Are printed specimens just fun objects or do they really help sell type?



  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,778
    I gather there is a long tradition of paper companies and type designers having co-marketing arrangements. I think entire books and specimen books have sometimes been sponsored by paper companies.

    I am trying to think of one calligraphic type designer in particular, who passed away at least 5 years ago, maybe 10?….
    Doyald Young?

    Yup. I don’t remember the company but they printed an abridged version of Fonts and Logos.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,346
    edited September 2
    I don’t remember the company...
    Oops. I guess that didn't work. :smile:

    I've got a copy: The Art of the Letter, by Doyald Young, published by Smart Papers (also deceased)
  • I want to toss out another thought:  type purchases are more often mnemonic than they are impulsive. A designer sees a type that looks interesting or enticing, but has no immediate need for it. But a time comes when memory brings it back to mind as a possible use has come into existence. It used to be that the designer would thumb through a saved folder of printed specimens, but nowadays, in the highly overcrowded online world, they have no way to retrieve it, at least not easily. We used to be able to act as our own curators, now there’s just the mob. Honestly, I feel pity for those of you who have to compete in such a marketplace—and I’m sad for the designers who face befuddlement. The embarrassment of riches we have at our fingertips turns is often more embarrassing than rich.

    John Boardley is trying to do something better. I hope he succeeds.

  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,731
    Right Ale. I used to publish printed specimens frequently (good for conference goody bags), but now only PDFs and banner ads for my distributors.
  • I understand well the high cost of printing; over the past year paper prices have gone through the roof asa supply chains have been broken worldwide. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I’m perfectly happy with a PDF that I can print myself. I think it’s an effort that simply has to be made for text types, and perhaps others, too. You won’t persuade us text designers otherwise.

    It seems that young type designers don’t give much thought to print. That’s a shame—and their loss. The printing industry will never again be what it was in 1997, when some of the largest firms were dedicated to things such as directory printing, now entirely gone. But in its consolidated form, the industry is now quite robust. Book printing worldwide has been on a steady rise since 2014 (with a big bump during the pandemic). That same year, e-books reached their height, only to flatten afterward. What has grown even more is the sector of audio books—no type sales there!

  • I wrote about PDF specimens further up, but wanted to chime in on printed matter. At Grilli we produce printed matter and related goods (wooden toys, hats, etc.) because we enjoy designing them, never for profit. I do believe it adds to the brand and all that jazz, but it’s just a lot of fun to design good stuff with your own type.
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 132

    These decisions cannot be made online, neither can they be made from cleverly designed printed pieces or PDFs that don’t show paragraphs and full pages. Book designers might not be the most prolific buyers of fonts, but if use is measured in linear meters, we are the most prolific users.

    But would you print the foundry’s specimen or run your own tests if a trial font is available?
  • @Craig Eliason
    Yes, it was Doyald Young I was trying to think of! He passed away in February 2011.   :(
    His 2003 book Art of the Letter was published by “SMART Papers.”
  • Alex Visi said: 
    But would you print the foundry’s specimen or run your own tests if a trial font is available?

    Yes and yes—and I do.
  • A complete specimen of some sort certainly is important - it shows what the typeface looks like in use, it shows what the style of each character is. If the purchasing decision is a serious one rather than a casual one, something like that will be needed.
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