A discussion I had about fonts

G T's picture

A couple of days ago a friend IM'd me asking for a font recommendation. Then he asked me I had the font in a kinda off-hand 'can I have it?' kinda way. I said 'You are gonna buy it and not download it, right?'

He basically explained that they were pitching for some work (he works for a design agency) and one of the routes they were offering would contain this font but they didn't have a budget for a job they didn't yet have so usually he would 'borrow' a font of someone who already had it and then if the pitch was successful and the route chosen, they would then buy the font.

Initially I thought he meant he would download it from some dodgy site so I hassled him for this saying it supports piracy even if he's ultimately buying the font. He meant however borrowing the font off someone they knew, ie. Me in this case. That aside, I suggested that he should just contact the foundry as they often provide a limited license for test purposes or something. His main complaint about this was that it often took so long for foundries to get back to him in the past that they were usually presenting the pitch by that time and it was too late. His argument was that they ultimately bought the font if it worked. Mine was that as a company they should invest in a decent set of fonts that they will work with regularly, in the same way they would invest in legitimate software and so on.

But I guess the question this raised was; is there a solution to the problem of quick turnaround when you may not have a font, or the necessary budget to buy it yet?

I guess some people will say 'If you're not willing to pay for a font, then even if its only for a prospective job, don't use it.' But surely foundries will want people to use their fonts and maybe willing to 'lend' them out if there's a potential purchase down the line?

Any thoughts?



quadibloc's picture

I think you've identified a real problem.

But I don't see that there is a solution. Absent some fancy DRM system for fonts, a system of lending fonts out puts the value of product at risk. And doing so simply to deal with bureaucratic problems that their prospective customers ought to have straightened out on their own - it isn't a font foundry's fault if a company is badly organized and you need signatures from five levels to actually spend money on a font.

That being said, there's another point of view, too: that while home computer users can use whatever font without being traced, businesses are visible, easy to sue, so in general they're trustworthy as far as obeying licenses is concerned.

Worse yet, though, for type designers is the state of demand in the font market. Once people have the standards - Times Roman, Caledonia, Garamond, Lydian, Baskerville, Bodoni, Helvetica, Univers, Optima, Palatino, Copperplate Gothic, Eurostile, Clarendon - some well-known display fonts - Peignot, Hobo, Papyrus, Mistral, Ondine - and perhaps what is currently fashionable - Stone, Lucida - they're pretty much satisfied.

Art departments at major publishers, advertising agencies, or companies, therefore, basically form the market that most of the typeface designers here are addressing. This is a very small market. And the people in that small market generally know their business... and probably don't need the help some sort of font lending system would give.

So the real problem is to expand the font market; to give a broader section of corporate customers, at least, reasons to get more creative in their choice of fonts to license. Giving the ordinary consumer choices beyond what comes with applications and those "lousy font CDs"... might be a challenge likely to remain unmet, but it's another frontier.

BeauW's picture

It sounds like you are talking about a type-setting service.
Your friend could hire you (or the foundry) to set the sample he needs for a few cents per character, like back in the photo-compositing days.

Té Rowan's picture

Do any foundries have such a service already (Send'em the text and the money, get back an AI file or an EPS file or whatever)?

Bendy's picture

When I approached Village, they were very helpful in setting text in fonts of my choice before buying and sent a pdf.

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