Does foundries have clauses preventing type designers to sell their work on their own?

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Does foundries have clauses preventing type designers to sell their work on their own? Say you want to support the designer, or maybe license another selection of the family offered by their foundry.

speter's picture

There's no one rule. Some type designers sell on their own, some through foundries, and some do both. Is there a type in particular you are looking for?

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Nothing in particular. Obviously there's not one rule, but we have most of the big foundries represented on typophile so I might get an impression.

blank's picture

It depends on the foundry and the situation. Some of the foundries have exclusive contracts because the foundry actually did much of the production work or pay higher royalties to keep a design exclusive. But for most vendors the basic rule seems to be “don’t sell the font somewhere else for less”.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Generally speaking, foundries will pay more (either a higher percentage, or a flat fee, or both) for exclusive rights to sell a typeface than to be just one of many resellers.

There are other factors that go into this, of course, and different foundries offer different arrangements. MyFonts for example pays a relatively high rate for a non-exclusive resale arrangement.

Cheers,

T

Typedog's picture

Interesting

dezcom's picture

The assumption is that the foundries who do a good bit of marketing (or have a large market share) can give a smaller percentage because of their marketing expense. Designers hope to recoup more than the reduced percentage difference in increased volume of sales. Name Designers with a big following have more negotiating might (than unknown designers) and can get much better deals with big foundries.

ChrisL

Nick Shinn's picture

...foundry...

Why do we call them foundries?
Apart from the fact that no molten metal is involved, we're talking here about publishers who don't actually make fonts.
"Foundry" gives the impression of fabrication, which is misleading.
These "foundries" too are resellers, licensed to resell fonts by contracts not much different than those between publisher and distributor.
As James notes, many font publishers do production work on the fonts they resell, but this may be compared to the editing of manuscripts done by book publishing companies.

James Arboghast's picture

Font Makers we are, not foundries. Thanks for joining the chorus on this one Nick.

Anachronistic* nomenclature is one aspect of the font business that could do with updating. Why has the industry avoided semantic reform for so long?

*anachronistic must be one of 2008's most popular words. Wikipedia article here.

j a m e s

Stephen Coles's picture

The short answer is: it depends on the publisher. But there is more than marketing, percentages, and exclusivity involved.

> “Foundry” gives the impression of fabrication, which is misleading.

This is a good point, Nick. Perhaps I should change use "publisher" in my article. It's more accurate overall.

dan_reynolds's picture

Hey, foundry is still a good word. I use it every day, especially in German. It is a good descriptor for companies that are in the type design or font making business. When I talk about someone (or some group) in the graphic design business, I don't call them a company, but a studio (or something else…).

When I speak with the Germans I work with, we use the English word "Foundry" all the time. Some examples include größe Foundries, kleine Foundries (big foundries, small foundries). Or sentences like, Sie sind keine Foundry mehr (literally, "they are not a foundry anymore"… but we mean "they've stopped making fonts").

German has its own word for a real type foundry: Schriftgießerei. But I can only think of colleagues using this work in the historical sense.

Florian Hardwig's picture

In addition to Dan’s thoughts:
One possible explanation why we Germans often cling to the English word ‘foundry’ might be the fact that native terms like ‘Schrift(en)verlag’ [font(s) publisher] or ‘Schrift(en)vertrieb’ [font(s) distributor] are ambiguous. We use ‘Schrift’ for everything that has to do with the written word – it can be font, type, typeface, lettering, writing, script, but also scripture or writ.

.00's picture

foundry |ˈfoundrē|
noun ( pl. -ries)
a workshop or factory for casting metal.
ORIGIN early 17th cent. (earlier as foundery): from found 3 + -ry , perhaps suggested by French fonderie.

It might still work in German, but it long past time we dropped it in English in relation to what type designers do.

charles ellertson's picture

. . . but it long past time we dropped it in English in relation to what type designers do.

It was rare for type designers to cut their own punches, that is *work* in the foundry. Besides, "drawing office" doesn't convey any sense of sweat.

Stephen Coles's picture

What new term do you propose, James M.?

.00's picture

Why do we need a new term?

Let's just stop using Foundry.

charles ellertson's picture

Well, if we stop using the term,

Does foundries have clauses preventing type designers to sell their work on their own?

becomes

Does have clauses preventing type designers to sell their work on their own.

Makes you wonder what bucks have.

Mark Simonson's picture

As I recently mentioned elsewhere, we still "dial" the phone and "ship" packages, even though there are usually no dials or ships involved. It's just how language works.

typerror's picture

"Why do we need a new term? Let’s just stop using Foundry."

Huh? Let's just stop making sense.

Michael

William Berkson's picture

There's nothing wrong, in principle, with using a word or phrase which has changed its meaning over time. A huge number of words have origins in outdated technology. A "Font," for example, is literally set of metal pieces of type poured from one basin (font or fount) full of molten lead. But I don't hear anyone crying foul over using 'font' for digital type files.

"Font Foundry" seems to be used these days to label a company that publishes digital fonts and is in some way involved in their production. So pure resellers of fonts like MyFonts are not called "Foundries", but sell fonts from foundries. And FontShop is a reseller of fonts, but FontFont is a foundry, etc.

If you have better terminology to distinguish foundries and resellers, James, let us know. Otherwise it seems that "foundry" still is a useful word.

James Arboghast's picture

@William: A “Font,” for example, is literally set of metal pieces of type poured from one basin (font or fount) full of molten lead. But I don’t hear anyone crying foul over using ’font’ for digital type files.

That's because "font" is derrived from "fount", the original meaning "source", as in a source or fount of water bubbling up out of the ground. Since digital "fonts" are much the same thing as metal fonts were in being a source or supply of letter sorts in a given type style, we've hung onto "font" for good reason. It makes sense. It fits.

Hanging onto foundry makes a good deal less sense.

I can't think of a lot of good reasons (none at all, really) for hanging onto "foundry" at a time when practically none of us are pouring metal into molds to make metal letter sorts. That's common sense. The objection to "foundry" mainly has to do with the activities of a font maker or type designer (a combined occupation now) having changed fundamentally since metal typefounders adopted and adapted "foundry" and "fount" for their purposes.

If you have better terminology to distinguish foundries and resellers, James, let us know. Otherwise it seems that “foundry” still is a useful word.

Not sure if you're referring to me or James M. I'll have a go at it anyway. Call "foundries" font makers or type makers. Call "resellers" vendors. Vendor can be applied to a firm selling fonts it makes itself, or fonts made by other font makers---as long as they're selling something they can comfortably be called vendors.

Romance has a lot to do with this. Foundry has the same kind of traditional credibility attached to it as calling a seriffed text type a "roman", or a blackletter a "gothic" letter. If we start calling foundries font makers it may not sound sufficiently romantic for the baggage handlers in the business.

j a m e s

paragraph's picture

Let's drop leading too (no lead involved), upper & lower case (no cases anymore) ...
prgr

Typedog's picture

Why drop what works?

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Too bad that the term ‘font shop’ can not be used in a generic way. : )

. . .
Bert Vanderveen BNO

James Arboghast's picture

@Paragraph: Good! Somebody who wants to move forward. Leading and case terms are outdated , and more significantly *outmoded* terms, that could have been reformed long ago.

@William: There’s nothing wrong, in principle, with using a word or phrase which has changed its meaning over time.

If you say so. If you put it that way, I suppose it makes sense provided the person reading it doesn't question authority and elitist obfuscational technique. Give me a reason *why* there is nothing wrong in principal with anarchronistic terminology. Your statement reads like an opinion instead of a rational argument.

A huge number of words have origins in outdated technology. A “Font,” for example, is literally set of metal pieces of type poured from one basin (font or fount) full of molten lead. But I don’t hear anyone crying foul over using ’font’ for digital type files.

This is false logic and an example of the dictatorship of reason in the West. Because not a lot of type folks are crying foul over using "font", we must be consistent and not cry foul over using "foundry", mustn't we?

We live in a time when double standards thrive as they have done for millenia, yet when it suits us as individuals we insist on consistency and all things being equal, when clearly they are not.

There are abstract nouns and concrete nouns. Verbs tend to be more abstract (in application, not origin) than even the most abstract of nouns. Ship and dial being used to describe noun-objects are examples of abstract verbs. Font is a somewhat abstract noun, as I explained above, being used as a handy, flexible, resiliant synonym for source. Abstract nouns are survivors who travel thru time even as the noun-objects they represent change in substance and techne. So we tend to hang onto them.

Foundry, I submit, is not such an abstract noun as font. It's more concrete and specific to its origins. Font making techne has changed fundamentally, rendering "foundry" an outmoded concrete noun. Outmoded in the sense that the mode of operation has changed beyond all recognition.

Reform has to start at some point. If we banish "foundry" and replace it with "font maker", would that make "font" semantically retroactive and anachronistic? Depends who you ask and when. If "leading" and "case (upper and lower)" were reformed as well as "sans serif" (linear, for crying out loud) and "foundry", then "font" may seem the odd one out.

. . .metal pieces of type poured from one basin (font or fount) full of molten lead.

Basin no, sorry, these vessels weren't called basins, neither were they called a "font or fount". Crucible, melting pot, pot or cauldron, but not "font"

j a m e s

James Arboghast's picture

Why drop what works?

Because it's stupid. If you think these things "work" maybe you're not thinking vigorously enuff.

j a m e s

James Arboghast's picture

@Bert: Too bad that the term ‘font shop’ can not be used in a generic way. : )

The dictatorship of reason in the West at work in your font industry. Film at eleven.

j a m e s

paragraph's picture

Sorry, James. I was just kidding ...
prgr

James Arboghast's picture

You may have been kidding, but I'm not :^)

j a m e s

James Arboghast's picture

Why drop what works?

If you have something that works even better than the thing that "works", you might just be better off adopting the thing that works even better.

Scribes in the early 15th century might have asked a similar question to the one you're asking.
Q. Why drop manuscript calligraphy if it works?
A. A much cheaper, more economical and far more flexible alternative is just around the corner --- movable type.

j a m e s

Chris Dean's picture

Track

Stephen Coles's picture

James A - I recommend the following exercise I learned long ago which helps to keep the conversation snappy and your audience awake: limit posts to 150 words or fewer.

James Arboghast's picture

What makes you think the audience is falling asleep? Why does the conversation have to be snappy? Why are you projecting your values onto me personally?

What is your point anyway? My posts are too long for you personally? Or too long for everybody else?

All of this is getting too personal. And you probably won't answer any of my questions anyway.

Would you say the same thing to Nick Shinn, William Berkson or James Mosley if one of them had something to say and took the distance their argument required to say it?

Nonetheless I take what you've said in good faith, even tho it does look like a pitiable, cheap, insulting pot-shot. That's what it looks like.

You missed.

j a m e s

James Arboghast's picture

Why do you care, Stephen?

What difference does it make to you?

Is this snappy enuff for you?

. . . conversation . . .

It isn't a conversation, it's a debate.

I think you'd be better off minding your own business and letting me mind mine, thanks.

If you don't like what I'm saying regarding "foundry", then mount an argument against it.

If you don't like what I'm saying to you, then we had best discuss it offline, because this personal shit does not belong online.

j a m e s

Rob O. Font's picture

We normally allow designers to market and sell their own work if they wish. We request they not undercut our pricing model, which they don't for reasons above the table. We understand why some font publishers want exclusive sales, as we do on some of our library.

"...we’re talking here about publishers who don’t actually make fonts."

Oh, sorry. Never mind.

"...font publishers do production work on the fonts [] but this may be compared to [the] editing of manuscripts [] by book publishing companies."

And then the publishers send the manuscripts back to the author who composes, produces, distributes, markets, collects and disburses the funds to all with interest, including the publisher? No wonder authors hate them so much.

"Anachronistic* nomenclature is one aspect of the font business that could do with updating. "
In a pigs eye. :)

Cheers!

William Berkson's picture

James A., I was referring to James M. who said we could simply drop "foundry"; I was noting that it is sometimes useful.

As far as attitude toward tradition, I am very aware of the overwhelming debt we owe to our forebears in every field. As my old teach Popper used to say: "If we started where Adam was, we wouldn't get any further than Adam did"--meaning the stone age.

I am all in favor of departing from tradition when there is a good reason--which may be just aesthetic freshness--but I think terminology that gives a tip of the hat to the past is charming and gracious.

Yes, I do know that few people tip their hats these days :)

.00's picture

Publisher, Maker, Distributor, Designer, Manufacturer, Developer all seem to me to be better than Foundry.

William Berkson's picture

James M., as I said currently there are a number of businesses, including yours, FontBureau, Hoefler & Frere-Jones, House Industries, P22, etc. which both create digital fonts and sell them. And in some cases they buy fonts developed by others, but also have a development or editorial role. This multiple function today is caught by the word "foundry". Using any one of the terms you suggest is more precise, but doesn't exactly capture the multiple functions of these businesses. "Foundry" is less descriptive but it seems a more useful label at this point.

The problem with "publisher," which is the best rival term, is that it doesn't capture what an outfit like yours does. You design the fonts, like a book author, and develop and market them like a book publisher, and retail them like a book store. So I say: more power to you and other foundries :)

.00's picture

I couldn't disagree more William.

What an outfit like mine does can be describe as a "digital type design and lettering studio". It is not a foundry.

Maybe its because I know a few sculptors and they are constantly referring to real foundries where they get their castings done.

William Berkson's picture

James M. "design and lettering studio" doesn't capture the functions of marketing and sales of fonts, which you also do. True enough that 'digital type foundry' doesn't make sense literally, but it does work as a convenient label. So until a better label comes along, I'm afraid you're stuck with it :)

.00's picture

And using a word that means melting and casting metal does?

I'm not stuck with that. You are!

uppercaseH's picture

Fontry. Or fountry. You can even pronounce it the same.

Nick Shinn's picture

”...we’re talking here about publishers who don’t actually make fonts.”

Oh, sorry. Never mind.

David, we were, especially Thomas, who even managed to lump in MyFonts, a distributor.
So I offered an alternative to that dualistic, corporate-centric view.

However many of the functions a particular business engages in, and whether or not it has workers on payroll or contract, there are three main business functions in the type industry: Authoring, Publishing, and Distribution. Isn't that the same for most forms of intellectual property?

William Berkson's picture

>I’m not stuck with that. You are!

I think your problem with the term is historically short sighted: 'foundry' is a recent anachronism and 'font' is an older one. Linotype and Monotype sold matrices, not fonts, but they called them fonts anyway, and you do now as well, even though that's not the original, literal meaning.

The way language works is that words and phrases mean whatever people generally use them to mean, no matter their origins, no matter what you or I think.

Currently the term 'foundry' is in general usage for businesses like yours. And you haven't come up with a clearly better one.

If you don't want to be stuck with people categorizing your business as a foundry, then you could start by getting MyFonts who lists your business under foundries, to change.

Then you can work on FontShop and Fonts.com, who use the term the same way, as well as many --er-- foundries who use the term the same way.

Then you could be driven into the depths of despair over your inability to change the course of the English language. Or you could get over it :)

Typedog's picture

James Arboghast

Sorry buddy I stand firm and the word stay's. You can call it what you want, but the name remains. This is too funny how some of you get all "bent out shape" over the world foundry. Thanks for the history lesson that I already know.

.00's picture

Nothing to get over Bill. Although I've gotten over a good many things these past few weeks. The fact that My Fonts lists my company under foundry is out of my control. I do not sell anything through them, and doubt I ever will.

You keep calling it foundry, I'll keep making type. I still think it is a stupid term.

You ever release that Caslon?

Nick Shinn's picture

I don't have a problem with "indies" calling themselves foundries, studios, whatever.
(We use a lot of archaic words in the digital realm, e.g. "scrolling".)
At least "foundry" suggests the font production aspect of type design, i.e. manufacture, as opposed to packaging, publicity, or retailing.

But when a company that is primarily a publisher or a distributor is referred to as a foundry, that doesn't make sense.

In fact, that's what is confusing in Frode's original post, where the term "foundry" is used to describe both the designer's business, and the publisher's.

William Berkson's picture

James, I'll call your outfit whatever you like it to be called. But those who are making lists of digital font makers and sellers will do what they do. I think that horse has already left the barn :)

Caslon: Soon, very soon.

Ray Larabie's picture

I switched to "font company" a few years ago. I'd prefer to be listed as a font company rather than a foundry but the font biz tends to favor old fashioned terminology so I'm often listed as a foundry. As for distributors of digital fonts, the term "foundry" is 100% ridiculous. I think foundry is well suited for font companies who specialize in historical type.

Typedog's picture

typodermic

San Dimas California? cool I stay out there!
I like your font's I own a few.

Guerrizmo_Design

Ray Larabie's picture

Thanks but nope, Nagoya Japan. The San Dimas thing was just a Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure reference.

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