Is there much freelance digitization work for newbie type designers?

blank's picture

I’ll be graduating shortly and am thinking about what I’ll be doing afterward. I probably won’t take a job that requires me to be in the office more than for forty hours a week so that I can have time outside of work to keep designing type. Something I am interested in is pursuing jobs digitizing existing type; this is something I want to do anyway, so I might as well try to get paid and work with people who know what they’re doing.

How much of this work is out there, and what’s the best way to get it? Should I just bring a portfolio of whatever fonts I have done to Typecon and talk to people there?

dan_reynolds's picture

The short answer to your question is "no."

I don't mean at all to be flippant with you, so I will keep explaining. It is probably clear to you by now that there is no single, direct way into professional type design. We don't have the same halfway-accepted system that the graphic design industry has (i.e., major in graphic design, intern, graduate, get a junior designer position, work your way up from there in the same or other studios to partnership or going out on your own, etc.).

What some of the bigger foundries may use freelancers for is character extension. Basically drawing accepts for central and eastern European languages, and then testing the font. For this type of thing, yes, you could just bring your portfolio of font work to date to TypeCon. There would be a few people that you could talk to there. Be aware, though, that there are far more designers who can freelance than spots available. In my experiences, a company is more than likely to use the freelancer who lives in the same city (or the next town over) than someone from far away, at least half of the time or more. Still, it does not hurt to try.

There are foundries that will distribute digitizations of old faces, and there are foundries that do not. Of those that do, you designers quite often approach them and ask exactly what you are offering here. And this is not usually what happens going forward. Much more common is that the foundry will say, "yes, we would love to distribute the font. If you can digitize it yourself and bring it up to standard, we will take it into our program and distribute it." Then, you would just get small royalties based on sales. They probably wouldn't even cover the cost of your working time, actually. But some designers go this route for experience's sake.

dezcom's picture

I think Dan is right. You should certainly keep working on your own trypefaces in your spare time to keep learning as much as you can. There is probably more freelance work available in the techie end of type design than glyph drawing (OpenType coding and testing).


dan_reynolds's picture

> glyph drawing

To butt in once more, a big exception to this might be in designing adding additional script support (i.e., Cyrillic, Greek, Arabic, etc.). Becoming a specialist in another script can be a good way to get work.

blank's picture

Thanks for the information, guys. I’ll plan on doing on my own eccentric revivals to sell Myfonts.

Grant Hutchinson's picture

James, along with scoping out new typeface designs, Veer is continually looking for folks that can also provide technical production, character set extrapolation, and digitization of analogue drawings. I’d be happy to chat with you off-thread about this. Contact me directly through my profile if you’re interested in exploring this further.



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