Team Dynamics

hrant's picture

Type design seems to usually be a solitary venture (I can understand why... :-), but not always, and I wonder how teams of type designers tend to function when working on a single design. Most of the few cases where numerous designers have worked on a single font have been grunge/experimental projects (like that MetaDesign thing - I forget the name now), but I think the scenario where a small (and strongly structured - necessarily?) team works on a text face is most interesting.

For obvious reasons, the following would be a great case-study at Typophile:

Miller was worked on by Matthew Carter, Tobias Frere-Jones and Cyrus Highsmith. Could we possibly get some insight into the dynamics, like who did what part of the whole task, what logistical issues arose, etc.? I'm betting it could be very educational.

hhp

hrant's picture

I'm game, but only if it's more than just for our own entertainment. Not that the end result needs to be a highly useful font or anything, but at least the process should have some educational value.

And remember this proverb:
If it takes one programmer one day to write a piece of code, it takes two programmers two days to write it...

Not to cast an ominous cloud on this, but to me the ideal such project would involve like 10-20 designers, and take about a year. It would also require great flexibility of the participants, as well as a lot of communication. Last but not least: and one central "authority".

Sbo: I don't understand your concern.

hhp

beejay's picture

The idea is sound

beejay's picture

Thus, the Bandwidth family: Bandwidth Bold, Bandwidth Italic, etc. :)

jai

bj

hrant's picture

David:
I don't see charging any money for this (unless it's for a charity, like maybe: http://www.ifrc.org/) One reason is the nightmare of distributing the proceeds if:

BJ:
I think splitting it by character could only result in a grunge font. Maybe we should do it by "task" instead, like: lc, UC, numerals, spacing, hinting, trapping, etc. We could subdivide each task, for example one person could be in charge of the serifs.

I know this makes things more nebulous (for example, you can't *really* split up spacing from glyph design, at least not completely), but with some open-minded cooperation and effective, intelligent structuring and communication it could make the result much more compelling than some freak show.

One thing we would all have to agree on before we commit would be overall character of the design.

BTW, for the Single Authority I mentioned, I nominate... Jonathan Hoefler! :-)

hhp

beejay's picture

>>I think splitting it by
character could only result
in a grunge font.

I think you'd be surprised. Working off fixed 'controls' - stem widths, bowl structure, x-height - and completing key letters in UC and lc, I don't see why splitting up glyphs wouldn't work. Why not try it? It certainly amplifies the 'fun' element of the project.

Also, just as a survey, is there anyone who likes spacing and kerning more than the process of actually building a font?

bj

hrant's picture

To me, the most interesting thing is trying to create a nice font that's usable for display and short text, with as many people as logistically possible. Here's a rough proposal:

1. Appoint an Overall Authority: this person will have final say in everything, without necessarily participating in the design, or even explicitly offering his/her opinion. The three qualities this person must have in abundance are: an understanding of type design; fairness; a willingness to allow -even motivate- people to make something he personally might not like.

2. Decide the general nature of the typeface. Is it a grotesque sans, a joined script, a Garalde, what? Once this is decided, some people will want to participate in the design, and others won't.

3. Make a list of tasks that a type designer does, with as many subdivisions as we have participants.

4. Define the Pert-chart, which is basically the sequential dependence of the various tasks (eg: Kerning comes after Spacing). Also define how the various tasks are related (eg: the rough spacing is done by the person doing [some of] the letterforms, but the final spacing is done afterwards by somebody else; or that the person doing the Kerning has to spend some "quality time" with the guy who did the Spacing).

5. Assign each sub-task to an individual, make sure everybody's communicating with who he/she needs to communicate with, and manage the project to completion.

6. Become filthy rich through record sales never before seen in the font world... ;-)

hhp

close's picture

how about deciding on a sans serif grotesque and starting out with a grid like 5 x 7 or whatever? then have whoever wants to participate design lc a, g, o, m, etc. based on that grid, discuss the results and take it from there. the result could be a regular and an alternative or even two different fonts. weights from extra light to extra bold as well as italics and script and/or grunge versions could follow. this could actually go on forever, definatley a very interesting experiment.

simon

mart's picture

Raining on your parade:
I can't imagine this working very well. I don't think there have been many precedents for type design by committee/collaboration of more than two people.
Having said that though, it might be fun for some of the participants and instructive for the organisers, and there's no harm done. So go for it!
My suggestion on how to start would be this:
Don't start from absolutely square one. Participants should throw into the hat unfinished/barely started projects that have been shelved for one reason or another. Upload samples like in the Critique Discussion area and discuss the merits of each prospect and go from there. I for one have a handful of designs with potential that I will never ever finish, and I dare say a lot of people here have good projects that they might not develop. I think this would be a far better way to get the project going than to debate sans grotesque versus serif display/whatever.

Oh, and choose something fairly easy to start off with, otherwise there will never be a second Typophile multi-collaborative font.

hrant's picture

> put the thing down for a while and return to it with fresh eyes.

It's painful -to me at least- to admit how important this can be. Case in point: my first Latin text face had been sitting in a drawer (in the real world as well as in the digital) for about two months, and now that I look at it again I see so much that needs fixing. The bothersome question is of course: what would I have thought after *another* two months...

The changing of mind is a decidedly human blessing/curse.

hhp

foss's picture

i have a slightly different idea. i think i saw a similar idea on a website somewhere a long time ago, but what you do is have a list of 26 or so designers, the first person creates the letter "A" and email it to the second person who creates the letter "B" based on what the "A" looks like, and so on. it would make a crappy font, but an online presentation (flash) of how the letters transform from A-Z would be interesting.

hrant's picture

I think that might work, but instead of proceeding alphabetically it should be like an interconnected lattice, starting with some "parent" letters (like the "n", "o", "p", "v") and branching out, and reconnecting back.

hhp

hrant's picture

> we haven't been able to turn type design into the same sort of scalable business as, say, website design, but I think that's the nature of the beast.

I think in part, yes, type design is not very scalable. But if Rubens could do it with Fine Art, there must be some scalability in something that's at least as much a Craft as it is Art (I would in fact argue that there's a lot less Art in type design than many might like to imagine - but that's another topic).

So in imitation of Rubens maybe the only real way is to have one guy on top, with a bunch of "apprentices" pushing beziers, setting kerning, etc., and periodically going back to the head honcho for approval. The end results might not be as sublime as the sole work of the master, but at least it sees the light of day a few times faster.

(BTW, coming back to this thread's origin: was that in effect the process with Miller?)

hhp

hrant's picture

> what you do is have a list of 26 or so designers, the first person creates the letter "A" and ....

Here's another potentially fruitful angle:
Decide an overall direction, then have a number of designers work independently, submitting their work to another designer, the Reconciler, whose role is to make a homogenous font out of the "submissions", changing them as little as possible, maintaining each glyph's structure/spirit.

hhp

svenni's picture

Here's yet another idea:

Round one:
All participants submit five to ten characters
of their own idea.

Round two:
The "editor" picks out the idea that seems
to best fit for collaborative work, or possibly
merges two or more.

Round three:
Participants start working on characters,
everyone does each letter he/she wants,
nothing more, nothing less.

Round four:
The editor picks out the characters that suit
the idea best (maybe even two or three versions
of each character if that works) and sends
those out.

Round five:
Participants can submit "remixes" of the chosen
characters or add characters noone chose to do
in the first round.

Following rounds would have all the kerning
and hinting and such, how that process works
I don't really know as I've never finished
a typeface beyond fixing it up for personal use,
but this way I feel everyone has a say on
everything, but the outcome still looks good.

beejay's picture

This thread was started in january and it doesn't seem to be headed in a workable direction. Actually, about 10 different workable directions. Without leaving this thread hanging -- it may someday come together -- i am going to start another thread that maybe can get the ball rolling.


bj

Jared Benson's picture

You know, I was toying with the idea of doing our own collaborative typeface here on the forums - taking advantage of the ability to post graphic specimens. Is this something that we'd be interested in?

jb

anonymous's picture

Oh yes please.
But how would we ensure that we're not ripped off by some fontaholic punks?

Sbo

anonymous's picture

I'd be interested in this as well....

Here's a possibility, to answer Sbo's concerns: say we work on this typographic collaboration with the express intention of making it available as freeware? It could be a gift from Typophile.com community to the community at large, and promoted as a free font to increase traffic to the site?

I'd be fine with keeping the finished product as proprietary as well, if that is the decision of the majority of respondents/collaborators. But it seems that if there are many of us contributing to the design, it might be easier (and more justifiable) to just use the finished product as a free promotion for Typophile.com.

Thoughts?

David

Jared Benson's picture

I know the perfect charity, solely dedicated to typographic collaboration and education -- ::wink::

anonymous's picture

I think it might be more interesting (and workable) if one person designed the base font, another the italic, another the bold, etc. in sort of a round-robin fashion.

I'd be very willing to try a collaboration on a single face, though, but without direct & immediate interaction, I'm not sure how that would work. What do you all have in mind?

David

anonymous's picture

May I suggest Erik S. as the mentor of the project? If he is still reading at typophile and would be interessted in such a role. He might even have the contacts to promote the final typeface as a gift and inspiration in the typographic "community".

It would be great if the font in progress was online and free for download for every participants. We could each have a password that allowed us to download the latest developments ,and work on the face individually. Then each and everyone could post to a dedicated thread their improvements and ideas. That way we all could contribute as much we can.

Maybe a sponsor would be interessted in supporting the typeface? That way the mentor of the project could have a few dedicated hours set of to managing it.

Sbo

anonymous's picture

I am with svenni. Although i would fit in several round of open critique, so that everyone sees the results and might feel to comment, like the critique forum as it is now.
Maybe instead of having an editor selecting the sent in work, we could put a list with all results (flash!!) and let everyone vote and critique.

I am in on the project.


Jacques

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