Typography Design and Libre Fonts

I just recently finished a five day intensive Typography course called Crafting Type. My head is still spinning a little from being so immersed into the realm of type design and fonts. I was surprised at after learning a few techniques for sketching and drawing how quick it was to get some decent ideas down on paper. I highly recommend the course if you ever get the chance to take it.

The course was led by Dave Crossland with Eben Sorkin and Octavio Pardo. Dave is a firm believer in “Libre Software” (free software) and is now creating Libre fonts. He is currently working as ‘Font Consultant’ to the Google Web Fonts project and has contributed many fonts to it. He also is a large contributor to FontForge and set each of us up with his own customized version to design our fonts.

The interesting part (that I didn’t realize) about Libre fonts is you are free to edit them and improve or make variations of them, providing you contribute them back into the Libre community. This is completely opposite of the current commercial type model (philosophically and financially). It was an eyeopener for me into the possibilities of this movement.

As web designer having fonts that I can use freely in my designs (on the web) is huge. Thinking back even a couple years, it was almost an impossibility due to Licensing. Some might argue that with the free fonts there is less “quality control” and a model more like Typekit is a better solution (both for users and font designers). Either way with a player as big as google building its free font library its exciting for me to see the flood gates on type and type creation opening up, even just a little bit.

Posted by: Seth Hardie
Instagram: @hallwood

Photography by: Rob and Lauren

9 Comments Leave A Comment


Rudolph says:

September 5, 2012 at 6:17 am

Open type is a cool idea. I do, however, think it is a disservice to designers to give away their type work for free. Those fonts take time and effort to develop.


Peter says:

September 5, 2012 at 7:24 am

I was thinking about going to this course but to be honest, the price tag seemed pretty steep. Maybe next time though I will make the investment.


Dave Crossland says:

September 5, 2012 at 9:12 am

@seth Thanks for the positive review dude! I’m happy that you found the libre aspect interesting; I tried to communicate the business model open to any designer behind libre fonts, and I wish you the best in your efforts to get paid to design type while also respecting your users’ freedom :)

@peter The price was as cheap as we could go to make it happen. Flying people in from around the world is extensive. Similar courses are several times the price.


Todd says:

September 5, 2012 at 9:31 am

Rudolph, Opentype is a font format and doesn’t have anything to do with the business or distribution model. It’s not to be confused with Libre Fonts.

I was at this workshop, and I believe the pricing was very fair. Especially considering it amounted to about 60 hours of class time!


Todd says:

September 5, 2012 at 9:52 am

One more thing!

This workshop focused on designing typefaces and manufacturing fonts. That was the core subject.

To a much smaller degree, there was discourse on the Libre fonts and software movement. But it was respectful discourse, and not sermonizing by any means.

My conclusion on giving things away for free? I’m agnostic — sometimes it’s the best thing to do and sometimes there’s other things to do. You’ve got to keep an open mind, and that applies to the distribution of fonts, software, music, design services, photography, journalism and so on.


Kyle says:

September 5, 2012 at 2:18 pm

To clarify “free” doesn’t necessarily mean “no price”, but rather “freedom” — end users are free to modify the font to suit their needs. This includes (for example) adding new glyphs to accomodate additional languages.

The licensing of non-free fonts is restrictive, whereas a Libre license is permissive. In my opinion, neither of these models is inherently better or worse, nor are they mutually exclusive. I’m sure many readers of this blog use both Adobe Photoshop and WordPress.

I think designers should be able to charge for their fonts & restrict modifications. But there’s also a place for fonts that allow anyone to improve & extend them.


Collective says:

September 6, 2012 at 12:24 pm

@kyle I totally agree, I dont think the Libre model should or will replace the current paid model but I like how it’s loosening some of the control of big industry.