Two thoughts about Google after Typographics

1. As I contemplate their new website and the very nicely-made specimen for Space Mono I got in my Typographics swag pile, it strikes me that Google very much wants to position itself as a font distributor à la Monotype, which is to say as interested in print applications as in the web—and maybe even selling bespoke/non-retail designs, and taking commissions for interface design?
2. On a related note: how long until Google challenges Adobe's essential monopoly on professional design software?


  • kupferskupfers Posts: 259
    edited June 2016
    I’m still pondering the level of originality of their new favorite Space Mono as well as its specimen design. [Edit: not sure why though since originality was never one of their maxims.]
  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 974
    edited June 2016
    Yves came right out and questioned that in the Q&A at the lunch, including asking if there was some kind of committee to check for originality. The answer was a little mushy.
  • By the way, given the type community’s interest in (and concern about) Google Fonts, I’m surprised how few font makers were at this lunch. Most of the attendees were font users.
  • kupferskupfers Posts: 259
    The invitation was sent late the night before (to whom?), without any info what is going to be discussed or that it was not set up with type users in mind. For those who didn’t get it, this is what it said:
    Sign up to spend lunchtime with Rob Giampietro and the Google Fonts team on Saturday, June 18, from 1:30pm to 2:30pm in room 101, 41 Cooper Square. 
    You were then asked to rsvp via Eventbrite. Seats were limited and quickly sold out. I also can’t blame any “font maker” that they did not drop everything and signed up based on this nondescript invite. There were many things going on at the same time, like Type Lab presentation which were maybe more relevant to some type designers, or they had other lunch plans.
  • Oh! I thought I was the only one to get an invitation the night before as I was not a regular conference attendee. Assumed the other registrants got it further in advance.
  • kupferskupfers Posts: 259
    No idea who got invited and when, this just from the email I got, and not sure I counted as a regular attendee.
  • @Stephen Coles I definitely didn't get an invite.  As far as "regular attendee" goes - the conference is in it's second year so I'm not sure there is such a thing but I have been both years, live in NYC and work for a sponsor so I think the selection comes from other factors.   I did hear about a few other lunch and learns (some I got invites to others not) and it seemed like they were all focused on buy-side attendance.  But that's anecdotal.  
  • The briefly worded invitation to the lunch session went to the entire conference attendee list during Rob's talk, to give everyone some follow-up time to chat with Google folks. There were 20 spots reserved, but I gather they welcomed whoever showed up.
  • Richard FinkRichard Fink Posts: 165
    edited June 2016

    They are also investing in improving existing fonts in their library and will stop listing the worst ones.
    Question:  where did you hear the "stop listing" part of that report?  And do you have any idea what the criteria will be for deciding not to list if it is their intention to selectively filter their offerings?
  • Rob said it twice in his remarks/answers at the lunch. They will always continue to serve fonts previously hosted by Google, but implied that they will be hidden in the Directory. No details about the criteria.
  • The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • Richard FinkRichard Fink Posts: 165
    Rob said it twice in his remarks/answers at the lunch. They will always continue to serve fonts previously hosted by Google, but implied that they will be hidden in the Directory. No details about the criteria.
    Thanks!  Interesting.  For users putting their trust in Google Fonts what, exactly, that means would be important to know.  
  • Thierry BlancpainThierry Blancpain Posts: 191
    edited June 2016
    To reply to @Maurice Meilleur’s opening post, I don’t think your first point about Google possibly wanting to sell type has any basis in reality. The global type market is a tiny, fragmented business that would be a really bad market for Google to enter. It can make that kind of money with its ads business alone in about half a week at most (taking USD 500MM as a very upper-end guesstimated number for global type market’s yearly revenue), and it’s an annoyingly unautomatable market with higher customer support requirements than any of their current main businesses. It also goes completely against their stated goals to date. Very to completely unrealistic business move for Google.

    Regarding the lunch, I also got the invite email at 4:45PM on June 17 without any further information, and didn’t attend. I figured it was going to be a user sales pitch that I didn’t need to hear. I met Rob Giampietro at another occasion, and got away with about the same information as relayed in this thread by @Stephen Coles. I inquired if they had thought about creating something like the FontFont TypeBoard to ensure quality and originality of future releases, and he said that might be something they would think about in the future.
  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 974
    edited June 2016
    @PabloImpallari As a guy with some inside insight, I'm curious which part of my post you disagree with. Please correct me where I'm wrong.
  • Thierry, I may not have made myself as clear as I could have done. My point was to say that Rob's presentation made it seem like Google Fonts would be targeting print as well as web designers (hence a printed type specimen clearly designed to appeal to such users), and that perhaps it was also positioning itself to offer bespoke type services. I'm far from an expert on the topic, but I do know that by contrast to the market for general licensing, custom type/interface design and consulting are much more lucrative. They are Monotype's main source of revenue, if I'm not mistaken, and at least some indie foundries and designers make much more money from their bespoke and consulting work than they do from retail licensing.

    Of course, none of it is nearly as lucrative as selling and serving web ads. But that was my second point. What if Google is thinking about expanding into design applications? There is established precedent for this in the form of (the now spun-off) Sketchup, Drive & Docs; Google has the resources to make a go of it; and there are plenty of people looking for alternatives to Adobe's Creative Suite. Microsoft has no apparent interest in challenging Adobe's domination of the industry, and the other competitors are fragmented and serve pretty small niche markets. 

    If Google is thinking about offering its own suite of design applications, then it would make sense for them to have their own stable of typefaces on offer (as Adobe does, and for the same reasons) and to start getting the attention of designers who specialize in things other than the web. They have a well-developed ecosystem for these applications already in place (integrated applications for communication, scheduling, composition, content management, file storage/sharing/serving, etc.). They already serve web type, obviously. And that they already have such a large source of revenue in place, and a lot of experience with online applications, gives them a couple of pretty significant advantages over both Monotype and Adobe.

    Of course I'm speculating, and there would be all sorts of complicating factors—yes, like offering high-end customer support, and integrating any new applications with existing file-format and production conventions and practices, just to name a few. And I don't mean to endorse (or condemn) any of these possibilities, necessarily. But I don't think the idea of Google taking on Monotype and Adobe is that crazy. 
  • You’re taking two small facts
    – Google Fonts offering desktop font format downloads, which they’ve always allowed, just not in a nice interface
    – Colophon designing a print specimen, as they always do for their typefaces
    and extrapolate a huge tail of possible results from that.

    I’ll just say again that it’s highly unlikely—if they enter the design app market, it’s going to be for entirely different reasons: most likely just because they want better tools for their own internal designers, and then they might even open-source them and give them away for free, because that’s how Google operates. And they certainly have the money to do such things.
  • There's a difference between allowing something or making it possible, on the one hand, and encouraging or promoting it, on the other. And if you look at the top of the specimen cover, you'll see that Google Fonts's name is there along with Colophon's. Has that ever happened? (I don't go to many type conferences, so that's not a rhetorical question.)

    I'm not speculating about Google's motives, just noticing behavior and potential. For what it's worth, I think it's more likely they'd expand into design software, and you're right that they could and probably would give it away, or license it for a lot cheaper than a Creative Cloud subscription. But having a catalog of decent fonts packaged along with the applications, fonts that designers can imagine using in print as well as online, would be an important part of that plan.
  • It’s the first Google Fonts family created by a hip indie foundry as far as I know, so I don’t think there’s any precedent to either the printed specimen or the naming convention on that specimen.

    What I’d rather say is that Google is able to use their new connection with Colophon to make Google Fonts seem more designer-oriented, more hip itself—branding by association. Playing up that connection makes sense for them.
  • I just hope over-popularity will help us –eventually– shed hipster undesign.
  • Cory MaylettCory Maylett Posts: 243
    edited June 2016
    Google is in a position to disrupt just about any technology-oriented business that crosses its field of vision. If they decide they want to do this with type, they will (or at least they'll try).

    On the other hand, the technology surrounding type and its distribution won't, by itself, bring overwhelming change. Good typography is as much about aesthetics as it is anything.

    Google is a company composed of software engineers, and it has a decidedly engineering-oriented corporate culture. Attention and sensitivity to visual aesthetics does not come naturally to them. With enough work, they can sometimes get it right in some compartmentalized areas, but like Microsoft before it, style comes with a struggle that ends in less-than-ideal results most of the time.
  • Richard FinkRichard Fink Posts: 165
    Rob said it twice in his remarks/answers at the lunch. They will always continue to serve fonts previously hosted by Google, but implied that they will be hidden in the Directory. No details about the criteria.
    "fonts previously hosted" could also be construed to mean previous versions as well, no?
    What brought this to mind was cleaning out old browser sessions today and I came upon a page by Pablo Impallari about "improved vertical metrics" of his font Petit Formal Script.

    I'm assuming this would mess up the CSS line-height settings for whatever site was using the previous incarnation of the font. So I'd like to know how they handle hosting of VERSIONS of the fonts.
    I've worked on vertical metric adjustments for their fonts but I have absolutely no idea if they just substitute the font with the new metrics for the old, or what.
    Not in my purview. 

  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 765
    edited June 2016
    Richard, IIRC that fix was done before being published, so there was no need for substitution. Dave have lots of automatic test for that sort of technical stuff that are run before publication.

    @Stephen Coles I will reply your question soon (well... after the Argentina - Chile finals :) ), just let me elaborate it properly (my English needs a lot of google translate, and also, I don't want this thread to become another never-ending horse beating)
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,261
    edited June 2016
    As always, my personal opinion only, not the views of any consulting clients:
    if there was some kind of committee to check for originality
    What kind of process should the committee follow when doing these checks?

    How big should the committee be?

    How publicly should it operate?

    Who wants to be on such a committee? 

    They are also investing in improving existing fonts in their library and will stop listing the worst ones.

    Which ones should be improved or de-listed? :) (Perhaps let me know privately)

  • Who wants to be on such a committee?
    Wants to be? No shortage. Should be? People who are neither hippies nor gollums.

  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 765
    edited June 2016
    @PabloImpallari As a guy with some inside insight, I'm curious which part of my post you disagree with. Please correct me where I'm wrong.
    @Stephen Coles
    I don't have any particular inside information. But since I'm supporting GF it since day 1, I may be a bit more familiar with the project history and development over the course of the years.

    I can not agree with your interpretation that they feel embarrassed, because I know that they were always very proud of the project. Launching it was a huge challenge, keeping it alive was a challenge, making it grow was also a challenge, expanding it to Deva and all other non-latin scripts was a MONUMENTAL challenge.
    Now that the success is almost exponential, the next challenge is to keep improving it.

    Your post seems to promote the idea of "they didn't care before when it was small, and now that its huge they are starting to care" and that's plain wrong. They ALWAYS cared, even if you didn't notice because you didn't agree with their quantity-over-quality initial approach. But you know what: It worked. And it worked very very well.

    Having to cancel or shutdown the project would have been embarrassing (well... maybe not embarrassing, but very sad.) but luckily we are now in the complete opposite extreme of that axis, serving (currently) 15B views per day, making it the biggest google's API ever.

    This huge succeed is, of course, allowing for more resources and more attention. And it strengthens everyone desire to keep working, improving it, and making it better.

    Everyone is welcome to participate, as it always was. I'm super happy that more and more designers & foundries are joining (even many of those who once were his fiercest detractors, have now released fonts under a Libre license) and I sincerely hope that more designers and foundries keep joining. The doors are always open.

    There are many more challenges ahead. For example IAB finally killing flash ads, in favor of HTML5 and webfonts. There was a very insightful presentation at ATypI São Paulo about the issue and it implications for webfonts.

    Also, to fully understand GF, you need to think more about webfonts "as a technology". Not only about the aestethic part of typeface design, but also as a new technological advance that needs to be approached by the mass public and become widely adopted in order to survive.
    Webfont technology survived, and GF was big part of it. Now every single foundry also benefits from selling webfont technology.
    Color fonts is new tech, will it ever be widely adopted? will it survive beyond emoji? Will foundries be able to sell color fonts massively?
    Adam has been trying to push color fonts for a few years now, so far with little success, sadly.
    MM webfonts will be new tech, will they ever be widely adopted? will they survive? Will foundries be able to sell MM Webfonts massively?
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 765
    edited June 2016
    BTW, lately I've started to see a new trend: People combining fonts from multiple providers

    Here are 2 examples (GF + Typekit):

    Here is another one (GF + Webtype):

  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 974
    edited June 2016
    No argument with any of that, @PabloImpallari. GF has undoubtedly been a success for Google, and the company knows it. I’m only saying that there are elements of the company, particularly in Design, who are now paying more attention to the program and they may have different priorities and values. In the last 2 years or so, Google as a whole is emphasizing design over engineering (at least publicly), and that appears to be reflected in a new direction at GF. Now this could all be window dressing, and everything within GF is continuing as before, but that's not the way it looks from the outside.
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 765
    edited June 2016
    Is not windows dressing. Emphasizing design is among this year main goals, in the same way that last year was developing non-latin. New year, new goals... as simple as that.

    Also, I would say design+engineering, together.
    They new GF is not only beautiful, but its also awesomely engineered.
  • PabloImpallari said:
    I'm super happy that more and more designers & foundries are joining (even many of those who once were his fiercest detractors, have now released fonts under a Libre license)
    Well sure, when they realise that they can get paid to take "inspiration" from other people's work and release it in a libre format, it is interesting. 1 stone 3 birds: get paid, don't give up your own ideas for retail fonts, impede the competition by releasing free look-alikes.

    Of course I realise these are marginal cases, and the retail market does the same (at least the fonts are not for free so less competitive).

    Dave Crossland said:
    Who wants to be on such a committee?
    How much does the job pay?
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