What is the right kind of support for recent-graduate level typeface designers?

Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,053
edited February 2014 in Technique and Theory
Type Together have announced a recent graduate 'incentive programme' where applicants who are selected can get:

a) Feedback on design, font production and commercial issues.
b) A publishing contract with TypeTogether, at our standard rate for royalties.
c) A sum of EUR 2,500.00 to support you after finishing the postgraduate course.
Here is Monotype's Mentorship Programme poster from 2012:

image

Gerry Leonidas praised that initiative at the time, and followed up with similar praise in his recent blog post, "The right kind of support":
In June 2013 Ampersand conference hosted an exhibition of work by students of typeface design courses, there were submissions from over 30 countries: a reminder that typeface design is an international endeavour, growing in recognition as a career with path for study and recognised professional norms. As with other professions, this maturity brings increasing competition for new designers.

Eighteen months ago Monotype initiated a Mentorship Program for designers under 30. Yesterday, Type-Together announced their Typeface Publishing Incentive Program, for graduating students. This initiative, open to all designers currently studying typeface design, recognises the pressures on designers who may have promising projects alongside financial loans, and the very real stress of “what happens after graduation?”

Like in any established profession, the careers paths of typeface design graduates are not uniform, and the demand by the market and potential employers may not match exactly with the skills and experience of graduates — this is normal, and it is one of the correctives that allows outliers to enter the profession, as well as feedback to education institutions so that they evolve. But anyone with a good understanding of the sector will regret the small number of exceptional projects developed during study that never, or very late, make it onto a foundry’s catalogue.

Type-Together and Monotype are putting their money where their mouth is, and are offering support to a promising designer for those crucial first months after graduation. This support can make the difference between a typeface with potential being developed properly, and it being lost between the Scylla of “I’ll do it when I have more time” and the Charybdis of some “free” service, for peanuts.

People will object and say that this is too little for a growing profession. I’ll counter that this may well be the beginning of a trend in companies supporting new professionals, parallel to many schemes in other sectors. It is not too far-fetched to imagine that most major foundries might soon have a similar scheme: this would allow them to get in early on potentially great typefaces, and check out a new professional (who may well end up being hired, or contracted). More widely, it allows foundries to send a clear message that they recognise and support excellence in typeface design, and – through their selections — what is innovative and worth exploring.
I'm curious how type designers consider these programmes.

Do you think this is the right kind of support for recent-graduate level typeface designers?

Comments

  • Why not just hire 'em?


  • Dave, since you're offering no specific critique of the program, nor any opinion of your own, this is just concern trolling.
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,053
    edited February 2014
    Personal opinion only :)
    Why not just hire 'em?
    How many recent graduates has FB hired in the last 5 years? :)
    since you're offering no specific critique of the program, nor any opinion of your own, this is just concern trolling.
    Sorry that I assumed that my opinion of these programs could be assumed.

    There seem to be 3 core aspects of this programme as compared to GF's: Funding, Mentoring, License Restrictions.

    Funding: All 3 programmes offer the same amounts. In some cases GF offers more. GF allows designers to keep ownership of their work, so they can have 100% of the income from future opportunities, but these foundries take a very large cut of future sales. So I find comments about 'peanuts' rather curious.

    Mentorship: Your blog post a couple of years ago suggested that GF connect novice type designers to those with more experience, which I was already doing to some extent, and have done more of since. These programmes offer similar remote-mentoring opportunities.

    License Restrictions: I think GF's programme respect users freedoms to copy and modify fonts, and the TT/MT programmes do not. I think one side of that is a sad thing, many people here think the other side is a sad thing. News at 11. I'll also say that I consider the TT/MT programmes to only happen because of the wide-spread engagement with the GF commission offer.

    Since the GF commissions are widely admonished here and in similar forums, but a prominent member of the type design community is praising these very similar programmes, I honestly wonder if that sentiment is widely shared in our community.

    You can say I'm trolling, but since you're also not offering any specific critique of the program, nor any opinion of your own, I'll say the same to you and consider myself trolled :)
  • Terrific — now you've converted this thread from trolling to spamming.
  • Mentorship: Your blog post a couple of years ago suggested that GF connect novice type designers to those with more experience, which I was already doing to some extent, and have done more of since. These programmes offer similar remote-mentoring opportunities.
    You self-aggrandizement is ridiculous. As a type designer you have published one typeface, and that one was your own student project. The experience offered by the mentors at Monotype and TypeTogether is brobdingnagian by comparison. You may have commendable skill and experience as a facilitator, but as a designer you’ve hardly come farther than the graduates you would be mentoring.
    GF allows designers to keep ownership of their work, so they can have 100% of the income from future opportunities, but these foundries take a very large cut of future sales.
    100% of future sales that are hampered by the existence of libre versions of the fonts! And the cut of sales that Monotype requests from the designers in its mentor program is no less than most other retail licensing deals.
  • Dave,

    I am honestly quite surprised to read this. You are comparing apples to pears in every sense.
    Funding: GF allows designers to keep ownership of their work, so they can have 100% of the income from future opportunities, but these foundries take a very large cut of future sales.
    I am curious to know what percentage of the fonts published at GF produced any additional income for the original designers. At least at TypeTogether that is all of them. May I remind you that 100% of zero is zero?
    Type foundries charge a commission because of the effort, tools, brand value, know how and customer base they use to commercialize typefaces and offer technical support when needed. At least in our contract, DESIGNERS KEEP OWNERSHIP of their intellectual property and guess what, part of our job is protecting that as well. Furthermore, we allow designers to cancel their contracts at ANY time with a 60 day notification.
    We pride ourselves of building strong and long terms relationships with our designers and we will not hold anyone against their will. We make an effort to keep a retail library that does not have fonts that compete between them too much, and we do not mix fonts of lesser quality there. And if we get an extension, modification or design job related to a font, the original designer has always the first option. If he/she is unable to do it then we make sure any additions are done with care and following the original design.

    Mentorship: Your blog post a couple of years ago suggested that GF connect novice type designers to those with more experience
    I am not sure what "connect" means here. What we do with all of our designers and what we are prepared to do to a large extent in this new program is to provide advise about the commercial side, that is ways to enhance the commercial potential of a typeface. When required, we also give feedback about design features, help designers in the testing procedures and share knowledge, tools and processes to control the quality of the final product. We of course take care of the production of the font files and are well prepared to help with other repetitive and boring tasks. We accompany designers from the start of discussing the contract until they release their fonts, which is sometimes couple of years later because we do not mind signing projects in early stages when we see potential in them.
    Is this the same "mentorship" GF does?

    License Restrictions: I think GF's programme respect users freedoms to copy and modify fonts, and the TT/MT programmes do not.
    We are not against libre fonts, I told you so personally many times. We think it is a good thing, specially if it was done for those writing systems that are poorly or ill-supported. That being said, we mostly advocate for the designer's right to make a living out of typography.

    I'll also say that I consider the TT/MT programmes to only happen because of the wide-spread engagement with the GF commission offer.
    Allow me to disagree... NO! and honestly Dave, why would GF have anything to do with our program...Let alone Monotype? The fact that you seriously consider GF a mentorship program is troubling in itself.
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 528
    edited February 2014
    My personal opinion: Anyone giving money to fund type designers and/or type developers is welcome, be it Libre or Proprietary, Corporations, Foundries, Kickstarter, or whatever.

    I applaud this new MT and TT initiatives, and hope that more foundries can start doing the same. In particular if you consider that many many Reading students and graduates published at GF, as well as many many CDT-UBA graduates and teachers.

    If foundries can pay more money than GF, that's great news!
    However 2500 or 3000 for a whole (probably multi-script) family, seems even less than 1500 for a basic Latin-1 single style font (and by the way, GF are paying much more these days).
    Note that I'm not counting royalties here, since Pro versions of Libre fonts can also be sold on Myfonts and elsewhere to generate extra revenue (as already discussed here, that shows that a Proprietary version of a Libre font can sell as little or as much as any other proprietary-only font).

    The "for peanuts" mention thing is interesting... since each individual designer can negotiate his own deal and use his business abilities to increases the initial offer, and no one is forced to accept the initial deal "as is". Even TT published some font on GF, hopefully not for peanuts, since Jose is very very good in the art of negotiation. And It's also a bit ironic that Gerry's post is set in Lato, served by that 'peanuts' free service.

    Somewhat related and also interesting is John's twitter comment :
    "I like the initiative, especially as a counter to the activities of, um, another party in the past few years..."
    In particular if you consider that he is now working in a project for, um, another party....
    https://github.com/TiroTypeworks/Slabo
  • "How many recent graduates has FB hired in the last 5 years? :)"

    The best we hope, and not all there are each year, surely.

    But the thing is, you are comparing a spark, to a fully fueled camp fire, going on 25, and no sign of running out of beans, and by assuming it's good for the young designer to keep 100%, (as if each grad is to be able to do the whole job themselves! from off-curve point to tech support?), you may miss the reality of partnerships required to build personal libraries and relationships with c l I e n t s of typography, besides building the actual fonts.

    In any case, I don't think any of this is exclusive. It's all good. I just wish a lot larger percentage of the initiatives would go to non-Latin youth, and of course that people who think they are doing enough themselves, try everything first and not go after alternative efforts like this.
  • not go after alternative efforts like this
    Let me be very clear: I am not saying these programmes are bad! :)

    Aside from the libre philosophy (which I know most people here think is shrill, or, at best like this,

    image

    :-)

    then my point is that all 3 initiatives are similar. I also don't think any of this is exclusive, and I agree, its all good.
  • > then my point is that all 3 initiatives are similar.

    I think most folks here disagree with you on that! :)
  • > then my point is that all 3 initiatives are similar.
    They are not overly similar. The 'Type Production Incentive Programme' reads like pretentious bollocks, the others don't.
  • "May I remind you that 100% of zero is zero?"

    But still, if you do not have to share it with anyone...
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,053
    edited February 2014
    Mentorship: Your blog post a couple of years ago suggested that GF connect novice type designers to those with more experience, which I was already doing to some extent, and have done more of since. These programmes offer similar remote-mentoring opportunities.
    You self-aggrandizement is ridiculous. As a type designer you have published one typeface, and that one was your own student project. The experience offered by the mentors at Monotype and TypeTogether is brobdingnagian by comparison. You may have commendable skill and experience as a facilitator, but as a designer you’ve hardly come farther than the graduates you would be mentoring.
    Sorry I was unclear about this: I personally will not be doing any of the mentoring for graduate-level type designers.

    That would be silly :) While my total-beginner-level students are very happy with what I can teach them, I have little to offer people at my own level. I've spent the last few years as a technical program manager, not practicing the design disciplines I learned in school (type/UX); I do some little personal type projects every now and again, and take classes at my level (anyone else going to Berlin for the Commercial Type intermediate workshop? :) because I love letters... but no. Not me :)
    GF allows designers to keep ownership of their work, so they can have 100% of the income from future opportunities, but these foundries take a very large cut of future sales.
    100% of future sales that are hampered by the existence of libre versions of the fonts! And the cut of sales that Monotype requests from the designers in its mentor program is no less than most other retail licensing deals.
    Libre fonts do not hamper the sales of proprietary fonts - just the opposite, they grow the type market.

    The 70% cut of sales that most retail licensing deals make seem like a very large cut, to me. :)
  • I'll also say that I consider the TT/MT programmes to only happen because of the wide-spread engagement with the GF commission offer.
    Allow me to disagree... NO!
    I sincerely apologies if I offended you in some way with this. It wasn't my intention to disparage the TT mentoring programme :)

    When I wrote the above, I was being silly. There's nothing new under the sun, and 'he copied me' is such a common tort in our community I thought the jape would be apparent.

    Gerry's post said, "People will object and say that this is too little for a growing profession" – and I wondered if that is really true, and what other objections there might be.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,537
    edited February 2014
    The Monotype and TT programs are not “support for recent graduate-level typeface designers”. That’s BS, if not PB (pretentious bollocks)!

    They are a means for distributors to snag hot new talent.

    They are competitions with a multi-part prize: a cash payment, a distribution deal, production assistance, and mentoring (whatever that means).

    The cash payment is perhaps a new idea*, the other benefits have been around a while, e.g. with FontFont, who have been soliciting submissions to their FontBoard annually, for 20+ years.

    It’s all good!

    *In the 1980s, I freelance designed typefaces for a couple of companies, Headliners International and Typsettra; both paid me (handsomely, I thought at the time) to produce the glyph artwork, as well as subsequent royalties based on usage.
  • Indeed, its all good - so I'm curious about comments like :)
  • Patrick GriffinPatrick Griffin Posts: 61
    edited February 2014
    These programs are very similiar to the many so-called contests that included mandatory contracts for their alleged winners, from VGC's media-hyped type design competitions more than 50 years ago to Linotype's TakeType stuff in the 90s (to cite two examples among many). Some of the stipulations in those contracts ranged from We own the data you submit to us (or we will own it after x number of years), to Exclusivity until the sun goes out and We price it however we want, among other ridiculously one-sided terms. I guess this stuff is better than The first two designs you publish through us are ours forever, and your residuals will start from the third design, or even We will help you expand your character sets and weights/widths, but we will take it out of your next statement at our standard hourly rate. True stories in italics.

    So now it's the same old song and dance with a 21st century beat, and fatter cheese on the appetizer plate. The old adage still applies: Better mousetraps result in smarter mice. People do learn from what happens to others.

    Students and beginners would be well advised to read the small print carefully and consider everything in long term contexts, heed the standard warning about taking rides from strangers, and talk to people who have been there.
  • The TT terms are nothing like that :)
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,905
    Without bothering to read the whole thread...

    My take on this is that I think all of the initiatives discussed have some merit. When I tweeted that I welcomed the Type Together initiative as a 'counter' to other recent examples of companies paying money to students, I didn't intend to suggest it was a generally better kind of support, but that it provides another model for students to consider, one that feeds into the restricted licensing market rather than the open licensing market. I think both those markets are important, and it is also important for students entering the business to understand the different risk/return models of these markets.

    Dave:
    GF allows designers to keep ownership of their work, so they can have 100% of the income from future opportunities, but these foundries take a very large cut of future sales.
    But if there are no future opportunities after you have effectively given away your work for free, then there's no value left in what you own. I'm not saying that this is the inevitable outcome of open sourcing, but that it is one risk of that particular model, and one that students and experienced font makers alike need to understand and consider. Yes, in a foundry distribution license model the distributor will take a portion of future sales income, but will also invest in active marketing. And in the case of both Monotype and Type Together there is good evidence of their ability to generate such future sales. Again, there is a risk/return estimation to be considered.

    Also, as we've discussed before, the Google Fonts funding agreement places restrictions on the licensing of derivative fonts by the receiver of that funding, so the degree to which the designers 'keep ownership of their work' is limited by the terms of that agreement. All rights are not reserved; some rights -- the right to license derivatives under anything other than OFL 1.1 or Apache 2.0 licences -- are explicitly given up when the agreement is signed, the fonts published and the GF funding received.

  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,537
    Thank you Patrick, for the caveat to my “It’s all good!”
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,905
    Yesterday, I wrote:
    But if there are no future opportunities after you have effectively given away your work for free, then there's no value left in what you own.
    Better to say, in that situation, that there is no value left in ownership. There may be considerable value left in the thing owned, which other people will find many ways to financially exploit while you sit admiring the copyright string, having given away all the effective rights that the copyright is intended to protect.
  • I wrote,
    The 70% cut of sales that most retail licensing deals make seem like a very large cut, to me. :)
    The TT split is 50/50 which is the upper limit of what I would consider fair for myself.

    I don't intend to undermine an initiative that I sincerely believe is good (modulo the non-libre licensing part, which we all know we agree-to-disagree about and isn't interesting) by asking people who aren't so sure to explain the details of why. Perhaps they aren't informed -- the TT and MT sites are pretty vague on the details.
  • So, I guess what you are saying then, is that you'd agree with any intern program if the fonts produced were only open licensed, in which case, we'd not be able to hire anyone.
  • James: ‘You self-aggrandizement is ridiculous. As a type designer you have published one typeface, and that one was your own student project. The experience offered by the mentors at Monotype and TypeTogether is brobdingnagian by comparison. You may have commendable skill and experience as a facilitator, but as a designer you’ve hardly come farther than the graduates you would be mentoring.

    Ah… this calls IMHO for a duel between James and Dave like the one between Händel and Scarlatti in 1708/9:

  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,053
    edited February 2014
    So, I guess what you are saying then, is that you'd agree with any intern program if the fonts produced were only open licensed, in which case, we'd not be able to hire anyone.
    Huh? Many designers who do the GF 'internship' get hired by foundries afterwards.
  • Huh? I'm delighted at that, truly. The issue I was pointing the crooked stick at is this : "libre licensing part, which we all know we agree-to-disagree about and isn't interesting".

    If libre licensing is chained to every interning and licensing model in the world as a condition of it being "good", I think it works if you are GF.

  • I think you got the horse before the cart :)
  • Is it not where it belongs? This discussion is getting worse.
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