[OpenFontLibrary] [GFD] Tom Phinney on Libre Fonts

nooalf at aol.com nooalf at aol.com
Wed Oct 16 22:27:30 PDT 2013

I dont know much about the world uv type design, but I get wut youre saying, Vernon. All professionz tend to get fossilized over time. People run out uv ideaz, even az they bekum masterz uv their art. They also tend to create obstaclez to entry. 

With teknolojyz that are in the early stajez uv development its probably even harder for individualz who did the hard work at the beginning to let young wippersnapperz bild on their work. I suspect thats why Fontlab iznt very good - helps keep 'amatuerz' out.  


-----Original Message-----

From: vernon adams <vern at newtypography.co.uk>
To: googlefontdirectory-discuss <googlefontdirectory-discuss at googlegroups.com>
Cc: Open Font Library <openfontlibrary at lists.freedesktop.org>
Sent: Wed, Oct 16, 2013 6:53 pm
Subject: Re: [OpenFontLibrary] [GFD] Tom Phinney on Libre Fonts

I've sat on this a few days, just to clarify my thoughts a little.

Browsing the WebInk catalogue, i don't see any evidence of what Thomas's great 
alternative for web fonts could be, and i'm still not sure what he is 
effectively saying, beyond simply penning a biased criticism of a particular 
webfont project. I don't doubt that the products served from WebINk are 'point 
perfect' (hmm i wonder), but apart from that, many of the products seem to exist 
in a vacuum. The standard faces can mostly be also accessed from other providers 
(and i bet that's where users do go! e.g Typekit is waaaay better), and much of 
what is 'original' or exclusive to WebINk seem to be in a stye no-mans land.  I 
just don't see any outstanding quality there overall, and i dont see much there 
that i imagine designers get excited about. To me it looks like a product that 
desperately needs a shot of fresh blood, or indeed something even stronger, to 
bring something energising and want-able to the brand. Basic better direction 
would be a good start. Assuming that the 'technical quality' is a given with 
WebInk, then Extensis do have at least one good quality to build on. What they 
need to snap into that regime of technical quality is at the very least some 
desireable, infectious font faces. That's where the hard work starts though; 
creative output can allways be refined and improved technically (engineers can 
do clean up work), but it's wrong-way-round to create the other way. Doing it 
the other way round is less efficient - the end result is likely well crafted 
fonts, but nowhere near enough fonts, and maybe no killer fonts.

In many ways the Google font project was an audacious one; rule breaking, taking 
chances, and a lot of doing things that 'experts' said you should not, or, could 
not do. That adds up to strategy where 'room for improvement' is built in, it's 
a system of rolling enhancement, improvement, further innovation, in which the 
user is an integral part. Playing a bit of 'what if…?' though, i wonder how a 
project with the same aims and scope would have faired under the management of 
say WebInk.  I just dont think it would have happened, or, we would still be 
waiting for it to happen. My hunch is that it would not have had the same wide 
variety of designers involved, nor aimed at the same wide stylistic and user 
coverage. It would probably not have focussed on usage stats, adoption waves, 
and plugging directly into the hub of the other nascent free software 
communities and products, but instead relied upon the 'expertise' of a few the 
same old selected individuals. It would have also been slower, or resistant, to 
try non-expert approaches. I dont think it would have been much of a model.

One thing i can agree on; i would also love to see more creative people making 
'better quality' fonts, me included :). My argument with Thomas on this subject 
is that biasing too much toward 'point perfection' and near disregarding the 
actual creative input, is a bad approach; it creates a lesser education, and 
ultimately creates lesser designers. But then i was indoctrinated by the totally 
awesome British Art School sytem of the 70s & 80s :) I think it's better to 
start with the creative impulse, get looking, get making and making, filter out, 
and then head towards refinement and improvement. 


On 14 Oct 2013, at 16:20, Thomas Phinney <tphinney at cal.berkeley.edu> wrote:

> I do criticize Google web fonts, but only saying the exact same things I have 
been saying directly to the two Daves for several years now, in the spirit of 
constructive criticism, because I care about quality. If I was just out to make 
a buck I would not have given that feedback privately and passionately long 
before criticizing publicly.
> BTW, quality is not about elites vs the masses. Everybody benefits from 
well-crafted fonts, including casual users.
> I happen to agree with you that there are a lot of well-crafted fonts that are 
stultifyingly boring. But unlike technical quality, aesthetics are a matter of 
opinion, and I wasn't trying to go there.
> I also happen to think that a lot of creative and aesthetically interesting 
are done by people who don't know how to make decent quality fonts (or perhaps 
know but don't care, in some cases). I would love to see those people learn how 
to make better quality fonts.
> That's why I joined Crafting Type: I am eager to help teach the basics of type 
design to more people, and to make sure that spacing, point placement and 
various optical compensations are well covered in that discussion.
> One thing I could have said more clearly in my blog post is that one can get 
passable but not fabulous quality without a lot more work than the amount 
required to make crap. Proper point placement and half-decent spacing and so 
forth are not *that* hard, nor horribly slow once one has the right work habits. 


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