Is crowdfunding the trend for Chinese types from indie foundries?

Jinhua Mincho (designed by Xue Tianmeng at Mallikātype), winner at TDC in 2022, started its crowdfunding campaign in October this year. It has raised over 450 thousand CNY (over 65 thousand USD) at the time of writing—though still a long way to reach its goal of 750 thousand CNY (107 thousand USD) before the campaign ends in less than two weeks.

There seems to be a trend for independent (Chinese type) foundries to crowdfund their commercial releases of new Chinese type designs. For example, Ku Mincho (from Hong Kong-based Kowloon Type) back in 2021 raised over 20 million NTD (over 720 thousand USD at that time), and Lee Hon Kong Kai (restored by Hong Kong-based sign-maker Lee Kin Ming) back in 2020 raised over 1.3 million HKD (over 170 thousand USD at that time). Not to mention Taipei-based foundry justfont, which started the whole thing with Jinxuan back in 2015 with huge success; their newest release, Lanyang Ming was once again successfully crowdfunded about a year prior.

AFAIK, such business model (if we can call it that) is unheard-of in the Western type design sphere, with the “crowdfund prices” usually at 30%–50% of the retail prices. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

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Comments

  • I’m not sure how crowdfunding works in China, but here in the USA it can be a pain in the ass. Potential backers don’t want just a typeface. They want different tiers of physical goods. Funders are going to want postcards, pins, silkscreened posters, maybe even specimen books. That’s cool if you actually want to do that stuff, but I think most type designers would rather just spend their time drawing letters.
  • Potential backers don’t want just a typeface. They want different tiers of physical goods.

    A very good point! I think physical goods are common in most crowdfunding projects, but certainly not the norm for typeface projects. Usually, the tiers contain just the licenses for individuals or studios/companies, at early-bird price, late-bird price, regular price, and group price. Sort of like presale of licenses.

    Jinhua Mincho is the only project that offers shopping bags (in non-commercial and commercial licensing tiers), specimen, postcards and posters (in commercial licensing tiers).

    These projects seemed to focus more on setting up different stretch goals. Due to the sheer number of glyphs needed to support every-day use of Chinese (simplified or traditional), the base goal usually aims at 7000-ish glyphs (for display faces), with stretch goal aiming at 13000+ glyphs. Ku Mincho raised so much that they commissioned Klim Type Foundry to draw the Latin letters and Oryzae LLC (Kunihiko Okano and Yoshihide Okazawa) to draw the kanas.

  • Oh wow, Beiwei Zansyu, winner at TDC in 2021, just started its crowdfunding campaign about 90 minutes ago, and it had already raised over 1 million NTD (34 thousand USD), and they do have posters in one of the tiers.
  • @James Puckett I consider future fonts a kind of crowd funding.  Sure, not exactly the same but essentially a similar idea.  Future fonts is pretty popular.  
  • To actually directly answer the posted question, I noticed that, except the first one (not sure where it is based), every one after that is Hong Kong or Taiwan-based. Granted,  there are noted cultural differences and population's preference of going into a design-related profession, I rather think that this is a trend of anti-China sentiments, and of Hong Kong and Taiwan people sponsoring projects which assert their anti-China traditional Chinese identity.
  • I rather think that this is a trend of anti-China sentiments, and of Hong Kong and Taiwan people sponsoring projects which assert their anti-China traditional Chinese identity.

    I’m sorry, but to imply a causal connection between my list of highly survivorship-biased examples and a rather political statement is just flat-out unscientific at best. And I wondered how much of this logical fallacy was based on one’s political beliefs.

    Sure, the four successful—hugely successful, in fact—campaigns in my list before 2022 were launched on Taiwan- and Hong Kong-based crowdfunding platforms, but they spanned over 7 years or so. And since I started paying attention to this crowdfunding trend in late 2020, I had witnessed half a dozen or so failed campaigns on Taiwan-based platforms. Why is that, then? I have no doubt that one can always find political statements to justify and reinforce their established beliefs. But maybe it’s good/poor market research, interesting/boring design concepts, or some mixture of all of the above?

    Jinhua Mincho is the first I know to launch on a China-based crowdfunding platform. I wondered, what political arguments there’ll be if it succeed, and what political arguments there’ll be if it failed. However, Jinhua Mincho is surely not the only project from Mallikātype; they’ve been working on the Chinese expansion of November with Typotheque for years now, and yes, they draw traditional Chinese too.

    Then there’s the “outlier,” Zhejiang-based solo designer Ying Yungwei (Eonway), whose Chi Ku Ming had a successful presale campaign via Taiwan-based justfont (to fund the expansion of several thousand glyphs), and is for sale both on the justfont store and on Taobao.

    New typefaces are fashion products, and Chinese types take years of development and are almost always made by a team. Small design studios (with little to no capital) simply cannot risk years of time to release something that may not sale. I’ve seen Future Fonts early-stage releases that support only Western European languages (and that’s perfectly fine), but for Chinese types you have to start from the thousand-glyph minimum. I’m so glad that crowdfunding turns out to be an option for emerging independent foundries and design studios.

  • I just look it up. Beijing's population is about 90% of the whole of Taiwan. Shanghai's is about 120% of Taiwan. Hong Kong's about 1/3 of Taiwan.

    Granted there are historical / cultural/ social reasons that font knowledge and expertise are stronger in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

    But if you judge human head count alone, Beijing plus Shanghai alone, should produce more font projects than Taiwan plus Hong Kong. And we are about _recent_ projects too, so historical reasons (like dynafont and Arphic both have a Taiwan base) count less.

    The overwhelmingly more new traditional Chinese fonts, got to mean something, given the population head count imbalance.
  • I just look it up. Beijing's population is about 90% of the whole of Taiwan. Shanghai's is about 120% of Taiwan. Hong Kong's about 1/3 of Taiwan.

    Granted there are historical / cultural/ social reasons that font knowledge and expertise are stronger in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

    To employ population-based arguments and design elitism is in such a poor taste.

    […] so historical reasons (like dynafont and Arphic both have a Taiwan base) count less.

    Bringing up DynaFont and Arphic, the latter of which was acquired by Morisawa in April this year, in a discussion about indie foundries, really? If we are on this scale, then there are 447 new fonts—developed since 2020—released from FounderType, and numerous new designs from Hanyi Fonts. But these are major players, and they certainly don’t crowdfund.

    The overwhelmingly more new traditional Chinese fonts, got to mean something, given the population head count imbalance.

    What a bluntly loaded and leading statement. It showcases dismissal of Astronomer, Xingkai Next, Weaf Mono, Dinkie Bitmap, and RVS Basic from 3type (Xingkai Next has an entry on Typographica); dismissal of the entire library of Luckytype established in 2018; dismissal of the various offerings from ZCOOL; dismissal of the highly-experimental Luohei Variable and recently released Smiley Sans (under SIL OFL) from atelierAnchor. And these are examples from the indie foundries scene, none of which was crowdfunded but opted for the more common release models.

  • That's a very long reply which I don't think any of the details is relevant.

    Why is it so difficult to accept that there is a strong anti-China sentiment among non-mainland ethnic Chineses? And that, this is manifesting in people actively and preferably funding traditional-Chinese-centric fonts in indie foundries to assert their traditional Chinese identities?
  • Well, Futuracha Pro was successfully crowdfunded back in 2017 and did come with a lot of physical goods, from postcards to posters to bags and even mugs.  So it can be done, though you're probably better off working with a fulfillment group to handle that part of the thing (having done a crowdfunding campaign myself, I know what a PITA it can be.)
  • That's a very long reply which I don't think any of the details is relevant.

    I think the details are relevant in every way: I don’t see how failed Taiwan-based crowdfunding campaigns fit your arguments; I don’t see how the 20+ new Chinese fonts from Beijing- and Shanghai-based indie foundries fit the assumption of “overwhelmingly more new traditional Chinese fonts” which I find shockingly uninformed, following the postulation that Beijing- and Shanghai-type designs are somewhat inferior and lesser. I see your last arguments as begging the question by assuming causation to argue for causation. If indie foundries want to bring in more diverse designs, they now have crowdfunding as an alternative (trending) option.

  • Hin-Tak LeungHin-Tak Leung Posts: 358
    edited December 2022
    My observation was based on the lists of fonts you presented.

    It is certainly correlated that crowdfunding is associated with anti-China sentiments, in general. Money from crowd funding is less traceable, and in some cases can be anonymous. So both the money-sending and money-receiving parties are safer from overt or less overt prosecution from the mainland authority.
  • Perhaps this is a simplistic argument, but Hong Kong’s GDP per capita is about four times that of mainland China, and Taiwan’s is six times. On average, mainland Chinese individuals simply have less money to spend on fonts.
  • @John Butler that's a valid argument - however, I was looking up Beijing & Shanghai specifically, each of which has a population size about the same as Taiwan (and 3x Hong Kong, roughly). These two cities alone are fairly prosperous, and should have a GDP per capita close enough to Taiwan and Hong Kong.

    So along your line of arguments, these two cities alone should be spending about similar money on fonts as Tainwan plus Hong Kong.
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