Type Designer says naked fonts are the path to quality web type

Always thoughtful David B?ezina just posted a very important comment on the I Love Typography blog post attempting to summarise the web fonts issue:

First of all, John thank you for the summary! It was much needed. I find it actually very useful that it did spark some disagreement. It helped me to revise some questions/answers and understand situation I have not been following.

  1. I think we (type designers) maintain an old illusion about how our market works. People do not buy fonts because they could not get them for free anywhere else. They buy them out of sympathy, understanding the value of our work and/or legal reasons. They could get them for free, easier, and faster (!). It is not that we would be shooting in our faces. It is more like we have been shot already. We already accepted the piracy as a burden of our business.

    If I am right in this view, we do not need any kind of DRM. The expected “new” web piracy won’t change a thing. I would very much like to see some study or educated estimate re this view. Or at least an authoritative opinion. It is crucial information for designers in order to evaluate the formats properly. Otherwise, they are just left aiming for the most security.

  2. What we, however, want is a tool to limit webfont licences exclusively for web. We want to make a profit out of this #webrisk and keep distinction between web and print fonts. Why? If I am not sure whether opening my fonts for web use is going to make me money I would rather keep the new market separated from the old working one. That is the motivation behind the web-specific format. Acceptance of non-security, but limited to web.

Personally, I think that opening to web market is surely going to make a profit. An objectively, we are not going to have strictly (that is: not-convertible) webspecific format ever. Not with current technologies where the fonts are described with curves. The only option I see is bitmap fonts &c.

.webfonts is just bundled metadata with print font (we can have them in OT table as Berlow suggest, why another format simple-to-hack when most are not going to care?), EOT Lite is a very thin wrapper as far as I understood, but at least not so trivial. It will become easy convertible (assumption), but at least something. Typekit and similar tools offer only limited security by obfuscation. So far too easy to circumvent. These techniques are not imo worth complicating life of paying customers. Even though the interface is sexy, it is still another interface.

Therefore: prepare the fonts for web (have them subsetted, add web exclusive license, permission tables, …) and go naked! Or if you are shy, have EOT Lite.

[Please note that this is still an opinion under development, was and will be revised, and it is not an opinion of TypeTogether.]

Sidenote about obfuscation methods. Some of them impair the fonts’ kerning and OT features. Not a good idea. My concern is purely of egoistic designer. With my limited abilities I tried to produce as good font as possible and I don’t want crippled copies of my font ripped off from various webservices floating around. I want constant quality of my work world-wide, nothing smaller, if possible.

The very first person who paid a compliment to my typeface on web was the one who posted it on a Russian download server (being it ripped from my MATD PDF specimen). Just thought it illustrates the situation pretty well. :-)

[one more note, what I am posting here is a result of a weekend emailing with friends and colleagues who helped me (in)form my views]

I think this is one of the most sensible and perceptive things I’ve heard from a type designer on this issue, and thought it worth bringing to much wider attention (such as on the www-font list.)

“People do not buy fonts because they could not get them for free anywhere else. They buy them out of sympathy, understanding the value of our work and/or legal reasons.” is a real truth that most people seem to try to wish away. I think it is a core principle for every kind of business going only that the public now buys things because we WANT TO send the authors money, not because we HAVE TO.

I also note on Zeldman’s blog that Richard Fink speaks the truth of EOT Lite:

an EOT Lite file is nothing more than a TTF file with a different file extension.

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