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makemo's avatar

Designers - What's Your Take On Remaking Commercial Fonts?

Asked by makemo (531points) October 9th, 2008

I’m a budding design freelancer and have been wondering about the issue with font useage: in particular, commercial fonts that cost far too much to be able to afford at this point, being in the startup phase of a business.

Now, I’m NOT asking for opinions about stealing or illegit use.

I’m only curious about certain aspects that might (or might not?) be considered OK to do, in your opinions.

Let’s say I’m going for a headline of a magazine, website banner, a logotype or something therealikes:

Acquiring (about which we don’t need to go into further detail) some commercial fonts which has the attributes of what you’re looking for; and from a chosen font, redesigning the letters into something new enough, to safely being able to consider it new to the original. (<- if yes to this, here’s an interesting sub-point of thought, then: even though you’ve reworked original beyond a degree of perceptible duplication, or even more than so; would you hesitate doing something that you can ultimately call ‘your own’, yet, still it’s pretty obvious that it reminds of the original font?)

Furthermore, (I’d appreciate your honesty) would you get hold of all kinds of font libraries from the spooky underwebs, and do like the above example, or would you rather just sit there, with a near-zero budget, without any fonts, and (if this is the case) feeling less motivated designing your own font sets, since you really don’t have time for that right now? I can sense, there’s a third approach to this, which, of course, would be to take a look at the great font foundries’ websites and make your own variations, inspired by what you like, which is (still) something that might touch upon what I asked in the former paragraph above…

A few last notes to this question

Note 1: I am aware of some few more or less cheap libraries, but in the end, those just might not be enough.

Note 2: I’m a poor startup. Very, very poor.

Note 3: my question doesn’t relate to situations where I’m commissioned by a client, in which case I could just point the client to a suggested typeface, and perhaps arrange for a deal where the client buys the font and I supply the design. I’m more thinking about scenarios such as design contests, proposals, stock design and likewise.

Note 4: I don’t know if this is a taboo question or not, or if it sounds non-serious, but this has been a pressing question for me, for some time now.

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11 Answers

Vincentt's avatar

How about looking for some free fonts? Or freely-licensed fonts (e.g. under a Creative Commons license). Those will surely be available somewhere?

makemo's avatar

Sure, that’s of course an option (which I use to look in to). But I was more interested to know how people were thinking about commercial fonts, within the context of this question.

fireside's avatar

I think if you want to use commercial fonts, just buy them when you have completed a few jobs. There’s more than enough out there to get you by as you build your portfolio.

I don’t see anything wrong with modifying a letter or something for a logo or icon, but if you are spending your time redrawing fonts, you are wasting time that you could be using to make the rest of the graphical layout better so that the actual font won’t be the most prominent or time consuming part of your designs.

makemo's avatar

@fireside: Agree. That’s what I plan to do. But some of the type libraries out there, are a bit too expensive at this exact moment for me.

Let’s say I’m posting submissions to something like crowdSPRING, logosauce, branding contest, Pixish, 99designs, etc.

wenbert's avatar

if you need to buy a font for the client—include that in your charges. i also do that for stock photos. if the client does not want to pay for them, then il look free alternatives

windex's avatar

I thought fonts were free ;P

makemo's avatar

So in essence – when, say, participating any design contests out there:

Am I right to assume you fellow designers tend to nip a few “free” (<- try and stretch your mind interpreting my use of quotation marks there) font libs and go at it? And if you get a hook, you choose to deal with things at a later point?

Please forgive my uneducated asking, but I’m just curious to know how others deal with this (other than resorting to freeware, often inferior fonts). I’m referring to those of you currently in equally meritless stages of your careers as me, thus not posessing the substantial amount of cash required to purchase much any of the great libraries out there.

Again, just so you don’t get me wrong, this is not a question about promoting illegality. It’s more of a delicate matter for which I’m trying to seek some honest consultation.

o0's avatar

I think this idea of manipulating a typeface to make it your own is not a good way of doing business. at all. I would suggest what wenbert said and include typefaces that you need to buy in your charges. This way you will also have them for future projects. With that said I would invest in only two typefaces a sans serif (helvetica maybe or akzidenz) and a serif (baskerville or garamond). at least to start.

makemo's avatar

re: o0

Dumb question from a business novice:

How would one deal with the ownership of a typeface, when charging the client for a license? After adding an extra charge for the license, will it not belong to the client?

I guess there are many facets of this, one being that—especially if the relationship with the client is good—it shouldn’t be too much to ask for the designer to retain the license ownership. But on the other hand, isn’t there a big chance that the client might want to be able to use a certain typeface later on, in auxiillary items, etc.?

Have you ever run into any complications in this regard?

fireside's avatar

No, you are providing the client with a license to use the fonts you have “already” purchased. Most clients are not going to want or have a need for a font library.

You have to amortize out the costs over more than one client usually.

makemo's avatar

Ah, righty. I feel dumb. Much to learn. Thanks.

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