Bank Gothic Variable Font / FontLab VI

Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,646
edited August 2 in Job Postings
I am doing a revival and massive extension of the 1930s classic Bank Gothic, for Google Fonts. Because of the tight timeline, I need help! I am interested in getting maybe one more person working on it. There will be several of us, and work is already well under way. I have already shared this several places, but somehow missed TypeDrawers!
  • weight, width, contrast and slant axes
  • 3 x 3 weight and width masters
  • ~ 1200 glyphs, extended Latin, extended Cyrillic, small caps
  • all-new lowercase (unlike original Bank Gothic)
  • work in FontLab VI (some experience required)
This is a good opportunity to do a decent paying type design gig for four months, creating a typeface that is likely to get used everywhere. Bank Gothic is an eternally popular typeface. Saw it again last night in the new Spider-man film

More details here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/13KDvO285FbC27okr7aZK09c5IlpodCphvwTC_9DmGDQ/edit?usp=sharing

Deadline: noon PST Monday
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Comments

  • Good luck Thomas. A few years ago I might have thrown my hat in the ring, but not now. I'm so tired of type design.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,646
    Sorry to hear that you’ve lost your love of the work, James!

    I have some decently qualified applicants, so it’s looking promising.
  • I'm definitely not qualified for this, but I do look forward to seeing the final product!
  • >>Sorry to hear that you’ve lost your love of the work, James!<<

    I may get it back Thomas. I've done so many fonts these last decades, a break is definitley needed. The current state of the font business doesn't help renew my excitement either.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,646
    edited August 4
    I did lots of initial prototyping before submitting the proposal to Google (about 15 glyphs across all key masters, and something like 40 in the Medium). I think it will be a fun and useful design. The Medium style is completely derivative of the original, of course, but that is not a bad thing for a popular and time-tested typeface.

    Note for those who are unfamiliar with the history: unlike, say, Monotype and Linotype, American Type Founders went bankrupt in 1993. There is no direct successor for the design lineage and intellectual property, although recently some fine folks have taken up the American Type Founders name anew and are applying it to the “American Type Founders Collection.”

    I have always had a particular interest in type from ATF’s heyday, and ATF in particular. I first considered a Bank Gothic revival at least 15 years ago, even before a wave of proprietary, retail Bank Gothic revivals. So I am glad to be doing it now.
  • George ThomasGeorge Thomas Posts: 508
    There is no direct successor for the design lineage and intellectual property...

    Are you sure about that? It is my understanding that Kingsley/ATF bought the ATF IP rights and as of about fifteen years ago were still collecting royalties. Prospective licensees had to apply through their attorney at the time.


  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,646
    edited August 4
    By “ATF IP rights” I assume you mean trademark? AFAIK that is the only right Kingsley/ATF has claimed, since 1993.

    Kingsley/ATF stopped doing/selling type in 1993 when they shut down the type foundry and sold all its hard assets. I gather that at some point they made some efforts to later claim trademark rights, but as they were not using the trademarks themselves, I gather that is more than a little dubious (in US law, under the Lanham Act). Failure to use the trademark, with no intention to use it, causes loss of the trademark.

    Given that later the trademark on American Type Founders / ATF itself even lapsed and was claimed by another entity, that makes me even more dubious about Kingsley/ATF holding specific typeface trademarks. But I will freely admit that I am not a lawyer, and at this point in the discussion am getting out of my depth in this area.

    In any case the actual name for this revival is still TBD! I have been batting around some ideas, but it is far from finalized. “Libre Bank Gothic” (or Bank Gothic Libre) is just one of many ideas, but I am kind of “eh” about it. It’s ok, not exciting. Any uncertainty about trademark status would certainly make other options more appealing.

    I don’t know all the details, but trademarks for formerly trademarked ATF names are today claimed as trademarks by everybody and their dogs. I see some claimed by Monotype, some by Linotype, and many by all sorts of players. This despite some attempts at licensing from Kingsley/ATF. This suggests to me that at least some of the former ATF trademarks lapsed.

    In the matter at hand, do a web search on the phrase "Bank Gothic is a trademark" and one gets a bunch of different, conflicting, results. Most commonly are references to brands/companies run by Mark Solsburg (GroupType, or its parent company Grosse Pointe Group LLC). Elsner + Flake claim Bank Gothic as a trademark as well. And ParaType credits Kingsley/ATF as the trademark holder. Pretty chaotic! (IIRC, three competing/contradictory trademark claims for Bank Gothic can be found on MyFonts.)
  • George ThomasGeorge Thomas Posts: 508
    edited August 4
    Yes, trademark. The last correspondence I had with the attorney was about twenty-five years ago and it was primarily an attempt to determine the status of their claims in order to license selected designs. They were asking too much in licensing fees for a small company to pay so I dropped the matter. I don't know what claims they make today but back then it seemed to be primarily more current types such as Americana.
    The surviving owner of Kingsley/ATF had redeemed the IP rights from the New Jersey business development authority who had put up the money for the purchase of the rights from ATF by Kingsley. Kingsley had assigned the rights to the authority as collateral and paid, as I recall, over $100K to redeem them.
    Thanks for the interesting info about trademark claims. I knew Monotype had them on many faces but I did not know about the others.
    A bit of trivia re: the Kingsley redemption; the person at the authority handling the matter was appropriately named Richard Fonts. I still have his letter(s) in my files.

  • Dan ReynoldsDan Reynolds Posts: 128
    edited August 5
    FWIW, when I was much younger and working at Linotype, I drew a Bank Gothic with a new lowercase. Some of the caps were based on old Ikarus data that Linotype had; Linotype had sold Bank Gothic fonts in older, pre-PS-Type1 digital formats. When I was almost finished, Linotype was acquired by Monotype. Only when preparing the fonts for release did we become aware that Mark Solsburg had trademarked the name Bank Gothic. I am not a lawyer, but Monotype’s lawyers believed this to be legitimate, IIRC, and the new typeface could not be published as Bank Gothic. After much discussion, we agreed internally on Morris Sans.

    All of this was during the brief interlude when Linotype fonts were not for sale on MyFonts.com. At the time of Morris Sans’s release, IIRC, the Elsner+Flake digitization of Bank Gothic was a top-20 family in MyFonts. I was doubly sad that Morris Sans couldn’t be called Bank Gothic and couldn’t be sold (yet) on MyFonts, because I thought that it might have done very well for Linotype at that time. As it turned out, I don’t think that the fonts got all that much use. But I’m sure your Var fonts will do much better! I look forward to seeing the results.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,646
    edited August 5
    IIRC, I saw Morris Sans in language-translation subtitles in Avengers: Endgame! The sequence set in Japan. It worked nicely. Some version of Bank Gothic was used in the actual in-film title as well, the "Avengers" part of Avengers: Endgame.

    And thanks, @Dan Reynolds for the tip on which trademark is current. I was certainly assuming there was a good chance that *one* of the claimed trademarks was current, even if it wasn’t obvious whether or which one right off. Mostly I was suggesting that it seemed likely that the original wasn’t current any more.

    A search at the USPTO (and/or its EU equivalent) would doubtless be helpful if one wanted to sort that out. But we will likely just use a different name. Suggestions welcome!
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 915
    I've always been amused by the Corel tradition of almost-but-not-quite font names, e.g.:
    • Ad Lib -> Adelaide
    • Balloon -> Bassoon
    • Bauhaus -> Bahamas
    • Benguiat ->Bangkok
    • Bookman -> Brooklyn
    • Copperplate -> CopperPot
    • Dom Casual -> DawnCastle
    • Eras -> Erie
    • Franklin Gothic -> Frankfurt Gothic
    • Mistral -> Mystical
    • New Baskerville -> Nebraska
    • Tiffany -> Timpani
    • Umbra -> Umbrella
    • VAG -> Vogue
    So you could follow suit with Bunk Gather, or Band Gotham, or Bake Coptic, or...
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,646
    edited August 5
    I have to admit, I find that sort of thing a bit... distasteful, rather than amusing. Essentially, they are trying to get as close as possible to the trademarked name, trading on that familiarity by sounding similar, but without *technically* infringing. While I understand it to be (I assume!) legal, it is not something I feel comfortable with, nonetheless. So... no, not if the decision is up to me.
  • George ThomasGeorge Thomas Posts: 508
    Name suggestion: Benton Gothic, which gives perpetual attribution to the designer.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,646
    There's already Benton Sans, unfortunately. So, I think not?
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,646
    Well, luckily @Dave Crossland reminded me what my favorite alternative name was, as I failed to write it down at the time. Filing the trademark application tonight!
  • Given that banks would seem to be at odds with the open software philosophy, you could go with 'Credit Union Gothic', or 'Kibbutz Gothic'.
  • Bang Cothic
  • Frode HellandFrode Helland Posts: 130
    Money Grotesk™
  • Yaw Gothic.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 892
    There's already Benton Sans, unfortunately. So, I think not?

    And, FWIW, the original design that Tobias Frere-Jones did for Martha Stewart Living magazine was actually named Benton Gothic.

    When it came time to expand the design for retail release, Cyrus Highsmith did a pretty thorough overhaul. The differences are subtle; I can usually tell the difference, though many may not be able to. So I imagine the decision to release as Benton Sans was partly to keep the two versions distinct.

  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,159
    Money Honey ;-)

  • FWIW, when I was much younger and working at Linotype, I drew a Bank Gothic with a new lowercase. Some of the caps were based on old Ikarus data that Linotype had; Linotype had sold Bank Gothic fonts in older, pre-PS-Type1 digital formats. When I was almost finished, Linotype was acquired by Monotype. Only when preparing the fonts for release did we become aware that Mark Solsburg had trademarked the name Bank Gothic. I am not a lawyer, but Monotype’s lawyers believed this to be legitimate, IIRC, and the new typeface could not be published as Bank Gothic. After much discussion, we agreed internally on Morris Sans.

    All of this was during the brief interlude when Linotype fonts were not for sale on MyFonts.com. At the time of Morris Sans’s release, IIRC, the Elsner+Flake digitization of Bank Gothic was a top-20 family in MyFonts. I was doubly sad that Morris Sans couldn’t be called Bank Gothic and couldn’t be sold (yet) on MyFonts, because I thought that it might have done very well for Linotype at that time. As it turned out, I don’t think that the fonts got all that much use. But I’m sure your Var fonts will do much better! I look forward to seeing the results.
    I really like your version (of which I just became aware thanks to this post from Thomas), Dan. In designing the lowercase you had been adequately "daring", transfering some of the curved elements of the numerals and adding concepts beyond the a bit rigid nature of the uppercase.
    I think it’s truly a pity it was not much considered.

    About Thomas' proposal: at first I was intrigued, but I lack some of the required skills (enough experience in FontLab VI and experience with app interpolation/variable fonts) and I am not attracted to the variable fonts, or to families with so many weights and variants.
    But since I have just decided to quit my job (for personal reasons, I did not have much choice) and I have decided that I will partly concentrate my future activity on type design, I hope a similar opportunity will arise. Of course, I’ll start pestering around for collaborations when I'll be free. :)
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,646
    edited August 6
    The new name is “Science Gothic,” which I love, for a variety of reasons. When I have more time I will write about it at length, somewhere.  :smiley:
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,159
     “Science Gothic,”
    Definitely don't get it but await your explanation, @Thomas
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,646
    (It's not a riff on the original, particularly.)
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,159
    Does not seem to be a riff on science to me, either.  Too fixed, too closed, not inquisitive enough to imply the questioning of science.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,444
    That name is taken, of course! (All the best ones are.)

  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,646
    “Science” is taken, but not “Science Gothic”
  • Peter BakerPeter Baker Posts: 72
    The name sets me to humming "Science Fiction Double Feature." Is your name a sly "Rocky Horror Picture Show" allusion?
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