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.

aszszelp's picture

Interesting how this thread evolved.

I think, there are different valid points, but the thread lost track do to missing the main idea and the "two sides" speaking not with each other, but against each other.

It probably was not diplomatic (and actually also *unreasonalbe* to suggest releasing fonts for free. Who would want to give away months of work?

Also, the arguments saying that fonts don't work like code is true (or not so... see details below), as it's evident that too many cooks will spoil the broth.

I will, how ever feeble it might be, try to play the interpreter (and why I'll won't take this position permanently, I hope to give this thread a new track. (Yeah, tracking).

Now, open code actually does not work like anyone changing anything at will. Or open code would not work either. Also, if you do study the OFL (it's not as long and NOT legalese. Go read it: http://scripts.sil.org/cms/scripts/page.php?site_id=nrsi&item_id=OFL_web) carefully, you will find that it caters for overseen developement.

(a) Open does not mean void of copyright! (b) there is the concept of "Reserved Font Name"

Basically it thus also enables a cooperation style which would not ask for as much as innovati initially did and which also allows for a consistent font style and quality.

The licence allows users to modify the font, however if they redistribute the modified font they must use a different name. Of course they can resubmit their additional or updated glyphs to the original copyright holder, who then can decide to incorporate them right into the font with the reserved name, or can touch them up and include them then, or not to include.

This enables a workflow process that will benefit from micro-contributions and maintaining quality.

A potential use case would be a designer releasing a basic set of ASCII-only character set, e.g. Designers are using them in their work. One needs a non-ASCII character (say, "é"), so creates an é-character for his local copy. Cause he cannot monetize on that single character he has created anyway, he resubmits it to the original author, who might include it in the next official release with little effort.
If our user created a whole big set (e.g. Cyrillic), 'cause he needed it, he can either decide to resubmitt (and he would be attributed), or he can start a "new" font (i.e. distributing it under a new "reserved name" including the latin and cyrillic, attributing the original author.

Anyway, the more interesting scenario is the former one, as it operates with micro-contributions, which consume (relatively) little time each, and effort which comes collaterally: which you (potentially) need to do, but cannot monetize on anyway.

This could be a potential model for Open Fonts. Well, it's exactly how it's supposed to work already, however the movement needs some pro's taking care of the key part assuring quality as the holders of the rights to the "reserved names".

Now, it probably won't work out, 'cause once any one of us is at that level, he has also a couple of years behind him. Which necessarily reaps a man from idealism and which necessarily makes every man into an egoist ("it does need to hurt me, but by not helping them out, I'll be in a 'better' position by not improving theirs"~~~ whatever-like thinking).

No, it's just natural. We're all like thet (no exception here). We all become like that with time, and we have to feed our families after all, don't we?

Go, micro-contributions! [That's how Wikipedia works. Wikipedia sysdevelopers might, but editors are not paid by large corporations [except for those touching up information on world powers' politics and big pages about big companies' products...]].


Sye's picture

@james - nice place to start!

klepas's picture

I’ve just returned home from a week-long conference and will respond in full in the coming day. For now, thank you James Puckett—I’ve had a quick peek at the work so far and it’s looking great. From my knowledge there is no freely licensed Baskerville revival available, so it would be great to complete something like this.


Kaffee und Kuchen

piccic's picture

Tiffany, since innovati seems to have dropped his idea, he did not reply when I invited him to try to re-formulate his idea in a viable way (like David Berlow encouraged all to do) and the talk has become entirely uncentered, I think you may close the thread.

EDIT: I do not mean to mortify possibly good ideas, I just mean if an idea emerges, a new thread may be started. What do you say?

Thomas Phinney's picture

I don't have a strong opinion on closing the thread, but if somebody wants to propose a specific project and a structure for that project, they should do so - either in this thread or a new one.

I think that on at least one point aszszelp and I are in rather strong agreement: a high quality open source font project involving multiple contributors would need strong leadership and vision to stay on track and maintain that quality. But I suppose that even if the goal is to release something open source, there's nothing to say that one can't run the main development line in a less "open" (in the sense of accepting all contributions) fashion.



klepas's picture

Apologies in the delay of my response. I’m happy to see conversation return and new ideas coming forth, and because it deserves mention again, James Puckett’s release of Fry’s Baskerville into the public domain.

I’ve been contacted by two interested persons off-site regarding starting an open font project. This would probably be run on Google Groups and possibly Google code (they provide version control systems which is all we really need), and if anything came from it, could be added to Open Font Library (heck, if someone wanted to put anything up there earlier, they can).

From my understanding a charter or roadmap is being written. I don’t think a full spec. is at all required—I think the three of us understand what we want quite well, and for those interested in joining, a one or two line intro on a page somewhere could explain it. I also don’t think developers and general users of FOSS would be very adept at writing such a specification.

So, for now I believe the project or idea for the project has moved to Google Groups. If you’re interested, please see http://groups.google.com/group/altindietypo/



Kaffee und Kuchen

klepas's picture

I’ve just been informed of a few reqs. for joining the aforementioned Google Group:

Admission to Alt Indie Typo depends on a few basic requirements.
Applicants must:

  • have made at least three fonts
  • demonstrate competence at type design / font production
  • provide samples of their typeface designs
  • do not submit font files please

Sorry, but them's the rules.We have to keep this practical and
maintain a focus on font design and production.

We have a few members who aren't font makers who will assist with
logistics and running the group. But no more who are not type
designers / font makers cannot be accepted at this stage of the

If and when we/I/… decides to launch a project to create a free family I’ll ensure it sits somewhere accessible with access to the font files, discussion lists, probably on a devoted web page.


Kaffee und Kuchen

iginomarini's picture

This is an email i've Just received:

Re: My proposal of admission under the nickname of Igino Marini

James Arboghast a me

Hi Ignio,
Sorry, you must be a typeface designer and font maker to qualify for
admission to Alt Indie Typo.

As I explained to you at typophile not long ago, spacing is part of
glyph design and a type designer's job, not a task we intend to farm
out to a specialist.

If we need a manual hinter I may get in touch with you later.

Sorry, but I am unable to admit you to the group at this time.

Thanks for your interest tho, we do appreciate it.

best, j a m e s

2009/1/26 Igino Marini :
> Hello, I'm Igino Marini. I would like to be involved in this project
> doing spacing and kerning. I've developed iKern, a tool for
> autospacing and autokerning, and I'm running a service under the same
> name. Obviously I would do it for free! As I say on my site at
> http://ikern.com/k1/service/ :"For years I offered the service for
> free and I would be glad to continue for worth typefaces". As a
> further experience I've realized "The Fell Types" you can find at
> www.iginomarini.com/fell/ .
> From what is my understanding a good manual hinter would be needed
> too.
> Igino Marini

If there is something I keep learning from life is that details are more important than principles.

Igino Marini

James Arboghast's picture

Igino, it is unethical to post private emails in a public discussion thread online. But you insist on doing so, forcing me out of typophile retirement to address your transgression of my privacy.

As the whole world can now see, I treated you with respect and politeness. I even apologized for knocking back your application to Alt Indie Typo. One thing I overlooked was misspelling your name "Ignio". Please understand I have impaired eyesite from a stroke I had in January 2007 which also causes me on-going memory dropouts and subsequent loss of accuracy with clerical skills.

You now owe me an apology for compromizing my privacy and for your lack of discretion. This is exactly the kind of unethical, unprofessional behavior I retired from Typophile to get away from.

The Alt Indie Typo group is a private group "open" to all applicants as long as the applicants are capable typeface designers adept at font production. Potential applicants unable to come to terms with that enterprize model are, in the view of Alt Indie Typo's founders and directors, not practical and not realistic. The goal of Alt Indie Typo is to produce fonts.

j a m e s

James Arboghast's picture

Igino's digitization of the Fell types does not qualify him as a typeface designer or as a font producer. Most, if not all of the skills involved in font production are intimately intertwined with type design. Like spacing and glyph design, type design and font production go hand in hand, and in my experience are inseparable.

j a m e s

Rob O. Font's picture

"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."

That maybe an appropriate approach to software ultimately being interpreted by computers, but font software is ultimately interpreted by something else where the itches vary in size, location and intensity, so the scratching must too.


James Arboghast's picture

On examining the OpenType versions of Igino's Fell type fonts as vector outlines in Illustrator, I discovered hundreds of glyphs constructed with an abundance of excess points and *stacked points*.

The excess points and stacked points in these fonts will generate lots of postscript errors on rasterization by user agents rendering the type outlines embedded on webpages, resulting in sluggish (slow) rendering times.

Do web designers demanding embeddable web fonts really want font products with this level of technical quality? I certainly would not offer such underdeveloped products under any circumstances. Web designers need and deserve better quality than that of the IM Fell type fonts.

Alt Indie Typo is committed to developing embeddable web fonts without technical errors, complete with EOT and @font-face empowered EULAs.

j a m e s

iginomarini's picture

James, I've decided to publish the email as is because, in fact, you've been polite and respectful, and nothing personal, confidential, offensive or embarrassing was in your words, nor mine, and I didn't want to add or lose something in translation. And more: you answered to my request as Alt Indie Typo group responsible so, in my opinion, there's no privacy issue at all. Many talked about collaborative working here showing technical, practical and also philosophical difficulties. I just wanted to point at the human factor. It was clearly missing from the list!
About the Fell Types: please don't feel obliged to justify your admission criteria. In any case many actually use them without the problems you think will arise and every browser I have display them perfectly.
Anyway I didn't offered my design services at all. Just spacing and kerning.


James Arboghast's picture

I don't agree about posting emails in a public forum. It's something a professional just does not do.

What did you hope to achieve by posting it?

And more: you answered to my request as Alt Indie Typo group responsible so, in my opinion, there’s no privacy issue at all.

False logic. Alt Indie Typo is a private group. Its contents aren't visible to the internet public, and I did not give you permission to make your application public. The whole point of the application process is that it is meant to be a private conversation between the group owner and applicants.

Many talked about collaborative working here showing technical, practical and also philosophical difficulties. I just wanted to point at the human factor.

You chose an unethical way to do that.

About the Fell Types: please don’t feel obliged to justify your admission criteria.

I'll justify whatever I feel like justifying. You offered your Fell fonts to Alt Indie Typo, and accordingly I have given reasons why they don't meet Alt Indie Typo's technical standards. So this part is an issue.

In any case many actually use them without the problems you think will arise and every browser I have display them perfectly.

I tested them in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Google Chrome, and those fonts render slowly. Speed of rendering is a critical factor for embeddable web fonts. Every font vendor I've had contact with will not accept fonts with stacked points in the outlines, and I conceive of Alt Indie Typo by the same technical standards.

Anyway I didn’t offered my design services at all. Just spacing and kerning.

I thought you were offering your Fell type fonts. I appreciated what you were offering at the time, and as I told you in my reply email, if Alt Indie Typo needs manual hinting services I may contact you if and when the time comes. So it's hard to see the point of what you're saying above.

I can't put any more time into this discussion thread, so I thank you Igino for acting in good faith and for offering the Fell Types and your hinting services. The best thing you can do with the Fell type fonts is clean up the outlines, reduce the number of nodes and eliminate all the stacked points.

j a m e s

James Arboghast's picture

@Thomas: I think that on at least one point aszszelp and I are in rather strong agreement: a high quality open source font project involving multiple contributors would need strong leadership and vision to stay on track and maintain that quality. But I suppose that even if the goal is to release something open source, there’s nothing to say that one can’t run the main development line in a less “open” (in the sense of accepting all contributions) fashion.

Thank you Tom for articulating that point so clearly. This is the approach I have taken with Alt Indie Typo. Totally open projects like Wikipedia have massive problems with their user communities. Complete freedom of everyone involved to edit everyone's contributions works for Wikipedia because it's a vast text writing project, but such openness comes with a price attached to it---lots of very stressed-out, frustrated contributors and a massive pseudo-legal arbitration system backed up for six months.

Type design and font production are much more specialized tasks requiring expert contributors. One applicant I had to knock back told me, in his own words, he only wanted to be "a lurker" in Alt Indie Typo. That could only slow us down. It isn't practical to have hangers-on lurking in the group solely to satiate their own curiosity. His use of that word "lurker" made me wonder what his true motive for wanting to be involved was. It's hard not to be circumspect of that word. At any rate, that kind of member would be too distracting.

Alt Indie Typo progress report --- we already have 7/10ths of our base linear (sans serif) type thoroughly designed. This type will serve as the basis for a text font superfamily.

j a m e s

paragraph's picture

Igino, serves you right. Fancy volunteering your time and effort to an 'open source' project.
Find your own indie whatever. Goodwill has to be deservedly punished.


James Arboghast's picture

@Zara: 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.

With all respect to you Zara, and with my intimate understanding of the often touchy and difficult job you do of maintaining civil order at Typophile, your post above shows insensitive semantic form given the situation at the time you wrote it.

"...I suggest you..." is the kind of uppity language used by typophiles and peeple posting in online forums generally that sounds so sanctimonious and deserves to be wiped off the face of the internet. If you have a suggestion to make, leave out the "I suggest you" part and just say what you want to say, like this:

"Users who feel their reputation and well-being is threatened by others in this forum please take that discussion offline --- thank you."

It helps to say please and thank you, and omitting the "you" stuff goes a long way towards placating everyone involved. The rest of that post was fine, no problems and not many ways I can see of improving the semantics.

Note to Tiffany, Punchcut and other mods --- the best way of reacting to this semantic audit of mine is to accept it as fair criticism aimed at improving Typophile. I am on your side. I am on the side of Typophile's users. I am on everybody's side. So -- please take my advice in good faith because it's meant that way, and get off my case because I am trying my utmost to get out of here.

@paragraph: Goodwill has to be deservedly punished.

Haven't got the faintest scintilla of a clue what you mean by that. I've extended loads of good will towards this community and the internet community in general, so I don't feel the least bit nettled by that statement.

To everyone at Typophile --- goodbye and good fortune. I hope nothing else brings me back her in the near to medium-term future.

j a m e s

klepas's picture

This is getting ridiculous. For the sake of remaining neutral I’m going to be launching and hosting an OFL-licensed Baskerville revival based on the work thus far by James Puckett. I have not yet picked a revision control system or a place to host the actual files—I’m currently contemplating GitHub.

For the info page thus far, please see: http://klepas.org/openbaskerville/


Kaffee und Kuchen

John Boardley's picture

Though I don't imagine that the end result will be anything spectacular (for some reason, a patchwork quilt comes to mind), I do like the initiative. If it teaches something about type design to those who participate, then that can't be a bad thing.


James Arboghast's picture

This is getting ridiculous.

Your complete lack realism makes my mind boggle with incredulity.

j a m e s

Nick Shinn's picture

Pascal, you jumped the gun.
I thought the idea was to find out what people wanted first.
I doubt it would be Fry's Baskerville in any way, shape or form.

blank's picture

@Nick: Finding out what kind of fonts the F/OSS world wants is a pretty big project; starting on them from scratch is even bigger. Getting a team together to finish something simple seems, at least to me, like a good way to get a small team of interested individual together before proceeding with a larger project.

Nick Shinn's picture

It's a waste of time.
Do you expect to challenge and inspire people by offering them the opportunity to do hack work?

bemerx25's picture

Well some people climb really extraordinarily tall mountains and for no other reason then to say that they did. I wouldn't worry in this case why people would jump at an opportunity to do "hack work". And as alluded to earlier, this could be a wonderful learning opportunity for all.

Rob O. Font's picture

"Well some people climb really extraordinarily tall mountains..."
And I'm sure their motto is to pick it, and the route, and stick too that mountain.;)

"...a pretty big project; starting on them from scratch is even bigger."
But if you start with a well crafted and widely accepted kanji, you're more than halfway home.

"...David ha[th] indicated that -he- would be happy to work on fonts for open source release if [...] paid"
Not really interested in the money, as much as the specification, perhaps prematurely, but ultimately believing the specification for this 'market' will be for a font beyond the current puny human collections of styles captured 'definitively' in (what I suspect are) hundreds of glyph tables, along with thousands of extra somewhat uncoordinated tables to be shipped as a mass of semi-uncustomizeable menu splat resulting mostly in gigo.

Guess what I'm thinking :)


Nick Shinn's picture

Well some people climb really extraordinarily tall mountains and for no other reason then to say that they did.

So why would they bother to walk a well-beaten path up a small hill?

Joe Pemberton's picture

James, I'm really sorry someone pasted the body of an email in public like that. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Klepas, is this the ridiculousness you're talking about? I hope your comment is limited to that.

I've been amused tracking this thread, not solely by reading it, but by listening in to the back channel on Twitter. A Twitter thread about a Typophile thread. Welcome to the internet age. http://search.twitter.com/search?q=Typophile

Regarding closing this thread... Closing a thread isn't standard practice here. However, I'll invite you again to start a new thread with the core of the idea that interested parties can participate in. When you clearly invite the interested people you'll get a leaner, more focused conversation.

paragraph's picture

I hope your comment is limited to that.

Well, I also think it's ridiculous now. And, no, my comment is not limited to that.


James Arboghast's picture

Joe Pemberton—thank you sir. You're an honorable man and I'm very grateful for the vast opportunity Typophile provides for debate and discussion. Your policy of not closing threads is fundamental to freedom of expression and the openness of typophile. Please retain that policy in future.

@Claudio—contrary to your uninformed speculation, Tom has not lost interest in his idea. He simply chooses not to discuss it here any more; he is discussing it with me and the other members of Alt Indie Typo instead.
Your speculation amounts to an ad hominem "argument against the man", a logical fallacy, so it has no merit.

@ Nick, James Pucket, David Berlow, Tiffany and others calling for a F/OSS spec—I am willing to set up another Google group dedicated to obtaining input from web designers and from type developers and other interested parties to arrive at a spec. I won't have time to chair that group but the group itself would be open to all who wish to participate (no entrance criteria) and offer 100% transparency.

Alternatively you could add a new special interest forum / group here at Typophile and appoint a chairperson. I think Sii and Thomas Phinney are the best qualified for that job, so perhaps you could have both Sii and Thomas overseeing discussions there. If you set that up I'll gladly read but I won't be posting.

j a m e s

iginomarini's picture

James, I’m really sorry someone pasted the body of an email in public like that.

Hello Mr.Pemberton, please excuse my english but I haven't completely understood what you meant with “like that”. Were you referring to a specific content of the email (an information “like that”)? Or were you referring to a general “etiquette” issue (a behaviour “like that”)?

Igino Marini

abattis's picture

@dberlow: Yes, I think you're right; the fat binary VFBs are useless for version control based collaboration. I think outline-based font development isn't that great either, because the system in the typeface family isn't very well recorded in a set of superpolator UFOs either... MetaFont was much better, and the Kalliculator suggests that those concepts can translate into GUIs. The free software font community is slowly working on this; http://tinkerhouse.net/lettersoup/About/Concepts is a leading example.

@everyone: I hope that the Open Font Library will become the natural home for project like OpenBaskerville and altindietypo after its upcoming launch this year. Thanks to Paul Hunt for mentioning it! :-)


HaleyFiege's picture

Even though there is no clear brief at this point, having some practice projects to test out the best way of working on a collaborative type project of this nature is probably a good idea before we all actually agree on something. Indie type and a Baskerville revival are perfect opportunities of that and I hope both parties will communicate their learnings.

Pascal, I own a dedicated server if you need some hosting space.


klepas's picture

@HaleyFiege: Thanks for the offer. I’m planning on sticking the font files into a github repository today, so they’ll be hosting that. Otherwise I should be covered. Thanks again though. :)

Kaffee und Kuchen

mjkerpan's picture

Speaking of open source fonts, wasn't Hrant once given a grant to do an open source Baskerville a few years back? Whatever happened to that? Was the project dropped and the money returned or are the fonts out there, hidden?

Also, I've noticed something else weird: why do so many student font projects either end up as commercial projects or simply not get released at all? Maybe a good place to look for open source fonts would be to track down people who have done fonts as a final project for school and see if they wouldn't mind releasing those as FOSS.

Rob O. Font's picture

This Baskerville face is fine and those whose work and generosity brought it forth should be commended for a type design well executed. But it is not the base of a style set upon which an open source effort begins.

All such fonts have a core set that begins with sans, sans monospaced, and symbol. Next in the style set are bold, italic and bold italic to complete the sans and sans monospaced. Then comes serif and monospaced serif followed by their bold, italic, and bold italics. Look around, (this is probably not the best situation in which to choose your own ground).

Not only is it lazy-seeming to start with a willowy and cross-device averse Baskerville (its reason for being), but there is no need to break up styles by character group within a script, to farm out for design as there are lots of styles and scripts required. Extended language support gets added as progress is accepted. Extending language support in a display Baskerville will not be likable with visual compatibility, (think kanji).

Starting without a spec and, claiming any kind of group view, will be unfortunate for this group. Sii and Thomas must know these things all too well — or are they hiding what they know, or have they lost it?


Thomas Phinney's picture

DB: I've already expressed my strong support for specifications and strong leadership in open source font development - or any collaborative font development, really. I certainly agree with you (and whoever else suggested it) that Fry's Baskerville, being a display cut of Baskerville of seemingly limited appeal/versatility, would not be high on my list of typefaces worth doing as a big open source project. Between that and just being busy, I decided not to look into the Baskerville project much more. (The sans project might be interesting, but again I'm too darn busy right now.)



brsma's picture

In case you are not aware of it, already, you might want to have a look at http://openfontlibrary.fontly.org/

nitrofurano's picture

Before Constant VZW started Not-Courier typeface, they were talking about starting an open DIN-Schriften, since the original typeface drawing seems to be open.
Anyway, the Manuale Tipografico of Giambattista Bodoni seems to be public domain as well, as well those Claude Garamond original drawings.
Would be great all of these original drawings being available easily and freely, for colaborativelly we can start developing open versions of them...

Rob O. Font's picture

Thomas I hear you, and am delighted to hear you're busy.

"http://openfontlibrary.fontly.org/" reminds me visually of gum we can all share orally.


paragraph's picture

ERROR(8) "/home/openfontlibrary/cchost.5_0_1/cchost_lib/cc-filters.php"(72): Undefined offset: 0 [2009-02-04 08:10 am][][/files] An error occurred

Ugly, indeed.

blank's picture

This Baskerville face is fine…But it is not the base of a style set upon which an open source effort begins.

Fry’s Baskerville…would not be high on my list of typefaces worth doing as a big open source project.

I don’t think point of the project is to create an awesome open-source Baskerville based on Fry’s. I think that everyone realizes the open-source world really doesn’t need a Baskerville designed to use at p48 and up. But what is going to come out of this is the work Pascal is doing to set up an open-source font project. If he can put a small team together and finish this simple task, they don’t have to worry about how to set up the server, what file formats to use, software, etc. when they move on to a big project. All they’ll have to do is write a brief, replicate a development environment that functions as needed, and get to work.

bemerx25's picture

I agree with James - I see this more as an exploration and experimentation with methodology and process (i.e. how to best apply open-source methodology and processes to font creation and development).

kaujot's picture

Lavoisier, a fully free/open-source sans typeface has been released.

nitrofurano's picture

@kajout - thanks about the Lavoisier project link, but it is anyway released with a huge and shameful typographic mistake, like shown at http://www.papress.com/thinkingwithtype/resources/crimes_italics.htm

Thomas Phinney's picture

There is a whole heck of a lot more wrong with Lavoisier than the oblique italics. Just in a couple of minutes I noted:

- no optical adjustment where curves meet straights. hmnru are horrible
- inconsistent sidebearings (left straight cap: 56 or 60? left round cap 41 or 44?)
- just bad sidebearings (Z and N have the same left sidebearing, while s is 60% of Z)
- slightly inconsistent stem weights for no obvious reason
- horizontals are not enough thinner than the verticals to be optically the same. They look too thick or the verticals too thin.

Also, where curves turn into straights is very clunky to my eyes. Either give it an angled join or make it smooth, but the status quo looks bad. I suppose this could be argued to be a design feature (unlike the errors above), but I'm skeptical at best.

This is real amateur stuff. In a one-day seminar on type design, I'd cover all these points. Heck, I think I covered all these points in my 45-minute talk on font quality for "TypoBerlin" last year. They are just fundamentals.

(No wonder type professionals and serious aficionados are skeptical about quality for open source fonts.)



abattis's picture

@Thomas Phinney: When is your next 1 day seminar? :-)

blank's picture

Thomas, as you noted, Lavoisier is real amateur stuff. That’s not an open-source issue—there’s plenty of commercial fonts with the same problems on MyFonts. If an open-source type design project were to be managed by experienced designers this sort of stuff wouldn’t make it into to project files.

But that does bring us back to the earlier problem—how does the experienced designer pay his mortgage when he’s taking time from work to oversee a free font project?

John Hudson's picture

James: But that does bring us back to the earlier problem—how does the experienced designer pay his mortgage when he’s taking time from work to oversee a free font project?

Someone, somewhere, pays him. Even a reasonable likelihood of income is usually enough to get a type designer moving. I'm working on a project now that took two years of planning before the contract was signed, including a lot of work on glyph set definition, making spreadsheets, costing the development, etc. all of which was done before I was assured of any payment. But I was willing because I knew that the client had the money and serious intent, so it was a reasonable investment of my time. So far, every open source font sounding has been incredibly nebulous. I'm waiting for someone to come along and say 'We have a grant/investment of X number of dollars/euros and want to commission some fonts that will be released under an open source license'.

It seems to me that one of the problems of open source advocates is that they are coming to type designers presuming that we are going to be enthusiastic about treating type design as open source software development. It isn't, and I'm not enthusiastic. As far as I'm concerned, open source or proprietary is a licensing choice that has absolutely nothing to do with design. So rather than looking for type designers to play at being open source software developers, I think interested parties should get their hands on some cash and then commission some fonts the same way our commercial and institutional clients commission fonts.

abattis's picture

@James Puckett: Thousands of companies’ profits are based on things that are freely sharable and modifiable, so it seems possible to me that the experienced designer can pay his mortgage by overseeing a free font project. "Free as in freedom, not as in price" :-)

Thomas Phinney's picture

@abattis/Dave: You'll need to be more specific about exactly how that works. I'm not saying it's inconceivable, but you'll need to suggest a model for it.

@John: I think we are in violent agreement.



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