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John Savard said:If
literacy no longer existed as a skill, because people used pictures and
the recorded voice for everything instead, obviously type designers
would be out of business.
Nick Curtis said:
So much for the absurdity, bring on the simplicity! Untying the Gordian Knot, Part 2 awaits…As soon as y'all give me a Hall Pass.
Nick Curtis said:
After reading most of all the comments, now I know that there is a much, much bigger and scarier problem, e.g., a literally literal existential threat.
Ray Larabie said:
people don't need fonts anymore.
Ray Larabie said:
Typefaces from a specific storefront may be associated with a trend and customers can feel like they trust that brand's fonts to harmonize with that trend and with one another. This is something that the big retailers such as Monotype can never accomplish. Their websites fuction to simply vend fonts and they're designed to please everyone. They don't have a specific attitude and they bury new and challenging font releases. Their trend forecasts are always behind, pushing whatever was already popular last year because they are required to avoid risks.
The data kinda shows that we’re safe:
(Different style, different angle, along these lines though, poetic too.)
That said, I both agree with your main point and disagree with your details. The problem isn't size or consistency. The big players are unavoidable and therefore it feels worth it for a customer to sift through their often very badly written terms and then refuse to go anywhere else for fonts. The real problem is the lack of clarity within the industry about whether we want to be in the software or the IP business. They want to have it both ways by doing incoherent things like attaching Logo, e-pub, and broadcast licenses (which are from the IP world) to what starts as a software license. The big players are often the worst offenders with this stuff.
Additionally, there are almost no "law suits". What there are is instances where a large company violates a license (probably by accident) and then refuses to resolve the situation without lawyers because they think small companies can't afford to hire lawyers. It's a bullying escalation tactic which they then turn around and use as "evidence" that font licensors are in "bad faith". I expect no better from them, but I do expect you to be smarter than to fall for it.
I'd be curious to know what specific "absurd assurances" you've had to make? I work closely with customers and do have to spend a lot of time helping those purchasing large licenses to make sure they are covering everything. Yes, this includes a lot licensing wack-a-mole, repeated emails back and forth saying over and over again that each new example of a print or non-embedded use is still covered just like our license says it is. That's the job with sales and customer support, not absurd.
You put your finger on it though - it used to be that you could buy a software license and were good to go for most common usages. Now, licensing is often so fragmented that a breach is practically unavoidable. Bottom line - I think - legal departments started paying attention. They don't like the idea that some freelance production designer who shows up with their own tool kit somehow gets them into hot water, so they turn to the big foundries that give them clear rules and certainty.
As to what absurdities I mean: I was recently asked to customize my EULA to change the license term to "eternal" instead of "perpetual", and the license scope to "across the universe" instead of "global". You know, just so their ass is covered 400 years from now, when my fonts are in wide use on Titan.
@Oliver Weiss (Walden Font Co.) Depending on who the client is I'm actually going to disagree those examples are absurd. We got requests like that from AT&T for a very big license and we appreciated that they think in centuries when they do things. It was a real eye opener for me.
That said, I've gotten a lot of requests like that over the years that I batted away and said no to. Often it's a new attorney trying to prove they read it, with the only way they have to do that requesting a change. I'm sorry to be the jaded old lady here but maybe I should be saying "welcome to the big leagues". You do a certain number of sales with high rollers (even small licenses for start ups) and you're going to get these questions.
*I take it back. Maybe it wasn't a young lawyer. Maybe it was a very very old one thinking about metal type.
I really am not kidding. Eternal isn't so much an absurd request as a stupid one because the point of the switch would be for use in the past. I guess maybe they think they might have a time machine and so need to cover use 300 years ago, on Jupiter? Regardless, no, because I have no way of notifying my prior self about the license.
Galactic really should cost more than global, if we're bothering to specify either. My licensing is location agnostic if we stick to standard metrics. Location only becomes relevant if we are issuing what we call a "group license" (no head count covering everyone in a defined group). Therefore the example would be something like "Global license for all staff of XXX". Sure, a minute ago I was using global to indicated "everyone" but now that you've asked I realise that it is also limiting. I'm not going to give away off-world use at the same price. Limiting scopes is most of my job and how I keep kibble in my cat's bowl.
I certainly didn't know all that you know when you started this thread, because I still don't know what the thread is about. That said, I did know the thing you seem to be calling out here as something you didn't know you didn't know. Rumsfeldian wisdom (ug) aside, I want to comfort you that I don't think these things are exactly industry death threats.
Sure, for years now, I've regarded my primary job as "surfing the wave of change for this industry and not getting pulled under". I've known many will get pulled under. So, on an individual basis I think it is an existential thread but I really do think the industry will survive as an industry. I also think some of us will survive just as some did in previous shifts.
Fortuitously, the tangent I and others went on is exactly the thing I think will be the difference between the survivors and the crushed. I believe this is the shift that will finally cement the reality that fonts are software (till one day they are something else). Those who can function in the software world without resting on IP thinking are more likely to make it. This includes Monotype, which currently seems like it may be on the list of casualties.
I think you're barking up the wrong tree. Sure, there are always people conspiring to make us earn less from our fonts, but the problem is plain and simple. The number of new fonts released in a week exceeds what used to be released in a year. People already have lots of fonts and lots of excellent fonts are free. If you release a free font, you might get 2-3 retweets, but it will likely be ignored and fall into obscurity on free font sites. Nobody planned it be like this. It's the result of 30 years of independent designers creating an accumulation of wonderful tools for designers. Now they have enough. All these lawsuits and monosponies don't matter: people don't need fonts anymore.
But you're especially susceptible because you decided to eschew trends and focus on a style that's in a downswing right now. We're headed into a revival of the Y2K aesthetic and from looking at your library, it's not looking good. While I'm not an example of having the best promo graphics, you need a minimum of 5, and you need 4:3 versions for social media. I hate it...I'd rather be cranking out fonts too. But single promo graphics have been required for at least 15 years. Three graphics have been the norm for over a decade and 5 is the basic now. You've made so many wonderful typefaces but when I check you out on MyFonts, the lack of presentation, frankly looks pretty lousy.
If you're going to give up, that's your choice but if you're going to moan about it, get your shit together and give these fonts the presentation they deserve. You should be proud of what you've done but it doesn't look like that to me.
But absolutely agree with you on the social media and promotion.
If font vending can be a guide, a service, an opinion, a statement, and an attitide, it can't be duplicated. You can't pirate that. The name, ad copy and imagery can fuel a customer's excitment and imagination. A designer may consider an angle they never thought of. The timing and deployment of a typeface along with editorials and association with tastemakers can help perpetuate the fashion cycle. Typefaces from a specific storefront may be associated with a trend and customers can feel like they trust that brand's fonts to harmonize with that trend and with one another. This is something that the big retailers such as Monotype can never accomplish. Their websites fuction to simply vend fonts and they're designed to please everyone. They don't have a specific attitude and they bury new and challenging font releases. Their trend forecasts are always behind, pushing whatever was already popular last year because they are required to avoid risks. If you treat fonts as software it doens't help you compete with Google fonts and such. If you give people a reason to go beyond the fonts they already have, you don't need to worry about free fonts, webfont rippers or free fonts or pirate sites. Designers will come to you not becuase they simply needed a font but becuase they need something to make their work look cool...that's something people still need.
Font vendors have been associated with themes but they usually don't end up following fashion. Like House Industries has a theme but it doesn't change with the trends. Hype For Type caught the late 2000's vibe but stayed put and quickly became dated. It has to be something where people can go for general new ideas and excitement...something to make the customer not want the font they already have.
I'm frankly quite hurt, that you think so little of my commitment to design innovation that you thought I was commenting on design at all when I was discussing the IP vs software question. I'd have thought by now that I'd have earned credibility regarding design. I run Darden Studio! Have you seen our fonts? I've been doing this for nearly 15 years, if I didn't get the importance of design innovation I'd have destroyed Darden Studio by now.
I pretty much agree with everything you said, except that I literally have no idea why you said it in response to what I was discussing because, again, I was only talking about the licensing model. I'm advocating for a license that's in the software world. This means permission based on how the software is used rather than were the fonts are seen. I'm in opposition to licensing requirements for logo, broadcast, epub, social media (as long as it's all static), etc.
My stance should have no effect on design other than to enable the designer to get paid for it.
Mainly what I was responding to is your notion that it's a choice between being crushed and treating fonts as software. All these big distributors do is deliver software and they do it well. But it's not getting any better and it's hard for Nick and me to watch it all sliding downhill. And I don't think it needs to.
Darden Fonts: of course: beautiful. In no way did I mean to disrespect Darden Studio...I'm always in awe of that choice typeface selection. But all typefaces are subject to changes in fashion. Mine, Darden's, everybody's. As for what I proposed...I don't think it's a romantic notion: I think it's the only chance we've got. It's capitalist as hell and I don't think it's much different to what the other industries do to connect with their customers emotionally...to generate a feeling of need, a feeling of dissatisfaction with that they already own and to keep the trend mill rolling. In the future there will be more and better free alternatives and maybe patching up what worked in the 1990's-2000's isn't the solution. What will it be like when Google fonts has 10x the selection? In 30 years, maybe 100x the selection?
You can keep honing your EULA but if people are satiated with fonts, that's not going to fix it. It'll help a bit but weird EULAs never stopped buyers in the past. The 2000's font gold rush occurred despite atrocious license agreements. I'm not saying don't improve licensing terms, but I don't think it's the solution to not getting crushed.
@John Savard I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't been keeping up with FontFont since I had a catalog in the late 1990's. No disrespect intended but I haven't visited their website so I have no idea.
What I'm saying about the fonts being software isn't meant to affect the design process at all. This whole tangent started because someone said something about existential threats to the industry in the form of customers giving up on us because the licensing is too confusing. I agree that could happen and I'm saying the reason is all the licensing clauses that come from the IP world.
It just doesn't make sense to a customer that they should need to pay for broadcast licensing for a font, even customers who think nothing of it for music or images, because they don't think of fonts as IP. I get that you're making a different kind of distinction between IP and software. Though I find your framing confusing I agree with your conclusions. All of that is completely separate from considerations of design and fashion (on which points you and I agree).
And everyone, I'm sorry for derailing this thread. I'm worried about Nick...I hope he's going to be okay.