?

I wonder if repurposing/reusing of previous projects in new projects is the case.

  • How often do you start from scratch or/and repurpose fonts you have already done?
  • If you repurpose which parts of the project? e.g. contours, components, metrics, kerning, etc.
  • Did you repurpose fonts from someone else? If yes, from whom, where and which features?
  • If you didn't ever repurpose anything, why not?


Comments

  • I always start from scratch. With an idea to create something new!!
    The exceptions being revivals of 1900 fonts, scanned and digitized.

    Why reuse or repurpose existing fonts? There are tons and tons of fonts already existing. And for all kinds of use, text, advertising, titles, etc. All kinds of styles too.

    If I have a look at my 1981 Letraset catalogue, there were already hundreds and hundreds of fonts available. And most have been professionnaly digitized.

    IMHO; nobody really needs an umpteenth repurposing of Caslonesque, Helveticesque or Bodoniesque fonts.

    Be original, Filip !



  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,491
    edited November 20
    I almost never use my previous font projects in new font projects, unless they are related in some way. For example, I adapted my recent Proxima Sera from a draft of an unfinished face. I nearly always start from scratch with a new source document.
  • I forgot to mention that, like Mark, I also sometimes start from one of my previous fonts, with a new idea. (I'm not a professionnal, I must add.)
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,236
    edited November 22
    It takes me less time to draw the new thing than find the old thing.

    Edit: Except the ASCII blockdraw character range, which I rarely need. I copy/paste it from NK57 Monospace.
  • I’ve never considered starting with an existing typeface. I don’t think it would work well to try and adapt one design to fit another.

    I do reuse the estimated symbol and my .notdef glyph.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,924
    For my original retail designs, I do usually start from scratch.
    However, I find that corporate clients who ask for custom designs generally want something that looks a lot like something else.
    In that case, it’s easier for me to adapt a previous design that I can transform to look like what they have in mind.

    It helps that I have a lot of stuff on hand, in all kinds of genres.
    For instance, I was asked to design a contrasty sans, so I chopped the serifs off an oldstyle of mine. It wasn’t quite that simple, as a fair amount of tweaking was involved to make it not look too much like an oldstyle with the serifs chopped off.
    The big advantage was that I didn’t have to conceptualize the metrics from scratch.
    And it’s often easier to transform a set of glyphs than draw them from scratch.
    And fundamentally, when the whole myriad of interconnecting relationships between characters already exists, and one is familiar with the proportional architecture, it’s easier to imagine how changes will ripple through that, than building all those relationships from scratch.  


  • jeremy tribbyjeremy tribby Posts: 122
    edited November 22
    from scratch or from script, never from an old family. the things that I repeat across families, I generally write scripts for e.g. math symbols draw themselves based on other elements of the typeface and a couple parameters
  • The only time I did that was when I took Cormorant as the basis for Ysabeau. The two deliberately share proportions, since they're both essentially Garamonds.


  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,483
    I don’t have a single way of working, so typically figure out for an individual project whether it makes most sense to start from scratch or from outlines from a previous project. The latter may save me time, and I don’t feel it restricts or directs the design direction, because they’re just points and curves and I can drag them into any new configuration. I always have a shape in mind, regardless of whether I start from scratch or with an outline to manipulate.

    I’ve also done jobs in which starting from another design was part of the brief. The Sanskrit Text font that Fiona Ross and I made for Microsoft was directly based on Monotype Devanagari and Bembo—to which Microsoft have ‘ownership-like rights’—and we started from the outlines of those fonts.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,924
    edited November 22
    After Christian’s post, I decided to compare my derivative with its original, and was surprised how much I had changed. I suspect that what’s happened is that so much of my font making has been using transformation tools (e.g. making Bold from Regular or § from two s’s) that it has become a comfortable way to work for certain projects.
    As a conceptual framework, not too different from the metafont and font editing software with modules for PANOSE categories such as contrast, serif style and x-height.  

  • Filip PaldiaFilip Paldia Posts: 38
    edited November 24
    So if I can sum up the two cases.

    1. Retail fonts projects
    Rarely involve repurposing anything. If something, it could be spacing features.
    Repurposing shapes is unsuitable since it is easier to start from the sketch to achieve originality.

    2. Client projects — might involve repurposing to a certain degree.
    The project brief might require the font to look like another existing font, and there might be a case for reusing/repurposing even shapes.

    What might be the reason for a client to order a font that is not so original? Why would they order a font that "already exist" instead of purchasing it directly?

  • This is relatively common in libre fonts projects. Rosetta Type have a nice series of blog posts on how they made a Merriweather derivative.  https://github.rosettatype.com/yrsa-rasa/

    Vernon Adams R.I.P. made Tienne by remixing Noto Serif and Artifika, iirc
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,924
    edited November 25
    What might be the reason for a client to order a font that is not so original? Why would they order a font that "already exist" instead of purchasing it directly?

    1. Because it may be less expensive to commission a clone for a one-time payment, rather than an enterprise-wide renewable licence for an existing typeface.

    2. Because they have developed their branding using an existing font as a placeholder, but would now like to fine-tune the concept with a custom design.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,483
    3. They already have rights to the existing font, but need it to be better and/or to do more things.
  • When creating a new font, I'll typically use the "shell" (file) of an old font, especially if I know that it's going to use the same glyphsets and general measurements (Cap height, X height, etc.), but that's about it.  Contours, etc. are all original unless they're related to the previous one somehow.

    And I certainly wouldn't use someone else's.  Way too many chances for running into potential hot water.
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 184
    edited November 30

    1. Because it may be less expensive to commission a clone for a one-time payment, rather than an enterprise-wide renewable licence for an existing typeface.
    Does anybody know how common life-time licenses are? Some foundries limit the license to a few years period even for custom fonts, after which the fonts get published through the shop, instead of giving away all the rights forever.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,367
    @Alex Visi It’s not a difference in the term (time period) of the license per se, but in the term of exclusivity. Lifetime license either way, usually.

    It depends on who the client is, and how smart (=thinking about Net Present Value in accounting/economic terms) the foundry is.

    For a client like an art director of a magazine (or many kinds of media), an exclusivity period of two years or five years at the very most might be enough to extract nearly all the value they get from exclusivity. Part of this is because the art director is likely to have moved on. Perhaps part is because after a few years nobody is paying attention to the unique typeface any more. Whatever the reasons, foundries have discovered that many clients are open to this!

    On the other hand for the foundry, aside from questions of popularity that may well vary over time, it is otherwise a normal Net Present Value calculation where you discount for inflation/alternative investment at say 5% per year. (Or something.)

    So, given that the client’s value for exclusivity is often (for many common clients) slanted much more heavily to the near-term than that of a rational economic-minded foundry, in such cases it is often in BOTH parties’ interest to limit the period of exclusivity. The foundry can then afford to charge the client less—enough less that it is a “better deal” in terms of their valuation of near-term exclusivity. And the foundry can “get the design back” in a few years and offer it as a regular retail product or whatever they wish to do with it, and also come out ahead.

  • I’ve also done jobs in which starting from another design was part of the brief. The Sanskrit Text font that Fiona Ross and I made for Microsoft was directly based on Monotype Devanagari and Bembo—to which Microsoft have ‘ownership-like rights’—and we started from the outlines of those fonts.
    Are the Latin glyphs of SBL BibLit and Castoro related? The latter reminds me of a heavier grade, smaller optical size version of the former. I dig both designs, and I especially like the SBL Greek glyphs that mix upright capitals with more cursive lowercase forms as opposed to shoehorning the lowercase into an upright Latin idiom.
  • Rob BarbaRob Barba Posts: 80
    Alex Visi said:
    Does anybody know how common life-time licenses are? Some foundries limit the license to a few years period even for custom fonts, after which the fonts get published through the shop, instead of giving away all the rights forever.
    I recently did one for a multimedia company; since they were willing to pay me a significant amount, I had no problem handing over the rights.  The thing is that I made it clear that since it was based on an existing font I did, I would ultimately include some - not all, some - of the things I did in the custom font into the parent font, they had no issue with it.

    Ironically, the company just went belly-up recently, so I have no idea who owns the font now.  I'll probably fork the changes into the parent font eventually.
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 184
    Rob Barba said:

    I recently did one for a multimedia company; since they were willing to pay me a significant amount, I had no problem handing over the rights.  The thing is that I made it clear that since it was based on an existing font I did, I would ultimately include some - not all, some - of the things I did in the custom font into the parent font, they had no issue with it.
    Right, that really depends on whether you can sell later that font at all – if it’s just a customization or something too narrowly designed for the client, then lifetime makes sense. But something like giving away your rights to San Francisco to Apple must be at least in 7 figures, if not more. Yet, somehow I doubt they paid that for the rights only.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,491
    edited December 2
    My understanding is that San Francisco was developed in-house at Apple, not by an outside designer. If any outside designers were involved, they haven't spoken publicly about it that I'm aware of.
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