Strictly custom type companies?

Ruxandra D's picture

Hello typophiles,

I was wondering if anybody knew of companies strictly offering custom type services (no retail releases). Are there any? I had thought of Dalton Maag, but they seem to be offering quite a few retail fonts now. Maybe http://www.pangeadesign.se/? I am not sure where to look for this information.

Any help would be very appreciated!

Ruxandra

Ruxandra D's picture

Many thanks, Nick!

Anybody else?

Bert Vanderveen's picture

My guess is that you won’t find many custom type foundries. A common (and sensible) business model for custom type is a limited period of exclusivity for the client, followed by commercial exploitation (aka selling to all).

Birdseeding's picture

Well, the two companies above both do other design and identity work, and commercial fonts would be out of style for them. I know for instance http://www.stockholmdesignlab.se/ has done custom typefaces too (Stadium Sans, Åhléns sans etc.).

Nick Shinn's picture

IIRC, Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich (BTW, designer of the Just My Type cover) has designed some non-retail fonts—I recall him giving a presentation at TypeCon a few years ago showing a face with lots of ligs.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

a2swhk used to be, but they went retail with a2type.

miles's picture

I was custom only for a long time, but have made a few releases in the last couple of years. I have never done limited exclusivity and then release - if you commission a font from me it's yours.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Tiro Typeworks is close.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

Some experience with custom fonting, yes. Details on request.
What are you after?

oldnick's picture

I am rather curious at to why "strictly custom services" has any validity when it comes to purchasing a typeface design. Are we wading into the old "Perceived Value" realm, where paying a princely sum is supposedly a guarantee of superior quality?

Ruxandra D's picture

Thanks a lot everybody!

I think explaining why I am looking for this information beforehand would have been wiser. I am working on a short masters thesis on the state of the independent type foundry industry today, and, as part of my introduction, I have created a schema of the different players in the business around type design, including foundries that offer retails fonts, and also those companies that don't. I wanted to give some examples of the latter, but it was much harder than I thought, as the ones I wanted to include (ex: Dalton Maag), recently transitioned towards offering retail fonts as well. It's interesting to see how this model is becoming rare, and now mostly applies to companies that do other design and identity work along with custom type design, as mentioned by Johan.

Nick Cooke's picture

AFAIK Dalton Maag have offered retail fonts for at least 10 years.
I too don't understand the "strictly custom services" question - why would anybody want to limit themselves like that? Most companies, especially independents, offer both retail and custom fonts.

Ruxandra D's picture

Thank you for your comments,

10 years? I was under the impression it was more recent.

I am aware that most companies offer custom type along with retail fonts, I simply wanted to mention a few companies that offer custom type (whether they do other type of work such as graphic design as well or not) but don't release retail fonts. It might a very small segment that does not reflect the general tendency, but I wanted to be exhaustive.

Nick Shinn's picture

… independent type foundry …

Independent of what?

All type foundries are independent, so the term is redundant.
"Indie" was a musical term, used to describe record labels without their own means of distribution.
It has some "alternative" cred.
By the same token, "independent" type foundries would be those without e-commerce at their web site.

Are the non-independent type foundries Microsoft, Adobe and Apple?
Those companies are not type foundries, but hardware/software app companies with tiny type departments.

JamesT's picture

I'd guess Independent would mean type foundries that aren't Monotype or Linotype.

Ruxandra D's picture

Independent as in foundries founded by designers who create, own and distribute typefaces themselves and/or through vendors, unassociated from companies such as Monotype, and generally small in size. It excludes corporations like Microsoft, Adobe and Apple.

Yes, this definition includes most foundries today, and maybe the term is becoming less relevant. It does seem like it is still in use though: http://shop.gestalten.com/type-navigator.html. Paul van der Laan and Pieter van Rosmalen from Bold Monday, among others, also use it to describe their foundry: "Bold Monday regards itself as the typographical equivalent of a so called “indie” record company." In any case, I wanted to use a term that excluded large corporations such as the ones mentioned above.

Nick Shinn's picture

Is FontFont an independent foundry?
And Font Bureau?
What about Commercial?

Bold Monday may position itself as hip and alternative, but the majority of foundries aren't, because they are the mainstream.

Thomas Phinney's picture

I have always thought that the term "independent" or "indie" when applied to typefaces and fonts was dubious, mainly because it was undefined or underdefined. "Companies such as Monotype" and "generally small in size" are both vague phrases.

Of course, one can leave the definition vague. That just means that besides the obvious cases, there will be plenty of uncertainty about whether certain firms are "indie" or not, notably Nick's examples.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Regarding "strictly custom fonts" I don't think it's a useful categorization. Too rare, and custom vs retail work is a continuum rather than a binary classification.

More interesting might be to survey some foundries and ask what % of their annual income is from retail fonts, custom fonts, other type-design/production-related work (hinting?), or "other" (graphic design?). Or even just the relative proportion of custom font income vs retail font income, you could show them on a continuum line. Not everyone would be open to providing that info, but many might be.

Cheers,

T

Ruxandra D's picture

Nick, Thomas,

Yes, I am including those three foundries. I think I will keep that rougher definition of independent foundries, unless you have other suggestions of terms that would exclude large corporations.

The project will actually be completed soon, thank you for your suggestion Thomas. I have interviewed a number of foundries (mostly by mail) about various aspects, including how they manage custom and retail work, and some mentioned where their income came from as well. I practically have all their answers ready, I will now synthesize all this and hopefully before the project's deadline!

And about the "strictly custom fonts" I will discuss it again with my tutor, but I agree it might be too rare.

Thank you for your help!

Nick Shinn's picture

… unless you have other suggestions of terms that would exclude large corporations.

"Foundry".

Would you call Procter & Gamble a battery company?
Or an appliance manufacturer?
And yet it owns Duracell and Braun.
By the same token, Microsoft, Apple and Adobe are not type foundries.

.00's picture

I received Ruxandra's one sentence request for information about Terminal Design.

Not a very good approach to gathering information. Is that the survey technique they teach in grad school now?

I did not respond.

hrant's picture

James, that's very ungracious.

I myself saw nothing wrong with the approach, especially since
Ruxandra dedicated the time to an email exchange leading to a
good grasp of The MicroFoundry's evolution.

hhp

.00's picture

... response edited... not worth the time

hrant's picture

Candor is worth it.

hhp

.00's picture

Worth what?

Té Rowan's picture

It's like jazz... if ya gotta ask, ya'll never get it.

.00's picture

worth it.

Té Rowan's picture

Shoulda remembered not to get into a battle of wits with an unarmed man.

.00's picture

See my above comment.

.00's picture

worth it.

Ruxandra D's picture

Thanks a lot Nick, I appreciate your input!

Ruxandra D's picture

As for James’ remark, I didn’t mean to upset anyone or appear careless in my method of obtaining concise information (ex: foundation date). Most people have kindly responded but, in retrospective, I concede that the brief context of my request could have been expanded.

Cheers.

hrant's picture

Graciousness notan.

hhp

Té Rowan's picture

Sure, I do not play jazz (or any other music), but I do not need it explained to me either.

.00's picture

worth it.

Goran Soderstrom's picture

Hi Ruxandra,

Pangea design doesnt sell any commercial fonts, we only do custom work for clients, sometimes visible and sometimes invisible. However we have designed FF Dagny (from a custom typeface we did for a swedish newspaper DN) which we released at FontFont.

I know for instance http://www.stockholmdesignlab.se/ has done custom typefaces too (Stadium Sans, Åhléns sans etc.).

That is not entirely true as Stockholm Design Lab does not have their own type development team. I know for instance that they worked with Monotype for the development of the Stadium Sans custom font.

At Pangea design we do all the work In House.

Best,
Göran Söderström

Té Rowan's picture

Always thought FF Dagny was named for someone.

Goran Soderstrom's picture

Té; it comes from DAGens NYheter.

But. It’s also a female name and a swedish song :)

Té Rowan's picture

@terminal_design - Advice noted and filed to /dev/null.

Ruxandra D's picture

Sorry for the late reply, but thank you for the information, Goran!

hrant's picture

She might be too shy, modest, or busy, so I'll do the honors of
linking to the truly useful survey Ruxandra ended up compiling:
http://www.eina.edu/arxius/docs_2/Duru_Ruxandra.pdf

hhp

Goran Soderstrom's picture

That looks like interesting reading. Thanks.

hrant's picture

FYI the old link is broken. Now there's this:
http://ruxandra-duru.com/web/pdf/Ruxandra_Duru_type_foundries_today.pdf

hhp

Stephen Coles's picture

I'm pleased to announce that Ruxandra is updating her survey and we will publish it on Typographica in 2013.

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