Google Fonts: Your Questions, Answered



  • Ramiro, when you wrote,
    another very different is to take existing digital data, tweaking the serifs and/or stems and rename the font claiming is a new 'design'.
    I understood you to mean that similar designs are clones with a few tweaks.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,641
    edited December 2013
    Dave, to repeat what I said earlier:
    A typeface has a grammar and vocabulary of themes, expressed in details, curves and proportions.
    These have to operate as a systemic whole, or else it’s not a typeface, at best a restyling of a previous typeface, at worst a dog’s breakfast.
    The whole has to be based on an original concept, a coherent idea about how detail and proportion combine throughout the glyph set, and that idea has to be significantly dependent on skilled, deft execution.
    Because the authenticity of a typeface is dependent on this fusion of skill and concept, it means that while a crudely drawn original concept is certainly a bona fide typeface—and here’s the bugbear—so may be a skillfully drawn design that follows a generic concept.

    And, because not everyone views typefaces with the same degree of taste, experience and perspicacity, or gives the same weighting to skill vs. concept in assessing originality, there are a lot of grey areas that people will disagree over, a can of worms.

    Accordingly, I would say that it’s better to set your moral compass towards an ideal, rather than merely do better than what may be acceptable in some quarters.

    This has nothing to do with giving the market what buyers want, MVPs or licensing and technology issues.

    Express yourself with honesty, because that way is a process of continuing growth, whereas style is a crystalization.

  • Deleted AccountDeleted Account Posts: 739
    edited December 2013
    When I point at the duplicates made by - say - Matthew Carter
    Where? (...exactly, and font to font comparison please). Having this over-chewed gristle of lie posted once per thread is one thing, but twice is evidence of brain damage.

    Don't you think?

    It would be like saying, "If Mandela was such a greeaaat man, how come the long prison record?!"
  • Deleted AccountDeleted Account Posts: 739
    edited December 2013
    Maybe, after 7 pages of comments and beating the horse to death, we are coming closer to an understatement?
    Understanding, yes. Understatement, possibly. But I really appreciate your efforts. :)
    We are doing different things, so we can also agree that Libre fonts will not kill proprietary ones.
    Yes, we do different thing. But, if Libre fonts should kill All Proprietary fonts, I should not have supported Truetype 1.0 ;)
  • Thanks David.
    And yes, understanding was the word I was looking for.
    And don't worry, the killing thing will never happen.
  • Jay LanglyJay Langly Posts: 33
    edited December 2013
    ScottMartin Kosofsky:

    But let me get closer to what I believe is the heart of the matter: I have reason to believe that the outlines of some glyphs and ranges of glyphs that appear on Google Fonts might not have originated with their credited authors, but rather in commercial fonts.
    I'm very curious to know which you are referring to?
  • John, that's a very interesting thought about determining fair payment by analyzing the value derived from the fonts. If it can be done and the market can support it, I think I'd be all for it. But I doubt its feasibility. There are too many possibilities/variables, and the numbers end up being outrageous in any case.

    Here are a couple of examples: I've done fonts for a major film studio, which ended up in a blockbuster that by most accounts made over a billion dollars in box office alone (not counting merchandise, rental/purchase and spinoff stuff). I guess that's a lot of value. What I charged for those fonts was certainly proportionate to the work I performed on them, and something I consider more than adequate. But in light of the later success of the films, what I charged seems paltry in terms of proportion to value derived. I've also done a font for a major eReading device manufacturer. The device ended up on every market share chart seen out there, so we're talking a few billions of dollars in revenues. What I charged those guys was again proportionate to the work I performed, and more than a decent chunk of change by my count, but very negligible compared to value derived.

    Let's consider that in these cases I already knew what the revenue was ultimately going to be for the film, and say I wanted to construct my price based on that revenue. What kind of percentage should I consider fairly mine? One way we could do this is by factoring in the number of people who worked on the film project, which I know for a fact was around 480, but let's say 500. So, 1/500th (0.002%) of the revenue? My quote would have been two million dollars per font in the case of the film, and around five million dollars per font in the case of the devices. Even if I decided to slash my estimate by half and go to 1/1000th (0.001%) of derived value, just to be price-competitive in a cutthroat industry, I'd be quoting $1M/font for the films, and $2.5M for the devices.

    I don't know about you, but I think those are ridiculously high numbers. My clients would have to be carelessly ignorant to go for it in either case. The person on the receiving end of such quotes would just tell me to go fart in warm water, even if I'd been their only font developer forever. Some people may feel differently, and I love what I do, but I'd also be a total douche to even consider the kind of work I do is worth that much.

    But let's try to do this kind of estimation for the Google fonts thing and see if we can get a derived-value-proportionate number they should pay per font. Let's consider the 1/1000 ratio as an OK one for fairness, just to see where the numbers take us.

    What's the value of a Google font? We can only guess, but let's take a shot at it. A Google font is used for big data, which is a bunch of robots collecting and analyzing information. Google monetizes their big data through their many advertising programs and custom analysis sales. Let's ignore the ad programs for now, and say the targeted analysis records are selling in bulk for $10 a pop (I heard it was between $15 and $20, but let's say $10). Given that this is Google, and the font is free, let's say one million people use the font on their web sites, and those sites average 10 records per site for big data. So, the font contributes to a minimum revenue of $10M, but with a potential of billions in the cases of very popular fonts or very popular web sites bringing thousands/millions of records to big data. This is again without considering the value the font adds to Google's ad programs, which is their core business. Let's say that the ad programs value is twice that of the target records. So now we're looking at a minimum of $30M and a maximum of billions. At 0.001% of that, the absolute minimum cost would be $30K per font — even with the numbers used for these calculations being on the extreme low side. Is $30K per Google font a fair amount? To some, maybe — to me, too much for the basic stuff they ask for. I don't think any company, even one as obscenely wealthy as Google, would pay that in a global market where they can get it for much, much cheaper — unless you're buddies with Eric Schmidt or something like that.
  • Simple economics—supply and demand equals pricing.

    Charge too little and the customer thinks your selling him something cheap and passes on the offer.

    Charge too much and the customer runs away in terror.

    But, charge just the right amount for something and the customer feels like he's getting a good deal. Isn't that the way we all purchase things?

    I think the right pricing for Google fonts will be determined, in the end, by what the market will bear. A "big name" font designer will charge more, and the "little guy" will charge less, or perhaps will try to just give it away in order to get some notoriety out of the deal.

    The real problem here is NOT determining pricing—that will eventually sort itself out in the end.

    The real problem is that the "Big Gorilla" in the room controls the way the game is being played (PERIOD).

    And, I do not need to mention names here... we all know who the "Big Gorilla(s)" in the room are. There are a few big players who make all the rules and control the game.

    The only way we could ever hope to compete with the "Big Boys", is to organize all of the small independent type foundries, under a new conglomerate type entity, pool all of our resources and talents together. Then and only then will we have a say in the direction of things.

    But, we all know how challenging that would be to achieve. We are all fragmented and splintered into small entities—like individual "blades of grass" we are trying desperately to survive the storm and not be blown away. Maybe we should think smarter.

    —Your thoughts?
  • Alex, it's very poetic, but about 100 new type designers graduate each year, having just spent the last 12-18 months studying full time how to design type. How to enlist them all in your club? :)
  • Hey, I didn't say it would be easy.

    We have organizations like TDC. Why not form a union?

    Everybody pays to join and gets a vote (or say) in the direction of union matters.

    It works in other industries, why not ours?

    —Your thoughts?
    Extensis have just published a report on Font Licensing; "The Hidden Risks of Font Misuse"
    Some interesting figures, i suggest all go and read it.

    Can't find the figures for "Zero % misuse of our webfonts". Guess that's in the next report.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,066
    John, you say that students often makes type that is "too derivative," continuing to use the term 'derivative' in a way that refers to anything that even remotely references some other work.
    No, in that instance I'm using derivative in its common usage, which carries a negative connotation of unoriginality. A lot of what students produce is strongly influenced by things they like and which they have studied. And that's fine, so far as it goes, in the context of learning skills and developing understanding of what makes something work. But this is why most student work should be set aside on graduation.
    As Raph explained, those involved in deciding what GF has published have made prudential judgements about the nature of each design published, and I'm okay with disagreements about them.
    Sure, I'm just suggesting why there might be a lot of disagreement about some of those judgements. Alas, the nature of the Google Fonts service is that there's a strong pressure against reviewing and potentially reversing those judgements, since once a given webfont is being used it will break site display if the font is removed from the collection. This is, by the way, the reason Book Antiqua continues to ship with Microsoft products, even though the legit Palatino Linotype is also available: too many user documents employ the old clone. Note that I'm not saying that any particular GF font is a 'clone' à la Book Antiqua, only describing the similar pressure against removing contentious fonts once they are in a system like Google Fonts or MS Office. This is different from the situation of, say, MyFonts, in which designs that are reported as being too similar to others can be reported and may be withdrawn. This suggests to me that the bar should be set higher for services such as Google Fonts, as it should be for fonts bundled with operating systems or major apps.

    Some font vendors make use of external advisory panels when selecting designs to include in their libraries. FontShop International do this, and apart from helping them identify likely good sellers, these advisors can also help them avoid potential controversy by flagging designs that might be derivative in either the technical/legal or common/negative connotations. Maybe Google Fonts should consider something like this? And I'm talking about making use of someone like Stephen Coles who really has an eye on contemporary type design.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,641
    Alex: Type design is presently too entrepreneurial an activity to organize itself.

    For independent foundries the ethos is that if you don’t succeed it’s because you’re not good enough or haven’t worked hard enough, not because the deck is stacked against you by the system.
    However, with type design education now formalized, and graduates trained for corporate employment (amongst other things), such type production workers might be more likely to organize.

    Type associations such as ATypI and SoTA do not represent the interests of type designers, being industry-wide bodies that are largely funded by Microsoft, Adobe, Monotype etc.

    The TDC’s mandate is to promote excellence in typography, and draws its membership from many areas, not just type design.

    I don’t know about the old type guilds.

    The Grolier Club was founded in the 1880s to promote the book arts.

    The Art Directors Club in New York was started in 1920 to promote the status of art direction, at first focusing on the use of art in advertisements. Art Directors Clubs generally don’t do much for member issues, but focus on organizing competitions.

    The AIGA, and in Canada the GDC and RGD, do address member issues.
    But their members are only a tiny fraction of all graphic design practitioners.
    Nonetheless, they are influential, especially in the education system.

    I don’t know about similar organizations in Europe and elsewhere.

    This social/economic aspect of graphic design and typography does not tend to be the subject of research.

    I attended a talk by FHK Henrion in the 1980s. He outlined four principles or responsibilities for designers. I was impressed can’t remember what they were exactly, as I didn’t take notes. But something like this:

    1) Responsibility to Educate the Next Generation of Designers
    2) Responsibility to Organize and Advocate for One’s Profession
    3) Responsibility to One’s Client
    4) Responsibility to Society
    5) Responsibility to Make a Healthy Income
    6) Responsibility to do Good Original Work

  • Type design is presently too entrepreneurial an activity to organize itself.

    Right you are, Nick! And that's exactly why we will stay fragmented and splintered.

    And as such, we will have to fend for ourselves. But, and that's a "BIG" but, I really feel that we all have similar interests and we should all try to speak with a single voice. Otherwise, no one will hear or listen.
  • vernon adamsvernon adams Posts: 82
    edited December 2013
    Some font vendors make use of external advisory panels when selecting designs to include in their libraries. FontShop International do this, and apart from helping them identify likely good sellers, these advisors can also help them avoid potential controversy by flagging designs that might be derivative in either the technical/legal or common/negative connotations. Maybe Google Fonts should consider something like this? And I'm talking about making use of someone like Stephen Coles who really has an eye on contemporary type design.
    I like the idea that those vendors do that, and i'm sure other smaller vendors use similar, less formal advice to reach their own filtering, because they don't have the resources that a corp like FSI can gather. It clearly works in those models.

    Returning to the old Eric Raymond 'Cathedral v Bazaar' notion though (as i allways do, because it seems to make sense explaining the new approaches to production and publishing) we have to accept that there are different models for good reason. I'm not sure that such an approach as an 'advisory panel' of a few individuals would work for a 'free culture' or 'Libre' product too well. Just one example; It would be potentially very slow, when dealing with many many hundreds of very diverse fonts. Also it could lead to a less diverse library. Most importantly though, i think, it could lead to a library that would become too much a direct 'competitor' to other webfont servers, instead of the current situation where it is a good complement to the other webfont servers.

    Of course there's nothing to stop individuals, or groups, offering the advice, anyway, if they feel it's that important. The more advice submitted the better.

    Maybe it's worthwhile setting up something via gitHub so that this sort of advice can be submitted, tracked, commented on, and worked on. I'm not talking about a 'forum' like this one (these forums seem wholly counter-productive to me). Much better would be something more like the 'issue tracking' systems that many floss projects use to gather info from users who actually want to see improvements. Of course libre fonts that are already utilising a service like gitHub already have that 'issue' system built in, but a service that is a repository for more 'style and content' matters of the library as a whole would be a great add-on to the library. Of course the major plus of my idea over John Hudson's idea, imho, is that mine would be an 'open' system; enabling anyone (group or individual) to submit advice, and so anyone could see the advice submitted and therefore add to it, improve, troubleshoot it, etc etc etc.

  • > Maybe it's worthwhile setting up something via gitHub

    I've been starting to chat to various people about that.... since your fonts are ALREADY on github I figured I didn't need to chat to you about it :)
  • Yes, but i meant a repository that specifically tracks advice & suggestions for style coverage and the sort of 'judgements of substance' that John Hudson was talking about in his post above ^^^
  • «The amount of gross oversimplification, and the reliance on some very arbitrary data in this thread seems to have reached Sarah Palin level.».

    That was on page 2. I'm in page 9 and still the same...
  • Type industry, as called here, is that, an industry. Based on that what I really care is about employment in the field. This means more people can make a living from type, creating, selling, fixing or improving type design and also teaching how to do it, and also moving industries around it.

    Please, if you are talking about the apocalypse or raise of the type business, stick to real numbers and not to the pictures you see in your crystal ball. That will be a more productive conversation.
  • Please, if you are talking about the apocalypse or raise of the type business, stick to real numbers and not to the pictures you see in your crystal ball. That will be a more productive conversation.
    Perfectly put. There's plenty of scaremongering and face palming, but no actual evidence to show that 'giving some fonts away' is 'the end of the world', that people have been claiming for the last 3-4 years.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,641
    On the other hand, Andres and Vernon, the concern some members of the type establishment have shown about Google Fonts is because type it is not just an industry. Letting the market take care of everything is sending the planet down the toilet, so why would it have a different effect on typography? It’s not just self-interest of those entrenched in (slightly) older technology.
  • Does anyone have a handy map of this 'type establishment'? and maybe a list of the relevant members' concerns?
    We could do some lovely venn diagrams with the info.

  • Andres TorresiAndres Torresi Posts: 23
    edited December 2013
    "type it is not just an industry"
    That means it is an industry, and something more. So, yes, it is. And the definition of the word itself means type is an industry. Call it business if you want, but industry is correct.

    Regarding to the type market... who will control it in the real world? What's the control difference since GWF or Libre fonts? Did it change? What are we talking about?

    Why do I have to care about the type establishment if I'm not part of it and nobody is inviting me?

    Are there people loosing their jobs based on typography development? Who? How many?
    If there is a real damage to the community I want to see it in real numbers.

    The only thing I see in this discussions is fear to change. I confess I had it for a while, but the time pass and I don't see the problems coming. I see more and more people making money from type design. But maybe someone is getting harmed and I don't know.

    Patrick Griffin coments in this thread are the most sensate and constructive oppinion I've read.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,641
    Andres, Bruce Lee wasn’t afraid of change, he embraced it. His philosophy was that in order to grow, one has to be true to oneself.

    He spoke of expressing oneself with honesty. He didn’t mean that if one doesn’t, one is cheating other people. Only oneself.

    That is not damage that can be seen in real numbers.
  • Ben BlomBen Blom Posts: 250
    Some people seem to believe, that giving away for free, is always good for humanity. Alas, this is not the case, especially when very big companies are involved. Just as an example to sharpen your mind, consider Microsoft who have been fined quite some times by the European Union for abuse of their market power. I am not saying that the case of Microsoft is identical to the case of Google Webfonts, but there is an analogy.
    “Microsoft’s tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice.”
    The usual problem with permanent give-aways by big companies is, that it undermines competition, it disturbs the market system, and it might eventually lead to a quasi-monopolistic situation, in which the market doesn’t function as it should. Is this the change that we want, the creation of another quasi-monopoly?
  • "Quasi-Monopoly" Coming soon from Parker Bros. It sounds like a fun game!
  • It's hard to sustain there is a monopoly with all the markets, foundries, vendors, type designers and teachers in the world.

    It seems like a free market, with some powered actors. The same from ever plus Google. And also there are local markets, with a great potential in my opinion.

    Talk me about type designers and engineers jobs. I'm worried about that. I don't care if there are 3, 5 or 1650 font sellers, if it's Google, McDonalds or the Japan Government giving away fonts. I care how many type designers and associates are living from type design and doing decent things. How many job positions are created or destroyed.
    I see many created and the same type designers from ever living from it, and I thing never in history existed this massive (and distributed) amount of money moving by fonts. But maybe I'm wrong.

    Suppose Libre fonts will kill the market (argument used in the past with software, web design, light bulbes, etc.). How do you plan to stop it? I want to know the constructive part: the plan. We can spend days saying Libre fonts or Google are very bad. So? What can we do?
  • And also, if the end comes, it's font market extinction, not koalas's one. If the market ends we can keep designing other profitable things, like doing real hand lettering instead of steal anonymous ones. Or invest in a nice parripollo in Gualeguay, Argentina, with a nice hand-lettering. Parripollos will never be monopolized by Google.
  • giving away for free
    That's why its about LIBRE fonts. The gratis aspect isn't interesting to me, at all, and I find it tiresome when people focus only on this and overtly say that the freedom in libre fonts is worthless.
Sign In or Register to comment.