The Future of Font Naming: is it still unethical to use the same font name?



  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 577
    edited March 2020
    Simply use obscure words from some not so well-known language, there's thousands of these languages. E.g. Bebas means "free" in Indonesian, Hindi etc..
  • "Prego" taken, sorry  :)
  • Thank you all, first for the question and for the all insightful comments. I cannot add any further argument for the topic and sorry for the cliché but, I just wanted to say that a mistake cannot be corrected by repeating the same mistake. I think this is potential cause of more problems than it solves.

  • Just use a password generator.

    RQhUTriqf2iQPZiqZxrNoyiX would be an excellent and memorable name for a font.
  • This topic gives me a lot of anxiety. 

    I've only published two serious fonts so far, and each time, finding an available name took many, many tries. I believe this was always difficult, but is clearly getting exponentially worse.

    Those that say, "just use another language" or "there are plenty of obscure words to use" are ignoring that made-up names and other languages are obviously much harder for people to remember than familiar words. Also, there are a limited number of words having to do with popular typographic topics such as transportation/wayfinding.

    Obviously, it would be unethical to use a name to deliberately cause confusion (e.g. releasing a sans called "Gotham Next" or something). However, in such cases of successful fonts, reasonable people would want to avoid wading into such obvious lawsuit/trademark troubles, while unreasonable people won't care about ethics, anyway.

    So, what do I think the near future of font naming will be? Probably, people will soon need to write programmatic ways to scrape web pages for potential names, and check these against used names. As has been pointed out here, current software just doesn't work very well for font names that have overlap. Common, non-trademarked words will probably be used with designer/foundry initials, which would eliminate software issues.

    What do I hope font naming will be like, further in the future?

    Exactly as Muhammed says, many bands will share names for songs. This is also the case for albums, books, movies, paintings, and many other creative works. Therefore, I hope that fonts menus could become a bit more like music catalogs: each font name should be accompanied by the artist's name: "Helvetica, by Monotype," etc.

    Designers would naturally still try to find unique names, just as artists still try to come up with novel names for their songs. No artist will be taken very seriously if they release a new song with the name of a popular existing one (e.g. not many new bands would title a song "Hey Jude" and call it a day).
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,230
    Note that titles (of songs, books, movies, etc.) are not protected by copyright or trademark (in the U.S., at least), whereas font names can be trademarked. Also, since things with titles are (as far as I know) not used as system resources on computer the way fonts are, there's no chance for that kind of conflict.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,065
    Just use a password generator.

    RQhUTriqf2iQPZiqZxrNoyiX would be an excellent and memorable name for a font.
    But then you’re on the hook for kerning all those combos. 
  • Dusan JelesijevicDusan Jelesijevic Posts: 41
    edited March 2020
    Didn't knew this is such a big issue to many of you.
    So, my next company would be the one for font naming.

    I am pretty close to opinion that designing new, original font is not much easier then finding a proper name and with font production from last a couple of years, it would be impossible to follow who made what, with what name etc. Something like IT jobs that came in houses of those who are not from IT by profession or education, design and all its subcategories like fonts will caught the same "flue", in smaller amount although. Indonesia is good example...

    If there were some global font database, that would give an ID like numbers for each new release, so we could have like "1050 Donaldo MNT" with foundry's suffix at the end.
  • Technically speaking marketing name and font menu name does not need to be the same. You can attached a foundry pre/suffix and avoid data conflicts.
  • Stephen Nixon said:
    Therefore, I hope that fonts menus could become a bit more like music catalogs: each font name should be accompanied by the artist's name: "Helvetica, by Monotype," etc.
    considering many foundries try to revive the same old typeface, this would be a great option I think.
    Some already do, albeit in a somewhat more abbreviated way, adopting the earlier practice of ITC and others. So, for example, my Litteratra® shows up as Litteratra KLTF in font menus.
    I think this is a great option not only for revivals but for new original typefaces, too, as it makes it clear where those typefaces originated from.
  • @Ray Larabie Jim Parkinson names his typefaces after California towns/cities. Ed Benguiat once told me that if you name a typeface after a city there is a good chance they will adopt it as an identity. He pointed to his Barcelona design as an example, but since I've never been to Barcelona I couldn't tell if that was a true story or just an "Ed Story".

  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,987
    edited March 2020
    If there were some global font database, that would give an ID like numbers for each new release, so we could have like "1050 Donaldo MNT" with foundry's suffix at the end.

    Note: last I checked it was still inadvisable to begin a font name with a number. Can't remember the details off hand.

    Note also that the algorithm developed by Adobe to generate PostScript names for unnamed instances in a variable font design space when presented to a system as a static instantiation will include numbers, so having an additional set of ID numbers may be confusing (although presumably the ID number would be before the hyphen).
  • @Stephen Nixon I like your idea but there are technical constraints of character count for names.  We'd need to get the various platforms and softwares on board.

    @dunsan thank you for providing me an opportunity to share my favorite analogy for font naming!  It is the episiotomy of font making. (I'll let you google that word if you don't know it)  As in childbirth, the last little indignity would literally be torture out of context.  It's only after all the preceding horrors that it seems like almost nothing.  
  • Dusan JelesijevicDusan Jelesijevic Posts: 41
    edited March 2020
    Technically speaking marketing name and font menu name does not need to be the same. You can attached a foundry pre/suffix and avoid data conflicts.
    Problem is that our foundry initials are already taken by another foundry. So, that's second variable in font naming, beside font name itself.

    @JoyceKetterer Thank God I'm not dreaming dreams of an gynaecologist :-)
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 639
    edited March 2020
    @Dusan Jelesijevic I think I've seen some foundry that adopted initials derived from the foundry name in a not straightforward way to prevent confusion with another foundry.

    That consideration is valuable when deciding on a foundry name in the first place, though.

    That said, since MyFonts published statistics claiming that x% of users don't care about type foundries (x > 50, I don't remember the exact figure), is it on the verge of acceptability to still suffix font names with initials clashing with another foundry...? I believe so in the case of one-person foundries named after the person—I feel somehow more entitled to my parent-given initials than to arbitrary initials I made up (perhaps I'm wrong about this)—so I named my rendition of textura quadrata AJ Quadrata (I considered Quadrata AJ but decided against it as I didn't like the ring of Quadrata AJ Medieval, with AJ in the middle, for the variant style).
  • I keep a spreadsheet of name ideas and track whether or not it's available along with fonts with similar names. I find this makes the process a lot more approachable and actually fun.

    I also tend to focus less on how a word looks or what letters it contains and more on how it sounds.

    I love what Jame's Edmondson had to say about naming "Cheee":

    To name a font something with repeating letters is not ideal. Having those letters right next to each other makes it even worse. So to really make this name as terrible as I possibly could, I added a third e, and braced myself for the negative impact this could have on marketability.

    It's a fairly absurd name, but it's super easy to remember, and both easy and fun to say.

  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 577
    edited March 2020
    Wording is a skill only the likes of me possess, if you can't, don't try and it would be best to
    hire me ;). And "Kill Bill" may appear inane to geniuses but it sold tickets like hotcakes.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,600
    edited March 2020
    Rotas, too close to Rotis.
    Not only is Rotis taken, but also Pierogies.
  • James MontalbanoJames Montalbano Posts: 954
    edited March 2020
    @Nick Shinn Your Pierogies comment made me remember going to the B&H Dairy Restaurant on 2nd Ave in NYC in the 80s. A classic kosher dairy restaurant with Hispanic countermen and Eastern European cooks. They would call out the orders in a mixture of languages. Fried pierogies with onion was communicated to the cooks as "Fried Pirogie con Cebollas"

    Maybe Cebollas is a good name for a typeface family.

  • No one can pronounce any of our font names. I'd feel bad about it if I felt like we had choices but we don't so whatever. 
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,230
    edited March 2020
    A hard-to-pronounce name never stopped a font from getting popular.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,987
    I remember fielding a phone enquiry regarding Ross' Plantagenet type from someone who wanted to know about licensing 'plant-agent'.

  • @Matthew Smith Wild to see someone doing something similar to what I've done, although my process is more informal. And I agree the process can be made enjoyable.

    For years I've had running font name lists which I've archived in a basic text editor app. Since then I've migrated to the macOS cloud backed Notes app allowing me to work between my laptop and phone.

    In between reading, researching, listening to music and viewing track lists, etc. I see potential names everywhere that I quickly note in an ongoing obsessive compulsive manner. I often pause what I'm doing to take note before I inevitably forget.

    I often lean towards what I believe are more obscure or unorthodox name ideas, embracing the challenge of finding viable options. Creating a backlog of names with the irony that only a small fraction will ever be fully realized.

    Often they are unique names mined from various subcultures, or short two word combinations. It's really an exercise in language, name exploration, and notation, and I love the process.

    As I near completion of a new typeface I refer to these lists and work through finding an appropriate naming match. Since the actual use is greatly offset from the time a name is entered in the list, I don't check if it's already taken. Even if a name is taken, as I narrow down the choices a taken name can still be relevant in that it can lead to a related, alternative name with similar attributes or meaning.
  • The Plant Agents are an often overlooked aspect of English history. They secretly orchestrated the War of the Roses, among other things.
  • A good font name resource: all the world's town/city names. You can even combine half of one and half of another for a zillion possibilities. That alone will prevent font name shortages for at least another century.

    So far, none used for existing fonts, per I guess you're on to something!
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 69
    Can someone trademark a name which is already being used, but not trademarked? Let’s imagine Helvetica wasn’t trademarked for decades and finally someone TMs that name for a poor dafont – would the original Helvetica have to be renamed in this case?
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,987
    edited April 2020
    There are two kinds of trademarks: claimed trademarks that are established by use, and registered trademarks. If a name is used, a trademark may be claimed on it without that trademark being registered. If someone registers a trademark, then that generally makes the trademark easier to defend, because it will already have been scrutinised by the registering authority and accepted as a trademarkable name or term; whereas, a claimed trademark might be challenged on the grounds that  is not be a trademarkable name or term.

    What is registerable as a trademark may vary by jurisdiction, as may the responsibilities of the trademark holder/claimant. In the US, for example, I believe there is a responsibility to defend a trademark, i.e. if you claim or even register a trademark and fail to actively defend the trademark against misuse you can lose it.

    In your hypothetical Helvetica example, even if the name had never been registered as a trademark, it has been established in use over a long period: the trademark holder would probably fairly easily defend it, and someone else would have difficulty registering the name.
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