Showing How the Sausage is Made

Okay, all, time to ask one very out in left field question: how many of you have publicly shown how the sausage is made?  The past couple of weeks, I've actually done some art broadcasts on Twitch about fontmaking and worked on a couple of them (made a dingbat font and updated one of my older ones) while people asked questions.  While I didn't exactly get stellar numbers in views, I've had a couple of graphic designers ask me about how to get into fontmaking and I've noted that my sales have actually gone up since I started this.

I know that many people think fontmaking is an arcane, taboo secret akin to black magic or something (y'know, like all software development), but I wonder if this is the start of something that might just get more attention.  I could talk about all the pitfalls that comes with font development (like constantly slapping free sites with DMCAs) and things like that.  Or I could ask what people want and what they're looking for in fonts (on a site that is graphic heavy, a lot of people pay attention to fonts, whether consciously or not).  And it made me curious to wonder just how many others out there have had these thoughts or even did it.

Comments

  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 573
    edited September 20
    Just what is needed, more players on the field to devalue our work further into oblivion. It is supposed to be arcane, not let transparency culture get into it. Who has actual respect for a magician that explains every trick on stage? Do you want a gazillion people without proper skill and education to do to it what they did to graphic design, in an absurd hope that a 1% will evolve from amateurs into professionals? Has that actually worked thus far? Flag me all you want for living in reality. I don't show my lunch on the internet, much less my craft.

    Democratization always means "rule of fools", it may be different in the US but this is certainly true over here. What do fools want? Egalitarianism, i.e. the forever crab bucket mentallity. One offshoot of that is crappy products.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,014
    edited September 20
    I did a presentation in Toronto about 20 years ago about my fonts called: How Sausages Are Made.

    I don't think people are interested in how typefaces made. I don't mean they're not interested in type design at all, but their interest ends at "where do you get your ideas from?" and "what's the hardest letter?" A couple of years ago I contributed to a magazine article with a detailed step-by-step explanation of the making of a typeface with an accompanying YouTube video. After a year it got about a dozen views so I took it down. In this business you learn pretty quickly that nobody wants anything more than the elevator pitch. Personally, I think it would be very interesting and I'd certainly watch it. What type designer doesn't want to see what other designers are doing incorrectly?  :o
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 573
    edited September 20
    quote
    A valid point! I always feel that way when friends talk about their job at parties.

    Sometimes, tho, a gem may fall out. Once a plumber told me that "there are no two completely identical toilets" (or was it houses?) Fully applicable to photo editing and retouch.   :o
  • I made a presentation "How to Design a Typeface" to the NY Times Art Department a few years ago (at the invitation of Steven Heller). I don't think any of those in attendance went off and became Type Designers, but it did give me a great introduction to use in my Type Design classes at Parsons.

  • It depends on who your target audience will be. If you’re to raise awareness of what our trade is about and how much goes into it, presented to a generally interested audience, then OK. But to unfold my know how, methods and tricks to half-trained volunteers who may further bury the market under shitloads of ugly helvetica clones and other crap, – no. This is definitely not the question of arcana, it is about protecting intellectual property and assets which have economical value.
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,545
    edited September 20
    I can sympathize, Rob — all I know about type design is based on the help I got on forums, and the mistakes I made trying to figure things out. As such, my process is very much documented online, and anyone is welcome to follow along the steps if they so wished. (I would hardly call that sort of thing arcana or trade secrets, though.)
    I have no worries whatsoever that your broadcasts did any harm to the type community. I doubt many of your viewers will even attempt to start their own type design efforts, and those few who do will most likely bounce off the steep cliffs at the foot of the learning curve. As for those who go through with it — so what if a few more (dozen) fonts end up on DaFont?
    I gave a talk on conlanging (the art of creating languages) at a Nerdnite in Amsterdam, and although it was very well received by the audience, I doubt any of them went on to be conlangers themselves. It's very well possible to show interest in the inner workings of an art without planning to duplicate it. It still raises awareness and appreciation for the art itself, and that's certainly something of which we can still use more.
  • Matthijs HerzbergMatthijs Herzberg Posts: 52
    edited September 20
    Without getting into the merits, I think there is a large (and growing) demand for type design education. Like others here, I've learned through random bits of information on the internet, books, and trial & error. The alternative is a handful of expensive courses in expensive cities. But type design is increasing in popularity, that much is for sure, and subsequently type education is too. That is absolutely something that the pros can capitalize on, be it to gain an audience and sell more fonts, or to charge for education directly.

    Some evidence of this demand: OHNO has been doing a widely popular educational series on their instagram, and this account posting blerps of (sometimes questionable but nicely branded) info gained 50K followers in a few months time.
  • Hi folks, I'm trying to understand better why in the type design community I keep coming across Vasil's attitude (no offence Vasil).

    In my experience, more than other profession type designers seem to be highly protective of what they know. It does come across as insecurity. It reflects badly on the community as a whole.

    Complaining about the poor quality of typefaces in the marketplace while actively trying to prevent wannabe type designers from improving seems like a contradiction.

    I'm a formally-trained graphic designer who sees no shortage of hacks selling poor quality work. There will always be a market for good quality graphic design though, and I'm sure it's the same in type design.

    If you're obsessive about producing high quality work, don't be sour at sites like dafont.com. The people downloading fonts there are not your market.

    Rob, I for one would love to see well presented educational material on type design.
  • Like some other things, I think typeface design is one of those “minute to learn, lifetime to master” crafts — at least that seems to be the case today. I have an impulse to get protective about it, but when I check myself I come around to what you’ve described, @“craig.rozynski”.

    I think what’s had the most impact in the last 10 years is distribution. With the explosion of distribution channels for open source fonts, novice designers can easily put their work out there. It can be frustrating for people that take care with type design to run up against the “I made a font!” people, especially when one has to explain the quality differences to a client. But, again, that’s also the place where a lot of potentially talented designers can start.

    I suppose there was a similar concern in the early ’90s; it’s just that back then, it was a lot harder for a novice to put their font out in the world.

    I’ve always been concerned about tools that let one either (a) open an existing font and easily modify it, or (b) create a personalized font out of some primitive source data. (For the latter, I mean software that gives a user an elemental font and sliders to adjust parameters.) Neither of these is intrinsically bad, it’s just that it increases the number of people distributing typefaces that are of dubious originality. Font IP has never been widely appreciated, so giving type design to “the masses” increases the likelihood of unintentional infringement, or perhaps just a lack of appreciation for a thoughtful, original approach to typeface design.

    Anyhow, these things cause me some concern, but I do think that quality does win out in the end. (There’s plenty of evidence for that.) That’s the optimistic approach, and probably the most sensible.
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