[Openfontlibrary] Free Type Design Community Roadmap
dave at lab6.com
Mon Apr 17 09:22:37 PDT 2006
On 15/04/06, Raph Levien <raph.levien at gmail.com> wrote:
> In this specific case of websites for free font design, there
> are many problems to be overcome:
> 1. Lack of type skill in the community, especially the intersection
> with the free software community. Almost all of the good free fonts I
> see are either license transfers from established businesses (the URW
> set, Vera), or from people like Victor who has serious traditional
The data/information levels of that 'serious traditional training'
will end up on the web one way or another, and the knowledge level is
already available with community review sites like typophile. This
will in improve things a lot.
> I fear that if you just throw up a site that says "post
> creative commons (or whatever) licensed fonts here), you'll end up
> primarily with stuff like http://www.copacetix.com/fonts.php
There are two issues here.
The first is managing a cornocopia of smalltime display fonts. Tagging
and trust^H reputation metrics means that its possible to automate
'best of' data mining, and the effect can be social'd too with myspace
style uid homepages with 'my favourite free fonts' polls and such.
OpenClipArt and OpenPhoto.net have been dealing with a similar issue
for a while, and moving to a common platform like ccHost was suggested
by Jon to leverage their technology for this.
The second is that bigtime text fonts are hard and complex work.
However, this is solvable. TypeForge emphasises collaborative font
development, and CVS/SVN has been discussed earlier on this list for
OpenFontLibrary just for tracking all the changes. However, IMO hosted
CVSish infrastructure means the development of more serious typefaces
is more probable. Distributed, version controlled font development is
the future of type design in general, too.
This will also discourage the Vera problem of 50 different versions
scattered to the web, all with slightly differently extended glyph
sets. Instead we'll have everything in one source tree and get bonus
network effects - lower overheads encourage people to contribute just
one or two changes. This also relates to (1) - I quote Sascha
Brossmann's post from December 6th 2005:
-- 8< --
I would especially like to encourage to
start with tutorials on slightly easier topics than designing and
implementing a whole font from scratch, e.g.
(1) how to add glyphs to an existing font, so that they properly fit
in (this includes non-trivial type design basics - trivia should
be just linked, mainly in respect to micro typography, kerning
etc., and technical issues like optimal curve construction,
encoding, import/export, etc.).
(2) how to optimise fonts for low-resolution rendering (e.g. screen
and standard desktop printers): hinting (truetype and ps),
letterspacing/kerning, etc. (-> how to improve technical quality)
(3) all things unicode, open type features and the like
(4) how to design a new [bold|italic|smallcaps|...] face to be added
to an already existing font family.
-- 8< --
In the long term I suspect Letterror's UFO is the perfect format for
this, and read/write support in FontForge is implicit. (I don't mean
to even imply any pressure on George whatsoever, I'm talking /long
term/ here :-)
> 2. Overlap with existing efforts. After posting the typophile thread,
> I became aware of TypeForge and the others posted by Dave above. Does it
> still make sense to build something new? Is there "low hanging fruit"
> that might be added to one of the existing projects to make it truly
I didn't say anything about building something new.
I think its quite important for everyone to keep chipping away at
their own projects, going with the grain of the decentralised
net.culture, a bit of healthy evolutionary diversity if you will, or
'small pieces loosely joined' as they say.
Whats lacking is the 'loosely joined' part, which is where everyone
getting a shared vision of the future comes in.
> 3. Lack of resources. I have lots of ideas and programming ability but
> relatively little time to sit down and do the webmonkey work to make
> something like this happen. Other people I've talked to are
> enthusiastic but lack the requisite 2d graphics/font programming
> expertise, and may not have all that many hours to devote either. The
> "free font design" community is small to the point where starting an
> ambitious project may be marginal.
Lets just start and let things manifest themselves :-)
> I don't mean to throw cold water on the idea. I wouldn't have posted
> my thread on typophile, etc., if I didn't think there was some real
> potential here. But I think the above questions need to be answered
> first, before we all start writing ambitious-sounding roadmaps and the
You're exactely right about real potential: SIL has got good links
with the FSF, OSI, debian-legal, and Ubuntu with the OFL. OpenClipArt
has great links with Creative Commons and Inkscape. FontForge is on
board. As coalitions of the willing go, this is serious stuff :-)
I'll post a start on a roadmap shortly.
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