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

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  • James Montalbano
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    I'd be a fool to make another font that nobody even sees.
    I've come to the same conclusion.

  • Chris Lozos
    Chris Lozos Posts: 1,458
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    Over the past dozen years, I have designed numerous fonts that nobody sees ;-P

  • Christian Thalmann
    Christian Thalmann Posts: 1,964
    edited August 2023
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    (My latest font hasn't been out long but has been seen by a million people last week alone. Say what you will about Google Fonts, but if it's users you're looking for, it delivers...)
  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,152
    edited August 2023
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     if it's users you're looking for

    One hears a lot these days about diversity.
    If there’s one thing I’ve come to realize over the years, it’s that diversity of content (not to mention quantity) is not enough, there has to be diversity amongst those calling the shots. That’s the problem with monopsonistic mega-corporations such as Google with its free-washing font hegemony.

  • Matthijs Herzberg
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    Nick Shinn said:

    For instance, my Bellefair, which you were kind enough to commission, is presently used on a mere 24,000 web sites. If 0.01% of those users paid a typical basic annual web licence fee, that would still be more than the design fee I received. Is that fair?

    Not necessarily in defense of Google Fonts, but your fee was less than 2.4 web licenses?
  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,152
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    Oops, that should be 1%.
    Thanks for catching that.
  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,152
    edited August 2023
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    I’m puzzled as to why anyone would “Disagree” with my August 28 post, which is entirely factual.
    diversity of content (not to mention quantity) is not enough, there has to be diversity amongst those calling the shots.
    What this means is that while it’s good to show diversity (in this case, of many different type designers), it’s important that true diversity occurs amongst those who choose which type designers’ work is to be shown. In other words, with regards to Google, there are many thousands of active type designers, yet Dave Crossland (or he and a small group) at Google chooses which designers to commission, and what kinds of typeface they want from them. This is the “chokepoint” effect that occurs with monopsony, in which a very few people control what is marketed to the masses.
    free-washing font hegemony.
    I coined “freewashing”, along the lines of “greenwashing”.
    Greenwashing occurs when a company that is abusing the environment promotes itself as a friend of the environment, via some relatively insignificant act.
    Hence freewashing describes a for-profit business which provides products or services that are “free”, that make it look good. Google (
    market cap of almost $2 Trillion) does that, with its search engine that is apparently “free” to users, and Bard, also its fonts.   

    “Hegemony” means domination.
    Google fonts are used on 50 million live websites 
    There are currently 
    200 million active web sites; I would expect that a significant proportion use system fonts, but how many, I don’t know. Nonetheless, I would still say that “hegemony” is the correct word, in the monopsonistic sense, as Google is one of the small coterie of corporations that provide most web sites with fonts.
  • John Butler
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    To use Google Web fonts, one must generally care about Web fonts both above a certain minimum and yet below a certain maximum. Some sites care more than can be satisfied with Google's current offerings, hence they pay for commercial or custom fonts. I enjoy reading The New Criterion’s website in its traditional Galliard and the London Review of Books in its Quadraat and the WSJ in its Exchange.

    Like other large companies, I lament Google's left hand while appreciating its right hand.
  • Thomas Phinney
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    If there’s one thing I’ve come to realize over the years, it’s that diversity of content (not to mention quantity) is not enough, there has to be diversity amongst those calling the shots. That’s the problem with monopsonistic mega-corporations such as Google with its free-washing font hegemony.

    (and later:)

    I’m puzzled as to why anyone would “Disagree” with my August 28 post, which is entirely factual.


    You have to be kidding me.

    This is chock full of opinions. One could agree OR disagree, but these are opinions somebody COULD disagree with!
  • Dave Crossland
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    lol Thomas 

    To prove it wasn't me, I added an Insightful reaction, and the Disagree count remains at 1.

    I regret my delay in responding. I'll try this weekend 
  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,152
    edited September 2023
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    Thomas, I’ll wait to hear from Dave about who at Google chooses what fonts to publish, before further explanation.
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,017
    edited September 2023
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    I think I was the person who introduced the term monopsony, so perhaps I can request that we try to use the term reasonably precisely in its meaning? Monopsony is a condition where there is only one buyer in a market and, hence, that buyer dictates price.

    That definition does permit us to identify business practices as monopsonistic, i.e. tending towards monopsony, whether with intent or by accident of circumstance, in the same way as we can identify business practices as monopolistic without the condition of monopoly being reached. I feel Nick is using the term as a stick with which to beat Google and other large corporations active in the type business, and perhaps for that purpose he doesn’t much care whether he has hold of the wrong end of that stick, but I think we may fairly consider whether Google Fonts’ activities are monopsonistic.

    Firstly, consider that Google Fonts will only commission or otherwise pay for fonts to be released under a particular libre license, which cannot be considered monopsonistic in that other entities are commissioning or paying for fonts that are published, or not published in the case of proprietary fonts, under a multitude of other license types. [I think Dave ideologically believes that all fonts should be libre, but that’s a different discussion.] One might, perhaps, say that Google Fonts is monopsonistic within the area of libre font publishing, and certainly I expect they spend more money paying for libre fonts than any other single entity, and quite possibly more than most other entities combined. But is this intentionally monopsonistic? It seems to me that Google Fonts has shown no interest in being the only buyer in the libre fonts market; rather, they actively benefit from other entities creating libre fonts that Google Fonts can then include in its library. What they have done with all their spending is to create a new market within the type business. Do they decide where and how to spend their money? Yes. But so does every other commercial enterprise. Does the proliferation of libre fonts and the ease and ubiquity of GF font serving have an impact on the commercial font licensing market? Yes. Free is a difficult price against which to compete (if you want to sell font licenses within a market that includes libre fonts you need to compete on grounds other than price). Does any of that constitute monopsony? No.

    [Full disclosure: I’ve taken money from Google Fonts to publish fonts under OFL, and would do so again. The price was in no way dictated by GF: I told them what I wanted and what they would get for the price.]
  • John Butler
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    Heh, single-payer fontcare.
  • Dave Crossland
    Dave Crossland Posts: 1,395
    edited September 2023
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    Thanks John. When you're dead, I'll say, you were a worthy opponent and a good friend. Haha!

    What I personally ideologically believe.... isn't very important.  I also don't believe in geographical price discrimination but I took a paycut to go remote. Please let's distinguish between me and my employer - an organization which I don't speak for, and can't explain ;)
  • Paul Hanslow
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    I took a paycut to go remote
    This is infuriating and I'm aware of other type foundries which alter an employee's salary depending on the country they relocate to. If I moved to Switzerland would they increase my salary? No. 

    Back to the usual discussion on the international association...
  • Dave Crossland
    Dave Crossland Posts: 1,395
    edited September 2023
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    Agreed 100% Christopher (well 99%, modulo libre fonts, not open source fonts :) )

    There are many ironies about my 15 year (and counting) adventure to free fonts 🤣
  • k.l.
    k.l. Posts: 109
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    Personally, I would like to hear people refer to “open source fonts” more often than “Google Fonts”. To be clear, there are plenty of topics and ideas in which Google Fonts is relevant (its influence on the industry and the market, the development they pay for, etc.). What bugs me is hearing people say they are using “Google Fonts” when they really just mean they have selected an open source typeface that happens to be distributed by Google. (And yes, I know some people really do use GF.)

    Why do I care? Because if one finds a typeface they like in the Google Fonts directory, they absolutely don’t need to deal with Google at all. Using the term “Google Fonts” generically obscures what open source licensing and distribution really is. I’ve found plenty of end users who don’t really understand this.
    Not sure I understand. So people find fonts ‘in the Google Fonts directory’, being ‘distributed by Google’. Yet you expect that people make a finer distinction, ‘open source fonts’ vs ‘Google Fonts’, than this kind of distribution itself suggests?
  • Dave Crossland
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    Is IBM Plex Sans "a Google Font", Karsten?
  • k.l.
    k.l. Posts: 109
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    The number of fonts that have a qualifier as explicit as ‘IBM’ in their name is rather small, isn’t it?

    What I pointed out is, if you serve something under a brand, then users will associate that something with that brand. This is expected behavior. If this is considered a fault, then this is hardly users’ fault. In more actionable terms, if it helps, make it more explicit what’s a Google Font and what’s not ...
  • Christopher Slye
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    Karsten, you misunderstand my point. I'm only lamenting the way things are, and wishing for something better. I don't expect people to make a finer distinction, given the circumstances. Maybe we can find ways to eventually change that, though. 
  • Dave Crossland
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    What kind of changes might you have in mind, then?
  • Igor Petrovic
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    As I see it, we are referring here to Google Fonts as an entity mainly because of its impact on the market and the position of independent type designers as a consequence. That's so because of its privileged (almost monopolistic) position in terms of control and distribution of internet content.

    Other distributors of free and open-source fonts simply can't compare to them in that sense. So I guess, we are using the term "Google Fonts" here because we actually refer to GF, not so about the open-source fonts in general.

    While I appreciate the fact that Dave Crossland is here in the first place — compared to
    gray eminences from Monotype who don't even consider talking to us even though they are aware of this thread — my stance is that that the whole GF thing is conceived to benefit users (Google itself in turn) and not the long-term mutual interest with the type design community. In that sense, I see Dave's idealism as his own narrative, while the fact is that type designers get short-term compensation for the long-term benefit of Google and its users. That's a 100% capitalistic approach hidden behind the open-source and web-font paradigms.

    To sublime the previous paragraph, Google has unimaginable benefits from Google Fonts, it's not about any sort of idealism or mission. 

    If you can't commission all the fonts that meet certain standards, and if you have ultra-centralized decision-making (as Nick points out) then you are not an alternative. You make many more problems than solutions for one of the parties (type designers) in the long term. And you are perfectly aware of that but just don't care because two of three parties benefit (Google and users).

    That said, in this discussion, I still see Google as closer to us somehow than any other problematic corporation in the subject (maybe I am wrong, and I regularly revise my point of view based on the information I get in the meantime). If the solution would be to negotiate a better partnership, model, or project (instead of making a completely new solution) I would pick Google much rather than Monotype.

    Also, we can learn a lot from GF. Zero price is not the only thing in their super-convenient model for the users. It's the whole UX that could be a real game changer.
  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,152
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    @John Hudson:
    I feel Nick is using the term as a stick with which to beat Google and other large corporations active in the type business, and perhaps for that purpose he doesn’t much care whether he has hold of the wrong end of that stick…
    Criticizing behemoths isn’t my only motivation, and not the first.
    I’m on a perpetual journey of intellectual discovery, so thank you for “monopsony”, which I have tried to align with Cory Doctorow’s brilliant economic analysis of Chokepoint Capitalism.

    Rather than the wrong end of the stick, I would suggest that my inaccurate use of monopsony was clutching at a straw, and that the correct stick is oligopsony. Of course, there are many buyers of font licences, but when one considers font users to include those who pay nothing for the privilege, and the ratio in the “market” that Google Fonts has, according to some, “created” for web fonts, of 10,000 (or similar lopsided quantity) to 1, for free to paid, then indeed there are, according to the definition of oligopsony, “very few buyers”. 
  • Christian Thalmann
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    You make many more problems than solutions for one of the parties (type designers) in the long term. And you are perfectly aware of that but just don't care because two of three parties benefit (Google and users).

    Given that almost all of humanity belongs to the category «Google and users» as opposed to «type designers», this feels to me like the right way to steer the trolley, as it were.