For the creation of an International Association of Type Designers. Post your proposals here.

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  • Tural Alisoy
    Tural Alisoy Posts: 35
    edited June 2023
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    The other half is getting in visitors, heaps of them, and then turning those visitors into customers. And what type buyers want may not be exactly what type designers want.

    From my experience joining forces for the purpose of internet exposure has an exponential impact. In the eyes of the potential marketing and online media partners, a group of ten people is already something, not to mention a hundred or a few hundred.

    In 2017 I was part of the campaign run by Fontself. They gathered 5 indie designers who made color fonts with their app back then, and we offered one of our fonts for free during the two weeks. They partnered with Adobe on the occasion of enabling color fonts in Illustrator. The font I was participating with (Popsky) is all time bestseller for me, and the impact is still evident 6 years later.

    The marketing part could be outsourced in the form of hiring marketing specialists for a fair share per sale.

    But if we manage to show consensus and incentive, and possibly do a part of the job in advance, that would exponentially improve our position, and lead to a powerful organic reach meaning that the platform would start receiving offers from affiliate marketers and media partners. The perceived vitality and expertise of the platform are attractive elements here.

    It's not the same if you start your proposal email with "I am John Doe" or "We are IATD, and there are XYZ of industry-leading designers here who joined forces...".

    Would there be any gatekeeping in the new shop? Like, would you allow it to be flooded with fonts from people who churn out low-effort fonts on a daily basis? Quality standards? A discovery platform is only attractive to a customer if they get to experience high-quality fonts without digging through piles of junk.
    But then, I remember MyFonts being horribly swamped in work to catch up with submissions. Who would do all that work?

    I agree with this attitude, leaning toward a significant fee per typeface. Right off the bat (probably wrong): $25 per font family for the review process and an additional $50 if it's approved (combined it's still lower than the main Type Directors Club contest fee i.e.). That could fund the review process, and make foundries submit only the best of their catalog which expects to make sales.

    There is always something that interests me. After the designer dies, what happens to the fonts he authored and the profits he gets from them. Can something be done about it?

    Hi @Tural Alisoy you might want to check THIS THREAD.
    Hi, @Igor Petrovic  Thanks
  • Ramiro Espinoza
    Ramiro Espinoza Posts: 839
    edited June 2023
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    I think it is a mistake to seek to solve problems caused by economic concentration and abuse of dominance only with technology. In my view, we first need an international organization that can highlight the production of independent foundries, that defines their identity, that sets good quality standards, that promotes direct contact with type designers, and that could also eventually denounce the actors in our industry that impose disadvantageous conditions.
    Of course we need technological initiatives but I think they should be subordinated to a political structure that we must build first.

  • Igor Petrovic
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    in tandem
    +1
  • Matthew Smith
    Matthew Smith Posts: 85
    edited June 2023
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    Let’s just bring back web rings lol
  • Jess Latham
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    Let’s just bring back web rings lol
    Yes! That's what I've been saying the past few years and I'm kind of being serious. I had a webring waaay back in the day called Blue Vinyl's Ring of Meloncholy (so goth) for my aol homepage, lol.

    Bring back RSS Feeds also.

    When I ran fontlover.com (1998-2008) I tried to make a news portal controlled by foundries. Hoping that foundries would sign up to join me and post their news freely. I invited any foundry that wanted to be an editor to have an account and post. It was free advertising and the website was quite popular but I could only get a small pool of foundries interested in posting. I even gave anyone who posted a rotating banner ad. Twitter came along and...
  • James Puckett
    James Puckett Posts: 1,978
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    Let’s just bring back web rings lol
    There has to be a way to make web rings of tiny and web colorful sites attract the TikTok generation.
  • Igor Petrovic
    Igor Petrovic Posts: 264
    edited June 2023
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    Here is the possible roadmap:

    1. Opening a crowdfunding page. The one who manages the campaign, money, and later steps gets rewarded for that effort (with the part of collected money or the shares in the future organization. Amount to be discussed).

    2. Type designers are called to fund $10 (amount to be discussed). By that, they become members of the new association and get membership numbers by the order of funding. As an award for supporting this incentive, those who fund will get special shares of the future organization, but which are activated only if they buy paid shares from Step 5).

    3. The association representative from Step 1 opens a call for one legal and one business person with experience in type business (but who are not currently and directly connected with the big players). The association commissions a feasibility study to work out the financial and legal aspects of the new platform. The study is funded with the collected money.

    4. Members of the association participate in developing a model, via Discord channel.

    5. The essential aspect of the study is defining the amount of total money needed for developing the platform, and the optimal number of shares—taking into account initial shares given to the members from Step 2, and estimated numbers of shares left for new members.

    Shares would be non-transferable (in general; maybe they could be sold to the other member, but with a limit on the possible number of shares one member could have).

    Once the share price is defined by the study, the members are called to buy shares via the same crowdfunding process.

    6. With the collected money association representative hires developers to build the platform.

    7. Once it's done representative hires platform marketing and maintenance staff. Costs are defined by the feasibility study. The representative should get reasonable but attractive financial compensation for her/his new position.

    8. The platform would be funded by the percentage of sales.

    9. Once the classic model of font selling is solidified, the platform could start to talk with the people from the "tech stream" mentioned in this thread about implementing new advanced tools and technologies (blockchain) as an addition to the classic model.
  • Dave Crossland
    Dave Crossland Posts: 1,395
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    Igor, would I be excluded from any step except 3?
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,017
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    Thanks for mapping out a possible roadmap, Igor. One of the things to consider is the level of membership of an organisation, which in turn determines whom the organisation can claim to represent, and may affect whom it actually represents. [This is one of the issues that I always felt made ATypI’s sometime claim to be a ‘professional association’ untenable: what was the profession it represented?]

    Your item #2 identifies membership at the individual type designer level. What about foundries? In terms of much of the concerns driving current discussions re. distributor practices, these affect foundries that may in some cases be an individual type designer selling his or her work, but may also be partnerships, collectives, incorporated share-based entities, selling things they produce themselves but also perhaps work by external designers under royalty arrangements, etc.

    The type business is complex, and I think we should be looking at structures that enable all people of goodwill to contribute to making the things we need—where ‘goodwill’ implies caring about the collective health of our industry and, I would say, ensuring that important rights remain with, and rewards flow to, the people who design the typefaces and make the fonts. So how does one structure an organisation—accepting the premise, for the sake of discussion, that an organisation is what is wanted or needed—in a way that enables that kind of collaboration between individual and super-individual entitites?
  • Rafael Jordan
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    In my humble opinion, I think the better formula for all people (all workers of any distributor, and any independent foundry) to be represented is a trade union (labor union? I'm not sure about the good translation of "sindicato"), and not a new platform.  

    A trade union could deal with the big platforms to negotiate better conditions. Ok, it needs a lot of lawyers of the globe that get to the bottom of the big platforms contracts & have a deep knowledge of copyright laws and work laws.

    And the last point, a trade union helps support small businesses as independent foundries, maybe as legal support (I'm thinking about how to write EULAs or legal documents) or as prevention of occupational hazards, etc.

    And yes, don't care if you are the owner of an independent foundry, you are a worker too. Typographic world has a long tradition of trade unions.

    Remember, this is only my opinion. And could be wrong.

  • Thomas Phinney
    Thomas Phinney Posts: 2,778
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    Seems like one could both have a trade union for workers (at all levels) and a collective of foundries.
  • Ramiro Espinoza
    Ramiro Espinoza Posts: 839
    edited June 2023
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    A trend that I observe with concern in this forum is that of addressing issues related to labor and legal relations, antitrust laws, and copyrights, exclusively from the perspective of US law.
    An association like the one I am proposing I think should be based on progressive, global and democratic standards and have the clear aim of defending the independent foundries collective against monopolistic abuses by companies that do not care about the prestige of our activity or the conditions in which we develop it.
    I also believe that individuals who are on the staff of such monopolistic companies should be excluded, because 1) they do not represent an independent foundry 2) they work for corporations whose interests and objectives are in contradiction to those of the independent foundries.
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,017
    edited June 2023
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    @Rafael Jordan
    In my humble opinion, I think the better formula for all people (all workers of any distributor, and any independent foundry) to be represented is a trade union (labor union? I'm not sure about the good translation of "sindicato"), and not a new platform.  
    Labour unions* specifically represent workers in some form of wage employment relationship. Independent foundries, as such, cannot form or join a labour union; indeed, in many cases, the independent foundry is the employer. A syndicate at the foundry level is liable to be viewed in law as a cartel, and either prohibited or severely restricted in what it is able to do. In order for independent foundries to collectively organise in a way that would enable them to do things like collectively negotiate with a distributor, they would have to cease to be independent and actually merge into a corporative arrangement of some kind à la ATF in the 1890s.

    The individuals who design and make fonts could certainly join or form a labour union, but the role of that union would be at the employer-employee relationship level, i.e. where the individual works, not in the relationship between that employer (the foundry) and other business entitities such as a distributor.

    An individual type designer who makes fonts and licenses them for sale through e.g. MyFonts or Fontspring is not an employee of either of those companies, and I doubt if a labour union would be of any help in negotiating with such distributors. The individual in this instance is an independent small business, making and selling things under distribution licenses or terms of service with another business.

    * I use the term labour union to avoid having to get into the distinction between trade and industrial unions, but that is an important difference for anyone actually thinking of joining or forming a union.
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,017
    edited June 2023
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    @Ramiro Espinoza
    I also believe that individuals who are on the staff of such monopolistic companies should be excluded...
    How do you define ‘monopolistic companies’? How do you survive a legal challenge against exclusion from an individual or company that claims it is not a monopoly?

    [Note, also, that if we consider a major distributor’s treatment of foundries to be of concern, then the concern is monopsony not monopoly (they may be monopolistic too, e.g. in aggressive accumulation of other companies and their IP, but a distributor dictating pricing and terms 
    to foundries by e.g. unilaterally changing royalty rates and demanding fonts be made available across all its platforms, is monopsonic).]

    It is clear from comments earlier in this thread that at least some people consider any large company to be a problem, regardless of their varying business models or activities. Nick Shinn, for instance, proposed
    that anyone who has designed and published four typefaces be eligible for membership, except present employees or contractors of Monotype, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Adobe.
    Nick apparently doesn’t like any company that bundles or otherwise distributes fonts with hardware or software or as a service, regardless of whether that company pays appropriate license fees and respects the rights of foundries, type designers and font makers.

    [Disclosure: Nick’s criteria would exclude me, as I have made fonts for four of those five companies, and currently have active contracts with two of those companies.]




  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,152
    edited June 2023
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    @John Hudson
    Nick apparently doesn’t like any company that bundles or otherwise distributes fonts with hardware or software or as a service, regardless of whether that company pays appropriate license fees and respects the rights of foundries, type designers and font makers.

    It’s not about likes or dislikes, regardless of whatever.
    I like those companies—especially Apple and Myfonts—they made my career possible.
    That’s not to say that I support monopsony and chokepoint capitalism.

    I made a proposal to get this thread started, and identified companies that are not owned by type designers (John, you have also mentioned ownership by type designers as a key consideration in this matter).

    Conflict of interest is why the criteria I proposed would exclude you, should you continue to accept work from the monopsonists.
    If a person is receiving salary or contract income from a company, they have a vested interest in that company. (If companies are selling licences for my fonts, with income driven by the market, that’s different, they are working for me.)
    How could one take issue with the monopsonists, when one’s contract income is at their discretion, without being in a conflict of interest?
  • JoyceKetterer
    JoyceKetterer Posts: 793
    edited June 2023
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    I think the first step is to talk to a labor lawyer.  I agree that something like a union is the best idea but also agree that foundries can't join. Anything else is doomed to fail, by being ineffectual in the same way as AtypI without the long history to make it useful in some way.  There may be a creative solution and a lawyer is the one to ask.  Possibly a European lawyer, maybe France?  I'm sure there are countries with trade associations that do collective bargaining and maybe it's possible to form one even though the members wouldn't all be in that country.  I don't know.  But anything else is just a dead end.    

    That's the first hurdle to clear but the hurdles keep getting higher after that.  
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,017
    edited June 2023
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    @Nick Shinn
    Conflict of interest is why the criteria I proposed would exclude you, should you continue to accept work from the monopsonists.
    What monopsonists? Of the companies you identified, only one is dictating terms and unilaterally changing what it pays to foundries by rearranging its licensing model, and that is the one for which I don’t do work and with which I don’t have a contract. [You, however, do have a contract with them, so where does the conflict of interest lie?]

    But thank you for further illustrating the problem of defining what constitutes monopolistic or monopsonic companies for the purpose of exclusion, which is the point that I was making to Ramiro. You persist in grouping together a bunch of different companies with very different business models and behaviours.
  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,152
    edited June 2023
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    @John Hudson
    …grouping together a bunch of different companies with very different business models and behaviours.
    They are very large companies, not owned by type designers, which distribute fonts and dominate our industry. That is their commonality. Their economic interests are not the same as ours. That is the crux of the issue.
    where does the conflict of interest lie?
    True, I do have contracts with Adobe and Monotype.
    Nonetheless, I feel that there is a significant difference between royalties and work for fee, and that in accepting commissioned work from the monopsonists, we are undermining our economic position—supporting their broad goals in software development, rather than ours, focused on type design.  
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,017
    edited June 2023
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    Again, your characterisation of all these companies as ‘monopsonist’ is what I take issue with, and where the whole notion of excluding people on the basis of their employment or business relations with companies defined as monopolies or monopsonies, as suggested by Ramiro, runs into problems: defined by whom?

    Nonetheless, I feel that there is a significant difference between royalties and work for fee, and that in accepting commissioned work from the monopsonists, we are undermining our economic position

    And I would suggest that precisely the opposite is the case: that willingly entering into distribution contracts with a company that is now in a position to dictate terms to foundries (e.g. ‘you must make all your fonts available through all our platforms’) and/or unilaterally change royalty rates by reclassifying license types and tiers (e.g. ‘we have invented a new special class of fonts within our subscription model and what you will get paid for them is different from what you will get paid for other font activations’), is acquiescing to and rewarding what may reasonably be viewed as monopsonic behaviour.
  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,152
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    Well then, rather than use their contract, we should take the lead, and have our own contract.
    Here is what the RGD provides for its members.
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,017
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    Agreed that model contracts and legal critique of contract terms and plain language explication of what they mean for foundries and designers are needed things. These are among the initiatives discussed in sessions at ATypI Paris.
  • Ramiro Espinoza
    Ramiro Espinoza Posts: 839
    edited June 2023
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    I really don't see what the problem is in starting a group that represents foundries and individuals who consider themselves harmed by the policies of some companies in our industry.
    Aphabettes is a good example of a closed group that effectively denounces injustice and abuse, exercises activism, and AFAIK it only accepts women / gender dissidents who recognize themselves as feminists. Despite this, the companies in our sector seem to have acknowledge the group and apparently try to adapt to their claims.
  • James Montalbano
    James Montalbano Posts: 87
    edited June 2023
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    As I see it, ATypI was founded as an organization supporting the major type producing companies and left the independent type designer out in the cold (at least according to Adrian Frutiger). The Type Directors Club (TDC) was formed to allow Type Directors to meet and discuss where they were getting their kickbacks from the (Mostly NYC) typesetting companies. The TDC tried to pivot to serve the independent type design universe, but was never able to really have an impact, and now is a meaningless extension of the One Club.

    Where does this proposed organization fit in this history?
  • Igor Petrovic
    Igor Petrovic Posts: 264
    edited June 2023
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    Where does this proposed organization fit in this history?

    My opinion is that independent type community failed to give the proper answer to the globalization of the market which came with the internet (widely spread fast internet; around 2006 that enabled doing business on a large scale online, freelancing platforms, social networks, YouTube, etc.)

    Font stores gained tremendous power during this era because of how internet marketing and social networks work. Established indie foundries were focused on their sales, not on bigger-picture trends (which is not smart but is natural and understandable).

    On the other thread, you mentioned your proposition in 1998 which get no support from then-established designers. That was the moment to prevent the problems but they—unfortunately—weren't aware of the "dialectical swings", as anyone in power rarely is.

    But corporations that choke type industry for the last 15 years are now at the end of their "thesis" and they are not aware of the "anti-thesis" they are triggering with their recent insolent actions. That's how power influences people (which is not smart but is natural and understandable) :)

    To try to answer, as I can see ATypI and TDC were made for different eras, and I guess they played their role then. But for the last 15 years, we have had no proper answer, we waited until the point wherr things became pretty ugly which only postponed the new solution (that is inevitable). In other words:

    “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come”.

    As I see it, that new solution will emerge whether we talk here about it or not. Talking about it is just a trial that we take part in that new solution :)
  • Dave Crossland
    Dave Crossland Posts: 1,395
    edited August 2023
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    Igor Petrovic said: “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come”.

    2 months later, I wonder, if any progress has been made :) This year's closing session of TypeCon announced a new SoTA led type recognition competition, that seemed to me from what I heard in the session to be similar to the one TDC has run for many years. But nothing seemed related to the topics discussed in this thread.
  • Igor Petrovic
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    My impression is that still nothing concrete happened, but that many people talk and think about it in smaller groups, gradually shaping the possible solutions. This summer I met some type designers in person and got the impression that all of them are pretty updated about the situation, and they talk with others.

    Forming groups of 5-10 seems like a good strategy at this stage. For example, 5-10 related foundries might find it useful to establish their joint channel of marketing or common interest depending on their position in the industry. Other members proposed that strategy earlier in this thread, and seems that they were right.

    At last but not least, I find this announcement from Font Bros ( @Stuart Sandler ) immensely important at this point. And I believe it's made in the context of this ongoing discourse.
  • Dave Crossland
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    @Dave Crossland:
    While Nick frames GF as a monopoly, I can't grasp it:
    I suggest you hire a web site developer in anytown, and ask them to design a web site for a small business or hobby. They will likely use WordPress and Google/Adobe fonts.

    That is the effect that the corporate concentration of Big Tech has on the marketplace.
    It has shut out the community at large of type designers from earning money from font licence sales to the vast majority of 800 million web sites that use WordPress. By paying a few a small fee.

    And who decides what those GF fonts will be, designed by whom?
    Isn’t it you?

    That’s the exclusive control that “monopoly” means (although I use the term incorrectly, rather than oligopoly, which is a bit of a mouthful).

    The phenomenon is explained in Chokepoint Capitalism.
    The bold emphasis above is mine, proving my point, I think :)

    But even if not proven, the problem I see with this framing is that $0-free type options have always been widely available in every type technology I'm aware of; typesetting machinery has always been bundled with type, the cost of which is built into the cost of the machine, and then other typefaces were up sold extras. 

    Typekit launched with (and adobe fonts continues to have) a $0 tier. If it wasn't them, there has since they launched been Font Squirrel as the $0 tier for FontSpring. If it wasn't them, it would have been someone. Possibly even Monotype, since their edge is scale, so they can afford (and can profit from) a loss-leader strategy.

    The first 15 years of the web went without widespread adoption of web fonts nor much clamor for it from type designers, and there remain many articles by latency sensitive web developers today still advocating to avoid web fonts altogether and stick with the $0 "system fonts" of that era that have 0ms latency. 

    I do believe most font license sellers make a good portion of their annual revenue from the near ubiquitous use of web fonts, and I believe that ubiquitousness was never a foregone conclusion; lots of web technologies fail to stick, and given the first 15 years, where the "web site developer in anytown" seemed entirely satisfied with the lack of typographic choices. I think anyone on this forum would be seriously self-aggrandized to be completely sure that web font ubiquity was indeed foregone conclusion.