Early access or beta releases à la futurefonts.xyz

What are your thoughts or experiences with selling early versions of your fonts?

I've been working on a typeface again after a 10 year hiatus from my type design hobby, and it's far enough along now that I'm beginning to think about how and when to publish it. I'm a software engineer by trade so releasing beta versions of a project or versions with limited feature sets, and then iterating on them and releasing future updates feels very natural to me. And what they're doing on e.g. Future Fonts seems very interesting and familiar in that regard.

However, I've also seen fair number of comments here and elsewhere where type designers have regretted releasing a font too early, and that pre-release versions have a tendency to leak and be distributed on sketchy sites forever, with whatever bugs, errors, or issues those early versions might contain.

If you have used an iterative approach and released multiple versions of a font, how did you decide where to stop for the initial version, and what did you include in subsequent releases?

Comments

  • Igor PetrovicIgor Petrovic Posts: 263
    edited May 2023
    I am of those that think font versioning is a good idea, especially for display fonts. 

    Standard font production is a long and laborious process without any emotional or material reward until the release. That results in many fonts being abandoned in the middle and many great concepts never even started to be digitized expecting the many months of grinding.

    Given this, it's reasonable to put honest type designer's benefits in front of pirate site users who end up using a half-product. Actually, that even sounds like a clever antipiracy strategy, to seed numerous fake instances over the web where only those who buy can be sure they get the right product  :)

    Given that font can be used for branding, having the first version of English 26 cap or low letters can qualify for 0.1
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,746
    Noah, the issues you describe are exactly why, in my opinion, using a dedicated-to-the-concept site like Future Fonts is a much better idea than trying to do something similar on one’s own.

    They go to great lengths to explain the concept. They version stuff. They make sure users know about the upgrade to the latest. And on and on. It is a LOT of work to manage all that. Which is why a site dedicated to the proposition makes a lot of sense, unless you really, really want to put in a ton of work educating your users about all that—instead of being focused on making your fonts.

    Personally, having feedback and users during the process would be very motivating for me. My biggest regret about Future Fonts is not having thought of it. But I have zero desire to try to do that kind of thing solo; that seems crazy to me, despite my love of the idea.

    Plus, the people who run it (Lizy Gershenzon, Travis Kochel, et al.) are really awesome folks, super creative, smart as heck, and highly principled.

    Also, did I mention that using the notdef in their logo was highly inspired? 🤩
  • Noah BurneyNoah Burney Posts: 26
    edited May 2023
    Ha yeah true @Igor Petrovic, although for me it’s just a hobby and I don’t expect to make any money off fonts really. So I’m less concerned with the piracy part and more just I’d hate to have the joy of seeing my font used in the wild quickly turn into “dammit I fixed that kerning/diacritic/bad curve/etc. 2 years ago.”

    And yeah Thomas the notdef logo is genius. Definitely appreciate the type design in-joke (likewise OH no Type Co.). Guess it wouldn’t hurt to reach out to Future Fonts. Just not sure I’m quite their target demographic.

    Too bad you can't make HTTP calls from OpenType features or I could annoy users with a "New version available" substitution ha
  • Noah BurneyNoah Burney Posts: 26
    Especially since this current project is yet another fairly vanilla workhorse sans” typeface I expect that'd be the case.

    Besides Future Fonts, I know Google Fonts has a good number of early access fonts, but those generally seem to be big projects for CJK, Indic, or other non-Latin scripts. Any other distributors have similar programs? 
  • Igor PetrovicIgor Petrovic Posts: 263
    edited May 2023
    Also, the last time I checked FF selected new entries quarterly.
  • Paul HanslowPaul Hanslow Posts: 160
    edited June 2023
    Also think it's worth noting that FutureFonts is pretty darn selective about which fonts they accept on their platform. 
    Does FutureFonts factor in who designed the typeface for their selection process? For example, if a well-known designer submits a workhorse typeface, does it carry more weight because of the designer? What if the same project was submitted by an unknown designer. Would it be ignored? Who knows! FutureFonts doesn't need to be transparent with their processes and/or explain why they select one typeface over another...but I've often wondered about their selection process.
  • I don’t want to speak for them but here’s my understanding as someone who has submitted type there:

    I’ve had projects rejected because they were too similar to projects that were already there. Uniqueness within their catalog seems to be the priority. A workhorse would likely be accepted if it was a different style from any other existing workhorse on their platform (or if it had a feature that made it stand out).
  • From my understanding—as a total outsider—they do go out of their way to bring in more designers from underrepresented groups. (As stated on their submission guidelines page). But I interpreted it as an effort to cast a wider net for applicants rather than selection criteria per se.
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