In­de­pen­dent font store founder Michael Paul Young ar­gues that ty­pog­ra­phers who sell their wares as bun­dles at hugely dis­counted prices are un­der­cut­ting their tal­ent as well as their rep­u­ta­tion

Computer Arts - - Contents - What’s your take on bun­dled font dis­counts? Tweet us your thoughts @Com­put­erArts us­ing #De­signMat­ters

YouWorkForThem’s Michael Paul Young laments the main­stream trend of selling font bun­dles at mas­sively cut-down prices

Be­cause I love type and de­sign, my goal since start­ing You Work For Them in 2001 has been to help foundries and de­sign­ers by pro­vid­ing the coolest fonts in the coolest shop. A niche. An in­de­pen­dent cor­ner of the space that peo­ple dis­cover and tell their friends about. A place where I would want to shop.

In re­cent times, the font mar­ket­place has trended to­ward deep dis­counts, where SALE, SALE, SALE is the mes­sage. The pre­sid­ing ‘Fon­topoly’ dic­tated it, and the foundries fell into lock­step. One by one they have cho­sen to bring the ‘HUGE DIS­COUNT!’ method­ol­ogy to each of their new re­leases.

I’ve watched the steady progress of this trend as one watches a spread­ing rash. Even as I write, the ‘bun­dles’ are com­ing, and they’re go­ing to bring ev­ery­one down. It’s a race to the bot­tom that I haven’t even been able to bring my­self to ad­dress be­yond a tongue-in-cheek tweet (

So I was taken back when we re­ceived some feed­back from a foundry that re­quested we pull their whole cat­a­logue from our shop, be­cause they were not able to “re­sist this trend some­how”. What truly floored me was that even though they ac­knowl­edged that the Fon­topoly was to blame for this trend, they were still go­ing to sell their fonts there.

So I sub­mit to the font com­mu­nity, and the de­sign com­mu­nity as a whole: look closely at this rash of deep dis­counts and bun­dles as they con­tinue to spread across our space, man­dated by the Fon­topoly with such pre­sumed au­thor­ity that even de­sign­ers who de­plore such meth­ods are forced to ca­pit­u­late.

Fonts are worth more than that, lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively. We see ex­am­ples of cus­tom li­censes con­stantly, with clients re­quest­ing spe­cial use and will­ing to pay big money. Cus­tom font de­sign is a valu­able, rare niche. Don’t de­value this pre­cious com­mod­ity by giv­ing it away, or giv­ing in to the pres­sure of the ‘bundlers’.

Another de­valu­ing trend is the ‘rent­ing’ of font li­censes, which we’re now see­ing turn to an app­based model. But that doesn’t com­pare with the bundlers who are con­tact­ing some­where be­tween 100 and 500 foundries/de­sign­ers regularly, ask­ing ev­ery­one to con­trib­ute. Then they sell those 100-500 stock items for $1.00 or some sim­i­lar in­san­ity, with the per­ceived ‘value’ be­ing big ex­po­sure.

This is the far­thest thing from the truth, since it de­val­ues the work and you get no ex­po­sure. But it also means so much stuff gets dumped on the cus­tomer’s plate that they don’t even know what they’ve got. It’s like buy­ing a cou­ple of hun­dred cheap knock-off toys ver­sus one good set of Lego.

Look, selling a font for a small dis­count to at­tract at­ten­tion is smart. Sure, do it. Put some stuff on sale. But 80 per cent off? 90 per cent? I say your work is worth reg­u­lar price. Stop giv­ing it away.

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