A Call to all Type Designers - Open Source Font Design Project

innovati's picture

Hello all,

I have recently noticed the lack of professional quality fonts available under open licenses here that are of any professional value.

Apple and Microsoft may have the money to license typefaces from other groups, or pay to have typefaces developed for them, but a community-built operating system depends on the community to contribute each in their own little way.

I am looking for any open fonts on a professional level, there are a couple already like Gentium, Bitstream Vera out there, which is a great start.

Are there any more freely available and freely redistributable fonts you're already aware of?

I urge all of you who benefit daily from open-source technology (Firefox, Openoffice, even Typophile is hosted on a linux server) to consider contributing some of your work towards the community that has provided you with so much software.

I am looking to build a package of only the highest quality typefaces under a free licenses and make that available for download on my site related to Linux and Design, but they would be valuable to people on all operating systems.

Also, the availability of professional alternatives might help even just a couple from pirating or stealing those fonts type designers sell to make a living. hopefully together we can give the community something valuable, generate more interest in good typography and at the same time help support those commercial designers who rely on font sales.

And lastly, by releasing one font for free with credit to a group of open-source users who desire fresh new fonts, you can direct traffic to your other reasonably priced fonts and this will more thank likely channel an entire new market of clients that are currently not buying your fonts.

Thomas Phinney's picture

I should add that I'm sure I would enjoy working on an open source font project, if somebody were willing to pay me to do so.

If I had lots of free time, I'd even consider doing it for free. This is not a likely position for me to be in, however.

Either way, I'd want to have a pretty clear hierarchy of work and responsibility and run it a lot like a commercial font development project, with a single person's vision driving the project.

Cheers,

T

Zara Evens's picture

I think that while you all line up to take your respective shots at a young designer with your witty and élite comments you might be losing sight of the fact that I’m not just some anonymous thug holding you at gunpoint and asking politely for your wallets, but one of you.

Tom, You are really taking the criticism a bit personally, aren't you?

Over the last 5+ years, I have read a lot of threads in which professionals and students bickered about this and that, and unfortunately on occasion some turned to personal attacks to get their points across. I have not seen any of that here until your last post**. Rather, I saw members of a community come together and provide extremely useful information to your effort and shared their perspectives on the topic.

If I had started this thread, I would feel pretty good about getting so many talented people engaged in what is a very important topic in this industry, yet it seems you only want to listen to those who agree with you. Resolutions only come when you have explored the opposing sides of a problem. You could probably benefit highly from listening to their experiences since most of them know what they are talking about because they live it breathe it every day - some for many years.

You don't have to agree with them, but in the spirit of collaboration, you might consider taking a chill pill and treating your future colleagues with respect.

**My apologies for missing the first one. But whatever!

kaujot's picture

I have not seen any of that here until your last post. Rather, I saw members of a community come together and provide extremely useful information to your effort and shared their perspectives on the topic.

I would disagree with this statement. There were a few moments in this thread where, though not named personally, rather unflattering terms and generalizations were used about a community to which innovati clearly belongs (I too, count myself in that community). I understand completely why he would get defensive and take things like that personally. Any vitriol found here cannot be fully attributed to the him, though. But for the most part, I think everyone's been very respectful.

Just some more food for thought: Jason Rohrer, an open source/free game designer based in up-state New York, makes his living (roughly $10k/year) almost entirely from web donations from fans, plus the occasional commissioned game/article from an online gaming publication (which can't amount to too much). Of course, Rohrer doesn't want bills to pay, etc., so his meager income is by design. But you CAN make money from releasing your spare-time projects open source/free (or even just free) and ask for donations. Will everyone who downloads your font/project/whatever? Of course not, but you can make a decent amount of money all the same, even if you just do something in your spare time.

Though a bit hesitant to do so, I would liken exljbris foundry's release method to this, at least for Museo. 3(?) fonts for free, and you can purchase the other 2(?) to make the family complete. You get a great quality product for absolutely nothing. If you like it (a sidenote: I do!), you "make a donation" to Jos and get the other two weights. It's a bit of a stretch, as you're not really making a donation, but I think the spirit is there.

All that said, I'll just reiterate that I think any open source font project would have to have either a sole author or a very small group of like-minded designers to be "professionally" successful.

Edit: Rohrer's income is actually in the range of $14.5k, as he has a consulting job with Electronic Arts, as well as a patron. I was a little surprised that such people still existed (patrons, that is).

beejay's picture

Innovati, your thinking on this issue is very callow. You don’t know enough about type design, software development, or the history of F/OSS software to even understand what you’re asking for. James Puckett

Tom, You are really taking the criticism a bit personally, aren’t you? Zara

it's clear that innovati could have handled things a little better, but really, how do you respond to such a condescending attack such as the one typed in by James?

this was the first personal attack of the thread, from my reading of it. Maybe I missed something.

not a word to James.

I'm not sure that innovati attacked anyone individually.

If I missed a personal attack of his, I stand corrected.

:(

Zara Evens's picture

My apologies that I didn't see the comment posted by James. I read through the comments a little quickly and I missed it. My mistake.

Regardless, I still find some of the things Innovati said to be disrespectful to everyone who has participated in this thread, and so I'm calling him out on it.

I'm not here to be a referee so I'm not going to call out every individual comment and get into a who-said-what argument. It is a waste of everyone's time.

Just be nice, and carry on.

Rob O. Font's picture

"I should add that I’m sure I would enjoy working on an open source font project, if somebody were willing to pay me to do so."

Me too, and if they eventually gather the brains to specify what were they were asking for, maybe it'll be done. But this is the 3rd Typophile thread I'm aware of with the same question, the same ugly confrontation, the same offers, and I'm guessing it too will end in silence with another wild-eyed freetype type wandering off in a tiff wondering why.

It's boring.

Cheers!

beejay's picture

no problem Zara, just thought someone needed to say something, nothing personal -- u r awesome. (/me backs out of the thread)

Thomas Phinney's picture

Somebody is using $10K/yr as an example of somebody making a living? Who lives in New York City? What, does he live with his parents, or supported by a partner?

$10K a year won't even pay my *health insurance* alone. Or a place for my family to live in our current city. Let alone be enough to live on.

Cheers,

T

uppercaseH's picture

Upper New York state, I think it said, not New York City. But either way...

innovati's picture

Very well Zara, I never intended to cause either through the creation of the thread, or either of my 2 following comments to cause disrespect to any particular person or to Typophile itself.

I am young, and I know that. I don't have the benefit of being shielded by tough impermeable hide to protect me from some of the direct ad hominem attacks thrown at me while I was attempting to raise support for the benefit of others, though I did try my best to remain diplomatic and not fall into the trap of replying or arguing against any comment that I may have taken offense to in the interest of trying to keep the thread itself on track, lest it decay into bickering and nothing get accomplished.

I apologize if I have disappointed you through my failure to either engage the forum in a manner in which intelligent discussion could be carried out, or through my greatest efforts to remain impartial toward comments comparing me to throwing a tantrum and questioning my comprehension of the nature of open-source and commercial development models.

This whole thing has really been a learning experience for me, and I hope that long after I have been removed from this thread and forum that maybe some seed of charity will grow in the hearts of those who did read the ideas, and hopefully some will eventually consider releasing some work under a license that allows free redistribution. If that happens because of what has become this ugly thread I will still count it as a win for the greater good although I likely won't be here to see it.

I was no longer checking this thread, and if I hadn't been emailed by another forum member I wouldn't have been back here to post this apology. I feel that there are others here who rightfully owe an apology, but based on how things have unfolded I have serious doubts that other apologies will be made.

I can't quite understand though Zara, and maybe it's because you haven't got the time to go through all of the comments as much as I had, but when a direct ad hominem attack is made against you, how else can you take it but personally? Isn't that inherent in the nature of such attacks?

piccic's picture

[…] how else can you take it but personally? Isn’t that inherent in the nature of such attacks?

Tom, I have two perplexities about your attitude:

1) Charity: I have strong doubts about the possibilities of being charitable through the offering of open-source works. Firstly, because people tend to abuse what's gratuitious. I would like to see initiatives to be rewarded by donations, I would like to see more sharing of work, and not all backed up by sponsorization, but as long as we're on this earth, in this human condition, spiritual progress largely depends on everyone's commitment and availability.
If you are unable to sensibilize people about recognizing the gratuitious nature of things (and I have strong doubts you can do that by words, seen how everything is often taken for "granted" and not "given", but this opens up a whole reflection on "creation" and "authority" which people tend to dislike, as they seem to prefer to live in a sort of "automated" way.
Charity comes out of Charity, no other way.

2) Youngness: I think this is a point of strength on your part, not just a "vulnerability". Personally I have never had the chance to attend studies. We simply did not have them around 20 years ago in Italy, that's all. But I see I have "learned" nonetheless, and the first step is not to give so much importance to "personal attacks" or the short-sightedness of many so-called professionals.
I feel I still have everything to learn, but I am no longer saddened or embittered by that, since I have realized you learn in an infinite number of ways, and it may prove a more enriching experience to learn from a small, single thing, than to try to tackle the biggest problems on a wide scale.

Of course, I quite agree about the fact that it would be good to have more open source faces, but I also agree with the idea that we should have more works of personal dedication priced accordingly.

So, if you really wish to understand better, try to explain more in detail what you would propose, and I'm sure you'll get a lot of constructive feedback.

michielterpelle's picture

Smashing Magazine had a page devoted to free quality typography. There aren't much free fonts of high quality which are not on this website:

Here is the page

ebensorkin's picture

I am posting this not because I think asking for free stuff is horrid ( we can say no ) or that saying no is horrid ( heavens!) but because I think there is some missing context.

If people in the font industry didn't fear that bunch of glib cocksure code adjusting unix folk was going to steal it's lunch with @font (and laugh merrily and in a self satisfied way while doing it) the response would have been different. Should the font industry take a different attitude? Maybe. But I suspect that the unanswered questions raised by @font and Håkon Wium Lie's attitude has made a difference. Nobody likes being dragged by the hair into a new business model which BTW may or may not exist.

As things stand font people ( in general ) don't really think of *nix and open source proselytizers as their pals. Not yet anyway. Maybe that can change. But it will take time patience and thoughtfulness all around. And maybe a grant.

kaujot's picture

Somebody is using $10K/yr as an example of somebody making a living? Who lives in New York City? What, does he live with his parents, or supported by a partner?

$10K a year won’t even pay my *health insurance* alone. Or a place for my family to live in our current city. Let alone be enough to live on.

I did not say that Jason Rohrer lives in NYC. I said that he lived in upstate New York, in Potsdam, to be specific. His level of poverty is self-imposed, because it's the way he wants to live.

Furthermore, I was not in any way saying that you should aspire to live on $10k/year (Rohrer's budget is actually $14.5k, as I corrected at the bottom of my post). I was pointing out that the majority of that $14.5k is from donations alone, and a person working in their spare time, while holding another job, could solicit such donations and make a decent amount of money ($10k is more than decent, in my opinion) if their work is quality and people appreciate it.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Yes, sorry I missed that bit about it being upstate NY, not NYC (and there is a huge difference in the cost of living, there). But somebody else already corrected that.

Still, your example of Jason was that he is doing this *full time*, and even with a consulting contract and a patron on top of his donations, he is only pulling in $14.5 K a year? Presumably one wouldn't be doing nearly as much work if it was in one's spare time. Plus, Jason is a full-time open source game designer rather than an open source type designer (the former seems more viable to me). I think this example actually hurts rather than supports an argument for the financial viability of donation-based open source type design.

So if it wasn't for the consulting and the patron, he'd be getting, what, maybe half of that? Somebody doing it on the side of a full-time job would be putting in what, 1/3 the hours? So maybe $3K or $4K a year? Sure, that's money, and I'm discouraging anybody from trying it, but it doesn't sound like a living as most folks would think of it.

Cheers,

T

.00's picture

Sounds like a hobby to me.

JCSalomon's picture

Well, the SIL's funding of Gentium (and their other OFL-licensed fonts) provides a good start. Red Hat is funding the Liberation fonts (GPL+embedding exception), and somebody is funding Linux Libertine (GPL/OFL). Then you have the Tεχ User Group–funded Latin Modern and Tεχ Gyre fonts (GFL/LᴬTᴇX Public Project License).

Maybe the thing to do is ask which of the type designers here would be willing to work—for pay—with one of these projects, and which project would be willing to pay a professional to do what the programmer couldn't.

—Joel

Si_Daniels's picture

The list of type designers who have worked on fonts that have either been given away or licensed under some kind of open source model is long... Matthew Carter, Tom Rickner, Jim Lyles, Victor Gaultney, Steve Matteson, Bigelow and Holmes, John Hudson, and many more...

A more interesting question might be which type designers would refuse to work on an OSS font project.

Si_Daniels's picture

There must be a hundred other things that people in the Open Source Community do not want to pay for. So I’d suggest Tom send similar “calls” to other lists. A few suggestions…

Calling all dentists – Some members of the Open Source Community are in dire need of dental work, please donate time and materials to improve their smiles.

Calling all airlines – High airfares cripple the OSS advocates from attending conferences and other meet-ups around the world. Please establish an OSS boondoggle fund to provide subsidized air travel.

Calling all Pizza Outlets – Programmers are fueled by pizza – but costs can be burdensome. Please consider providing free pizza to all legitimate card carrying Apache developers.

Calling all graphic designers – Our penguin logo makes it hard for people to take us seriously. We need a new icon – maybe a warlock or a sword wielding anime princess – we also need a new name featuring a heavy-metal umlaut.

kaujot's picture

Still, your example of Jason was that he is doing this *full time*, and even with a consulting contract and a patron on top of his donations, he is only pulling in $14.5 K a year? Presumably one wouldn’t be doing nearly as much work if it was in one’s spare time. Plus, Jason is a full-time open source game designer rather than an open source type designer (the former seems more viable to me). I think this example actually hurts rather than supports an argument for the financial viability of donation-based open source type design.

So if it wasn’t for the consulting and the patron, he’d be getting, what, maybe half of that? Somebody doing it on the side of a full-time job would be putting in what, 1/3 the hours? So maybe $3K or $4K a year? Sure, that’s money, and I’m discouraging anybody from trying it, but it doesn’t sound like a living as most folks would think of it.

According to numbers he provided Esquire magazine, Rohrer's budget before his patron and before his consulting job was the $10k that I provided in my initial comment. And his games are not quite what you think of when you think of a video games. Very retro and low-budget (understatement of the year). And again, I'm not suggesting that anyone try to match his level of desired poverty. But even $3-4k garnered from doing work on the side—work that, in all likelihood, you love to do—is nothing to sneeze at. I wouldn't want a living on $3-4k/year, but I'd love a side bit of income like that.

I have always stated that I'm not sure the same paradigm can apply to type design as it applies to software, etc. But I do think the two can work together.

Rob O. Font's picture

All the time in the world for bla, bla, bla, but not a specification in sight?

Cheers!

Si_Daniels's picture

A typical client. Plenty of room for cost over-runs. :-)

Damien Pollet's picture

(First of all, sorry if this sounds aggressive, it's not my intention)

So I’d suggest Tom send similar “calls” to other lists. A few suggestions…

Do not confuse services and products. Dentist, airline, icon and font design are services, it makes sense to pay for that. Pizzas are physical products, it makes sense to pay at least as much as the flour/tomatoes/etc cost. Making and baking the pizza is a service that adds value to the raw flour and tomatoes.

Using a font on my website or in a PDF is not a product nor a service the font designer provides, thus I don't see why I should pay or have to read legalese and worry about abusive embedding/redistributing/per-cpu limits. Once the font is designed, distribution is basically free. But of course unless the designer has a patron (is that the correct word? «mécène» in french) there is nobody to pay.

This is the same problem as with the music industry —except font designers cannot live from live performances :-) In the end I wish I could have unlimited use and pay a flat fee per year and have that redistributed to the artists according to my listening statistics on last.fm. Maybe I should move to Man.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Starting a thread like this is similar to when someone (I forget names) spoke to the crowd at ATypI suggesting that they release more free fonts. IIRC there was much back stepping to re-explain what was meant to be said. If someone comes into a room asking for something for free where people all make a living from that something and all these people don't share the same ideas about the worth of this something there is going to be a clash of interests. I'm late to the party and feel like it has been played out. Seems to me if some seriously organized specs were layed out it might've lead to a different kind of discussion all around.

Nick Shinn's picture

All the time in the world for bla, bla, bla, but not a specification in sight?

As the man says, put up or shut up.
If the OS advocates expect work from type folk, the least they could do is make the effort to produce a brief.

The recipient of the 2008 SOTA Award for lifetime achievement is itching to get cracking.
That's like Clint Eastwood offering to make you a free movie and star in it.

k.l.'s picture

Starting a thread like this is similar to when someone (I forget names) spoke to the crowd at ATypI suggesting that they release more free fonts.

Ellen Lupton?

Miss Tiffany's picture

Yes, thank you Karsten.

And I didn't mean to open up another can of worms bringing Ellen Lupton's talk into it. I was just pointing out that when you approach a group of people who make a living from doing something you need to tread lightly.

Let's let this one die. I think everyone has said what they want to say. No hard feelings, ok?

Zara Evens's picture

Tom and everyone else who has been offended,

If you feel that your reputation and well-being is threatened by others in this forum, then I suggest you take *that* discussion offline. Using this thread to focus on the negative aspects of this conversation is not productive to you nor anyone else here.

Si_Daniels's picture

>So I’d suggest Tom send similar “calls” to other lists. A few suggestions…

It was pointed out to me off-list that this could be taken as another Tom-bashing. That was not my intention. Just pointing out that many of the beneficaries of OSS don't contribute.

>The recipient of the 2008 SOTA Award

2007 in Seattle, as I recall.

>I was just pointing out that when you approach a group of people who make a living from doing something you need to tread lightly.

You recall ATypI Finland - Victor made the case for the Open Font License and there was no backlash. I think that was due to his approach, reasoned arguments, and the fact that he did have the respect of his peers.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I don't explicitly remember Victor's talk. But it is good to be reminded of that.

Si_Daniels's picture

>I don’t explicitly remember Victor’s talk
http://www.atypi.org/30_past_conferences/07_Helsinki/30_program/30_other...

You probably went next door for Adam's talk - either that or to the bar ;-)

Nick Shinn's picture

...he did have the respect of his peers..

No chucklehead he.

I presume we're talking about Victor Gaultney?
I attended his talk at St Petersburg; it was very inspirational.
However, the beneficiaries he mainly targeted were not software developers and budget-conscious users in general, but minority language speakers.

So once again, the specific questions Jens asked must be answered: what's missing in OS fonts? Do they want the latest stylez, gazillions of OT features, recherché encoding, &c., &c.?

Si_Daniels's picture

>I attended his talk at St Petersburg

It was a different talk.

joshuantaylor's picture

Interesting thread. I know it's more complicated than this, but this is how I see it -
I am not a type designer, but I would be glad to be involved in a project like this for other types of designs I do. I realize that we all have to make money. But I would say many designers have enough time to work on some sort of project on the side. I occasionally do free web-sites for non-profits. I can't do it all the time obviously, but it would be foolish, and even selfish to say that I could not offer my services on occasion to help something that does not directly pay me back.
In short, I think there is plenty of room for designers to design something that is open to public use.

Rob O. Font's picture

"Ellen Lupton?"
Nowwwwwwwww I remember why I fled ATypI.

"That’s like Clint Eastwood offering to make you a free movie and star in it."

Go ahead punk, make my D. ;)

Cheers!

dezcom's picture

"Go ahead punk, make my D"

I will for a fist full of dollars :-)

ChrisL

Si_Daniels's picture

Chris is back! Just what this thread needed! How about the spacing of this new Linux font? "Every Which Way But Loose" ;-)

My last post here – honest!

peterf's picture

Harhuum.

The primary difference between open source code and open source fonts would be that the code would likely be improved over time, but the fonts would very likely become worse.

The "scratch your own itch" model of software development works very well for large open-source projects exactly because my new feature or fix is something that >I< need in a current project, and therefore >I< will spend the time (or get the funding) to build the new feature or squash that bug.

This really would not be the case in font development.
A professional designer is very unlikely to need, or want, to go into somebody else's font and fix the problems in order to be able to use the font themselves.

i'm actually sympathetic to innovati's thinking, and had at one time talked with Lee Quin about donating some fonts from the Alphabets Library to the {forgot the name of the FOSS Desktop project} he was involved with.

However, the same concerns and issues arose on further consideration, and it never came to pass.
The idea of releasing DESIGN into the public domain is perfectly legitimate. However, that certainly does not mean that DESIGNERS should be obligated, nor brow-beaten, for considering their own livelihoods.

FOSS is NOT in any sense, a charitable institution. It thrives exactly because it provides more value back to those who donate to it than they are required to 'pay'. Unless and until the same model would work for fonts... or photos... or creative writing, or any other pursuit, the model will not thrive in these domains.

Just my 2 cents ;-)

Peter Fraterdeus

http://slowprint.com/almostfreelp (Almost Free Letterpress!)
http://alphabets.com - Galena, Illinois

Thomas Phinney's picture

I should clarify that while I am very skeptical about the prospects for general-public-donor-supported type design, I believe that commissions, and donations of existing typefaces (probably mostly by corporations, but sometimes by independent designers) are the likely modes of growth for good quality open source typefaces. Slow growth, from a small number of quality typefaces today, but grow nonetheless.

Regards,

T

John Hudson's picture

Thomas and David have both indicated that they would be happy to work on fonts for open source release if they were paid. I would be too. In general, the work I do ends up being owned by someone else anyway, and if they decide they wanted to make it free (as in loose), that is their decision not mine. As it happens, the people who most often come along with the cheque book ready and, as David notes, a specification are people who want to control the distribution of the fonts.

Si: A more interesting question might be which type designers would refuse to work on an OSS font project.

I categorically refuse to work on any fonts for the Office of Strategic Services. You just know that they're going to end up as the CIA.

timd's picture

Back in the dim and distant there was an attempt at collaborative typeface design on Typophile, kind of along the lines of the Type Battles, zip files of ai files were posted for anyone to download, work on and re-submit. Somewhere on a backup disc I have some/all of the completed glyphs, I think just most of the lowercase was completed and from memory it certainly wasn't a professional typeface, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) it was never completed and just ran out of steam, lack of commitment etc.

I remember finding a link to Typophile for the first time via another collaborative type-design project which involved a bitmappy face that relied on turning squares in a grid either on or off. I seem to remember seeing that again in the past couple of years, still going, still unresolved.

Tim

dezcom's picture

The only thing that worked was when a bunch of us did a collective font of ornaments for charity--the tsunami. There was no attempt at a family look, it was just everyone donating a glyph. The set was sold to benefit the victims of the tragedy.

ChrisL

klepas's picture

I’ve been only now catching up on this thread and the open invitation to type designers on Typophile and was sad to see how poorly received it was. I believe most of the negative responses were due to misinterpretations of the invitation due to ignorance of FOSS, its community and development models. I have seen many similar responses to the concept of pro bono work from professionals who felt themselves and their business models threatened by the flag of FOSS. Ultimately I believe ignorance begets arrogance and fear and thus hold it vital to try to understand new (sometimes very radical) ideas for often they are the proponents that lead to (often positive) change.

It is equally regrettable to hear that Tom may take an absence from the typophile.com community. Although I am not much of an active member, I particularly value the contributions in a holistic sense of those who do in fact understand FOSS for their insight and willingness to look past immediate concerns of payment for their time and efforts.

This said I understand the situation of many professionals who may find they do not have the time or otherwise ability to participate in an open type project—I find I often don’t have the time to read and respond to many of the discussions that occur here, along with the thousands of other things I wish I had time for. I think Tom’s invitation was worded persuasively yet it was an invitation that begged for consideration, and he felt was met with outright rejection.

I believe the misconception that openly licensed fonts are prone to depreciation through inconsistent or ‘amateurish’ edits comes from being compared too directly with other code-based software projects. In my opinion no font is ever perfect, and yes while this will always be an entirely subjective opinion, even Robert Bringhurst states that adjustments of the kerning tables can, and even should be made. Furthermore with Unicode always expanding the task of adding new glyphs and ensuring widespread language support will keep any open font project alive for years to come—see the commit change logs of the more successful open font projects. If the project lead feels a negative edit has been made this can be easily reverted; similarly if the community is not happy with the decisions of a project lead, the project can easily be forked.

The argument that projects with visual aesthetics at their heart are harder to collaborate on than software projects with code at their center I believe has some merit. I think of these potential issues more as a challenge to overcome rather than a reason not to get involved—the possible benefits of collaboration in my opinion are worth the efforts of overcoming subjective opinions on aesthetics. Having participated in the GNOME and Tango Desktop Project and otherwise the FOSS community for over a three years now, I am personally convinced that we have overcome many subjective disagreements over aesthetics and as a result have produced work we are proud of and the community readily uses.

As a final thought, I think a good starting point for a new open font project would be to begin with a faithful historical revival, thus possibly sidestepping some of the issues of aesthetics.

Kind regards.

—Simon Pascal Klein

Nick Shinn's picture

Simon, take another look at this thread.
I think you'll find that there is some interest expressed in Tom's idea, but it's unlikely that individual type designers will do anything until "the OS community" comes up with a specification of what it wants and how the project will be managed.

klepas's picture

@Nick: Tom does not speak on the behalf of ‘the open source community’ (in a holistic sense) nor any specific project (that I aware of). There is no general guideline on starting a new project, though it generally just begins with invitation through dialogue, much like Richard Stallman’s GNU project or Linus’ kernel project posting on mailing lists—in fact that’s how most FOSS projects that I can think of came into being. Many developers perused mailing lists or newsnets, whereas many type designers are found at home here on typophile, hence Tom’s decision to post his idea and invitation here.

We are not going to get a formal proposal from someone because the FOSS community does not operate like a traditional business; there is no brief, quote to write or contract to sign. FOSS projects commonly begin with a general invitation to join a cause to scratch an itch.

So, in an effort to get a ball rolling, here’s what I think a Tom and we could consider aiming for:

  • a high-quality font family, whereby the quality is measured in hinting, kerning, character support/language support, number of weights and styles available, etc.;
  • stylistically a good place to start as I noted above might be a digital revival, perhaps from the humanist period (it’s one gap that is not yet covered by open fonts and humanist typefaces are reasonably popular);
  • to publish the work under an open license, anything from public domain to an open font license (I haven’t looked into this), a Creative Commons license, one of the open artistic licenses (their proper names currently escape me) or even the traditional GPL, or variant thereof (or anything else if none of these are applicable?).

Supportive technologies could include a mailing list, which would probably be a good place to start from if this project attracts a couple of people. Once anything gets going a distributed version control system (e.g. git or bazaar) could be set up to manage contributions and edits and to manage new interest and show off the work, a small site/wiki—as an example, have a look at http://tango.freedesktop.org/.

Just some thoughts?

Joe Pemberton's picture

I'm just catching up to this thread -- it seems like the thread turned the corner. (Is everybody done getting their feelings hurt?)

Now that this group has had the initial reactions and people have expressed themselves will you start a new thread and invite the interested parties to join in a directed effort that has a clear charter? Or will you let the negative initial reaction kill the whole idea? If it's worthwhile and you're committed to it there's no reason to waste energy by getting offended.

If it's worthwhile the people with passion for the idea will help make it happen. Wikipedia started as one guy who invited a small group of people to help him out with a social experiment. He didn't start with a grand vision of replacing printed encyclopedias. Say what you will about Wikipedia's quality, it has changed the landscape.

Typophile will gladly host a project of this nature. There's no compelling reason not to. What Typophile can't do is convince people to join in or donate their energy, time or resources. You've got to muster that and clearly you've got a hurdle to overcome already. Although, all you really need are two or three people to get the initial momentum going...

Earlier someone mentioned the group font effort. What was that, 2003? It was a social design experiment. It didn't start with a charter or a design brief. It fizzled out because there was no clear vision for how it was going to impact people, make lives better, or [insert lofty goal here].

If you have that clear need or vision, then start a new thread and announce your project, say what you need and run with it. And if people don't want to participate I think you'll find that they won't get in your way.

Lastly, you have received some good input from folks here who don't believe the idea will work. Use their reactions as constructive input -- they have industry understanding that would benefit you and it's wasteful for you to get offended by their reactions.

__

Post script. Ideo recently announced an open source UI design effort to envision a new interface for Bug Base. And don't tell me a UI is too subjective or too aesthetically-driven for an open source effort to work. https://client.ideo.com/buglabs/

John Hudson's picture

Simon: FOSS projects commonly begin with a general invitation to join a cause to scratch an itch.

Rather than thinking in terms of the 'itch' being a need for open source fonts, perhaps the itch is the need for a spec for open source fonts, and this is the first thing to which people should be invited to contribute. And the people invited to draft this spec should, primarily, be the people who need and would use the fonts, not the people who might eventually make them.

paul d hunt's picture

has anyone mentioned the Open Font Library Wiki project?

blank's picture

Seeing as how I was a prick earlier in this discussion I thought it would be nice to throw the open-source crowd a bone. Last year I started work on a high-contrast version of Fry’s Baskerville for private use. I won’t ever finish it so I’ll throw it into the public domain.

It’s got an alphabet, lining figures, diacritics, ligatures, and some punctuation. I don’t remember whether or not the spacing was any good. It’s not the most desirable font out there, but it might be useful for a team who don’t want to start from zero. Files (VFB, UFO) can be download at: http://jpad.biz/files/large_frys.zip.

Thomas Phinney's picture

And the people invited to draft this spec should, primarily, be the people who need and would use the fonts, not the people who might eventually make them.

Sure, although somebody in a lead position in editing the spec should be somebody who knows more than a little about making fonts, else it won't be nearly as useful as a specification.

Cheers,

T

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