Hello All! I'm a designer hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, making a mid-career transition. I escaped my toxic corporate job a couple years ago and am trying some new things. If there's one thing I got out of all the involuntary alone-time the past few years, it's that I want to pursue my one unfulfilled passion from my college days: type design. I've got a few typefaces in the works, both text and display fonts, and have recently had the privilege of receiving some expert guidance through the Type Crit Crew and Alphabettes Mentorship program.
I am also in the very early stages of starting two ventures that intersect with the type design and lettering worlds: psster.com and baldredhead.com. Psster gives me a chance to play around with many different styles of stencil lettering while engaging with important social issues and Bald Redhead Design Supply Co. will eventually sell some of my completed display fonts, in addition to a variety of stock art products.
I created my first full, installable font in 1991 as an after-hours project while working as a graphic designer. I posted it online on CompuServe (if anyone can remember that pre-internet, dial-up service) as shareware. I included a note in the compressed file suggesting that anyone using it send me $20 if they liked it. Over the ensuing several months, Aldus Magazine and MacWorld reviewed it. My home mailbox was stuffed with envelopes for several months.
Font design seemed like a good way to make extra money, but my job and freelance work caused me to put type design aside until five or six years ago when I had enough free time and interest to pick it up again between other projects.
However, even though my newer work is far better than that single Type 1 font back in the early '90s, the reception has been far less enthusiastic. Back then, a new digital typeface was novel and received attention.
Today, every new font or font family competes against tens of thousands of other fonts. Even the best font families get lost in the shuffle and buried deep within the accumulating piles of other fonts of varying quality — many of them free. Getting what you've made in front of the right buyers is the problem you'll be facing today, assuming your goal is to make money instead of it being only an enjoyable hobby. If your fonts are even modestly popular, they'll soon end up pirated and on the free font sites — siphoning your profits.
I guess what I'm saying is that it's not as easy as it once was — good marketing and business plans are needed, which according to your second paragraph, sounds like you're already working on creating. Good luck.
Back then, pre-Opentype, It didn’t take very long to make a typeface, with only a basic Western Latin encoding, a few weights, and no “expert” features. A couple hundred glyphs, if that.
However, I am always adding to sketchbooks full of type designs that are never made into fonts and published, so I guess you could say I haven’t really ceased. Perhaps I should publish some of them as 200-glyph basic Western fonts.
I am glad to read about your experience because even if I won't be able to design typefaces it will be temporary until the next opportunity for it opens.
@Nick Shinn I am sure that all that sketches deserve to be seen and turned into typefaces. We should embrace agile versioning much more for type design, starting with
"v0.1 — uc and lc test word" and then go from there.
We got a conditioned reflex resulting in not even starting digitization, knowing how much time it would take until the finalized typeface, it soaked out much of our excitement and joy.
Reasoning in terms of a potentially expanding family beforehand seems a good way to plan and save precious time (technically), but in the end it constantly risks to drain your creativity in a myriad of "planning concerns". And by "creativity" I do not mean just at a formal level. My conclusion is certain designs could be worth to have planned methods to approach a family design overall, but not many. Or at least, not each and every single one as it seems today.
And, for one, for a simple reason: if I have the need to add, say, Cyrillic coverage, certain Math symbols, historically relevant glyphs, specific style, weight or optical cuts — you name them — these can always be added afterwards. Or even expanded in separate sub-families.
I for one would be glad to see actual creativity. It seems very rarified, no matter the "visual flood" we have been experiencing for about 15 years now…