Type Foundry Preferences

huxley_'s picture

As someone who's entering design at a rather fast and wholly enjoyable pace, much of my work revolves around typography, and with a rather limited library as of now and some money tucked away for such expenditures, I'd really like some help about which foundries are the best to buy from.

By "best" i mean what this foundry offers in terms of language support, opentype features, hinting quality, best pricing, best library, and the overall quality of the design of the typefaces.

So from experience can some of you veterans help me out here?

Frode Bo Helland's picture

A hard question to answer. I’ve found some of the most reputable foundries to produce faces that – all the while amazing conceptually and technically – doesn’t really cut it when you put them to actual use (perhaps the technical bar was misguided?). Likewise, the best technical productions are not necessarily very creative. When you also throw hinting into the criteria mix, the whole thing is flipped upside down.

Karl Stange's picture

Are there any foundries that you have looked at that you have either dismissed or have reservations about? As Frode has pointed out, you have presented a very wide range of criteria and will encounter problems if trying to match all of them.

It would also help if you were able to specify what styles of typefaces and for what purposes (e.g., web design, print publications, ebooks, etc) you are looking for, if that is something you can do at this point.

hrant's picture

Choose a foundry that allows you to freely modify the fonts (although of course keeping the resultant fonts to yourself).

hhp

huxley_'s picture

@Karl Strange
Currently im looking at Linotype, Berthold, Font Bureau, and ParaType.

For one example im looking at buying Akzidenz Grotesk, Berthold offers BQ and BE versions (can anyone elaborate on the difference between the two?) and Linotype offers Basic Commercial; which would be the best route?

Also im planning on doing a mix of digital/web/print work (most likely mostly digital/web work) if that helps at all.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

A more modern (and imo better) take on AG: Founders Grotesk and/or National by Kris Sowersby. Available at Village (a very nice foundry).

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Or Theinhardt from Optimo.

k.l.'s picture

A more modern (and imo better) take on AG ...

... is not AG any more. (What makes AG unique is the sum of its oddities.)

Another slightly earlier modern take, Lineto's Akkurat.

hrant's picture

I think that degree of distinguishment is illusory; any typeface is always an idea to a great extent. Otherwise you end up having to believe that only a given size of a given face, printed on a given paper, etc. is the "real thing".

hhp

ralf h.'s picture

Choose a foundry that allows you to freely modify the fonts

What's the percentage of type users who actually modify their fonts regularly?

Concerning the original questions: What's the best car manufacturer to buy from? No one can answer that in general. It depends on your specific needs or the requirements of a certain project when it comes to type.

hrant's picture

What's the percentage of type users who actually pay for their fonts regularly?

From Huxley's post it's clear he's not a typical user - he's picky. And picky people like to tweak things.

At the very least people like Huxley should be made much more aware that most foundries don't allow free modification; it's almost like a hidden charge, something I'm firmly against.

hhp

Mel N. Collie's picture

"And picky people like to tweak things."

A generalization, jumped to most likely for the purpose of "discussion enhancement", but that's cool. It could also be that the picky user chooses a few foundries for exactly the opposite reason — they don't want to be compelled by fondness of form into making any mods due to faults in function, and they want to minimize that possibility via their choice of foundry.

"...almost like a hidden charge, something I'm firmly against."

How should founders expose this 'hidden' possibility of an extra licensing requirement for those who may possibly want to take our work and partially or wholey make it look otherwise, for better or worse, something we don't know up front 100% of the time? :)

hrant's picture

they want to minimize that possibility via their choice of foundry.

Good point.

Sometimes though overall quality doesn't preclude the need to tweak. Adobe fonts are high-quality, but I still once got a commission to extend Garamond Premier with some esoteric accented characters, something I could do legally.

How should founders expose this 'hidden' possibility

Good question - I'm not sure how to do that elegantly. Mainly I worry that some foundries are happy to keep it hidden. And the reason it's "hidden" is because I believe most font buyers don't expect a no-mod restriction to be there. So it's a matter of education (which is what I'm trying to do, in a small way). And I think when enough buyers realize that restriction has become the rule (AFAIR it didn't used to be) then foundries will be pressured to be more accommodating, or at least more transparent. Why do I care, as somebody who tries to sell fonts and rarely needs to buy them? Because I think ethical behavior is something that comes around when it goes around. And as I've opined before, there's something vaguely unethical with being draconian about user modification, since any font we make owes things to others anyway.

BTW, about "discussion enhancement": Although I firmly believe in publicly going out on a limb with borderline opinions, they're always on my side of the border - I don't say something I don't believe in just to get people riled up, I actually believe in it. That said, beliefs change, and that's OK (it's probably even good).

hhp

ralf h.'s picture

Even though we specifically allow font modification in our EULA, I don't think this point matters much in choosing fonts and foundries. (Quite unlike embedding permission, media restrictions and things like that.)
Well sell software tools — ready to use — no assembly required. You can't even open and “save” a font non-desctructively like you can with a Word file. A normal type user would always mess something up. If you want your users to change the fonts you should give them your original files from FontLab, Fontographer, Glyphs, RoboFont, ...
So the requirement to be allowed to change the font files only applies to a tiny percentage of type users, mostly those who are type designers themselves.

Si_Daniels's picture

>what this foundry offers in terms of language support, opentype features, hinting quality, best pricing, best library, and the overall quality of the design of the typefaces.

I'm going to say with complete unbiased authority that the foundry that best meets all of these criteria is Microsoft. If you'd included modification rights and/or weight variation availability, that would not have been the case. If you'd excluded language support I would have nominated The Font Bureau.

hrant's picture

Ralf, a type user would hire a type designer to do the mods.

hhp

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Best […] overall quality of the design does not sound like Microsoft to me. I guess it depends on how you define “quality design” though. Technical, sure. Creative … umph.

Is Microsoft even a foundry?

hrant's picture

I think so, since they pay for the making of "own-brand" fonts.

hhp

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Microsofts web fonts are great. No question about that.

Si_Daniels's picture

>Creative … umph.

Are you familiar with the work of John Hudson, Ross Mills, Matthew Carter, Luc (de) Groot, Vincent Connare, Steve Matteson, Jeremy Tankard, Gary Munch, Diane Collier, Mamoun Sakkal, Fiona Ross, etc., etc., ;-)

Nick Shinn's picture

Which would you say are Microsoft’s most creative type designs, Si?

Karl Stange's picture

For one example im looking at buying Akzidenz Grotesk, Berthold offers BQ and BE versions (can anyone elaborate on the difference between the two?)

I think that both BE (possibly, 'Berthold Exclusivs') and BQ (again possibly, 'Berthold Qualität') versions are based on Postscript Type 1 digitisations by Adobe but with a split in the licensing, with Adobe selling the BE versions through their Font Folio collection up until version 8 and the BQ versions only available through Berthold and a variety of third party distributors.

Both versions are now available through the Berthold web site but the following notice is posted to distinguish between them, "The BQ and BE OpenType Basic versions correspond to the Berthold BQ and Adobe BE PostScript Type 1 Legacy versions." Further, the BE versions in OT are only available with basic language support, roughly (if not exactly) equivalent to Adobe's defined Std character support, while the BQ versions are available with with Pro and Pro + WGL language support.

Perhaps someone else here could elaborate on this, but this is very much my own understanding and opinion based on information cobbled together over several years.

As to whether to invest in either of these, well personally I would probably go with a more contemporary take on this style of typeface. Also, to the best of my knowledge, there are currently no web font versions available and the cost and restrictions associated with digital embedding and licensing are not clearly defined on their website.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

What actually constitutes the foundry? Ascender? The bundled Win/Office fonts sure includes some gems, but overall it’s not a pinaccle of contemporary type design.

Mel N. Collie's picture

Some good points, some need for border pa-troll.;)

Hrant: "...it's "hidden" is because I believe most font buyers don't expect a no-mod restriction to be there..."

In the years ive been around, none of our customers "buy" a font, so I'm afraid I'm out of you experiential league.

(proper terminology being a matter of education, which is what I'm trying to do, in a small way)

And: "Ralf, [said Hrant] a type user would hire a type designer to do the mods."

So, should we put that in the licensing agreement?

(if all goes as planned, we should be able to reap legal definitions of "foundry", "type designer", and "creative" from a single thread — Imagine.)

hrant's picture

As you imply, educating consumers on "buy" versus "license" is part of the conundrum. But the reality on the ground is that when somebody plops down the dough to get something, they think of it as "buying". Virtually nobody knows what an EULA is, much less go to the trouble of reading the thing. It's just not humanly natural; nobody would go for having to read (and understand!) an EULA before being allowed to use the product. Now, we certainly can't change human nature, and we probably can't change the sue-happy trench we're stuck in in the West, but my main point is we shouldn't take advantage of lack of education. And to me the "no-mod" clause stands out as particularly potentially dishonest; I'm starting to think we need an explicit opt-in on it, to be sufficiently ethical.

hhp

ralf h.'s picture

I'm starting to think we need an explicit opt-in on it, to be sufficiently ethical.

If so, this should apply to truly unexpected limitations in the EULA, that affect normal type use.
For example: Type users are often shocked to find out, that the license they purchased doesn’t cover the creating of a logo or the embedding of the font in a regular subsetted PDF. These limitations might require an extra warning or checkbox during the purchase.

But like I said: Changing a font file is not normal type use. If you license something, you expect to be able to use it as is. If I license a software tool like InDesign, I don't expect to be allowed to reverse-engineer it. I expect to be able to use it “normally”.
And if a few type users really want to make changes to a font, they can just ask the foundry. The foundry either allows it (despite what their EULA says) or they make you an offer to do the modifications you want. No big deal.

Si_Daniels's picture

>Which would you say are Microsoft’s most creative type designs, Si?

"Creative"
1.able to create: able to create things
2.new and original: using or showing use of the imagination to create new ideas or things
3.resourceful: making imaginative use of the limited resources available

For 2, Gabriola, Aldhabi, Verdana, Arabic Typesetting, Segoe Script, Marlett, Nirmala
For 3, pretty much everything else.

hrant's picture

If so, this should apply to truly unexpected limitations in the EULA, that affect normal type use.

Good point - agreed.

The foundry either allows it (despite what their EULA says) or they make you an offer to do the modifications you want.

At double, triple market prices, is my point. And if they're too busy to bother, they sometimes just say No. These complications wouldn't be so bad if users knew about them before purchase; but we don't really try to be transparent about it...

And I think there's actually more font modification going on than we think, because users just do it without telling us. Besides ethics I think there might actually be material gains to be had by being fully open about modification issues. And most of all, you don't want a user getting in the habit of breaking the law (at your expense). If a user comes to terms with breaking your EULA by modifying a font, next time he might break the EULA by not even bothering to pay for the thing...

hhp

Mel N. Collie's picture

Hrant: "If a user comes to terms with breaking your EULA by modifying a font, next time he might break the EULA by not even bothering to pay for the thing..."

...and before you know it, the user's in your garage stealing your chain saw oil, claiming it's his 'cause he's already stolen your chain saw. . .

This is not what the no-mod eula is made to prevent. We, and many others. including the MS foundry, are trying very hard to make it so that every one of the tens of 1,000's of fonts that have the same name (sometimes the millions of fonts that have the same name), when given the same composition specification, exhibit the same behavior.

If the default in our eulas were otherwise, i.e. mod-away and name-as-ya-please, then what'd happen?

(In terms of 'language support, opentype features, hinting quality, best pricing, best library, and the overall quality of the design of the typefaces', i.e. if the user is not interested in mod making, which this user is not, sorry for the tangent to nowhere... I tried. :)

hrant's picture

I'm aware of the "tech support" dimension (especially when it comes to MS) but -for anybody bothering to read the EULA anyway- why not say "change the name" instead of "don't modify"? BTW I would add a clause that a copy of the modified version must be sent home (and cannot be redistributed). I think "go ahead, just rename it and give me a copy" would actually increase control one has over "errant" versions, compared to saying Nyet (which often causes people to pretend you don't exist).

hhp

gfrederickk's picture

What's the percentage of type users who actually pay for their fonts regularly?

From Huxley's post it's clear he's not a typical user - he's picky. And picky people like to tweak things.

hrant --- I'm a designer and lover of typography, but not a typeface designer. Still, it seems pretty simple to me:
-- You purchase a license to use a font under conditions you agree to.
-- If you don't like those conditions, or you have a concept for a rethinking of an existing typeface, you can make your own font. Go ahead. Software is available.
-- If you don't have the skill or time to design a typeface and build a font, then you should choose an available option.

Modification is not difficult to accomplish. You've already said you'd be willing to pay a type designer to make the modifications for you. So why not contact the originator of the font you like and contract for the modifications you want to make? I think you'll find them to be open to the concept and pleasant to work with. But you have to pay them for their work.

hrant's picture

My point is most people don't realize they're agreeing to any such thing, it's not really their fault, and sometimes their ignorance is being taken advantage of. And sometimes the people taking advantage ignore their own "public domain" cultural debt.

Let me try this angle:
What did you think of the iPhone's "covert" logging of location info?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-13145562

hhp

gfrederickk's picture

Understood that pedestrian users don't read EULAs. But then those folks probably don't often consider modifying fonts. Folks that have knowledge enough to consider font modification can reasonably be expected to know what a EULA is and why we have them. Most chefs haven't read every line of their local health code, but they know not to scratch their ass with the spatula.

Nick Shinn's picture

"Creative"

Scrolling down the dictionary to noun:

(Business / Marketing) a creative person, esp one who devises advertising campaigns

The design community has a different understanding of what “creative” means than the standard dictionary adjective definition (which could apply to suits, to our chagrin), hence a face like Verdana, despite the innovations of its design process and functionality, will never be considered truly creative—it looks too plain and corporate. Designers like to talk up utility, but at the end of the day it’s a visual medium, and creative has to look creative to be creative.

Jeremy Tankard has designed many creative faces; Microsoft has published Corbel, not Fenland.

gfrederickk's picture

huxley,

To your original question -- I hesitate to answer. There are some tremendous foundries, but none that are the best option for all challenges. Each offers advantages -- quality of design, quality of function, preferred genre, voice, support, technical chops, customization options, price. The relative values depend on your needs.

Best advice I can offer re searching for foundries:

-- Enjoy the ride. There's a lot to learn, and no end to it. Sounds like a bad thing, but it's not.
-- Familiarize yourself with the foundries and designers out there. Study their typefaces. Study their approach and typical offerings.
-- Learn as much about font technology as you need (it's a rabbit hole). Enough to understand what you're asking for.
-- Shop for designers and foundries (as you are), not fonts. Match sensibilities. Build relationships.
-- Build your own opinions from an educated foundation.

Si_Daniels's picture

>Designers like to talk up utility, but at the end of the day it’s a visual medium, and creative has to look creative to be creative.

"Creative" wasn't one of Huxley's criteria for identifying the "best" foundry. I was responding to Frode's "Technical, sure. Creative … umph." comment. Microsoft branded fonts, and the licensed fonts will never have the appeal of a boutique foundry's offerings, not because it's all utilitarian (Gabriola being a good example of a visually and technically creative typeface) but because of near-instant over-use by 500,000,000 users.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

That should’ve been “umph … well … yeah … ok. There are some gems for sure! Well done!”

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