The Elefont in the room

Today I walked into a conversation amongst peers and colleagues who were discussing their feelings about foundries offering newly released typefaces at lower and lower prices. Given my position, I had to remain somewhat neutral, so I bit my tongue, and have chosen to speak in my house, rather than cause a disturbance in someone else’s. To be blunt, there’s a short answer: We’re fucked.

My position on the pro’s and cons of type foundry’s radically discounted pricing models is as follows:

I think we are avoiding the elephant in the room. I see these radical price drops as a sign of unfortunate economic times. As a result, I believe the type-design industry is going through a process of evolution — which presently feels like one of extinction — as producers and consumers alike begin trimming the fat off an unnecessarily capitalist system that is in the process of consuming itself to death.

We also need to acknowledge that typefaces are becoming easier to make due to the fact that the technology is being placed in the hands of more and more people. And we have the internet now, and can steal whatever we want. The market is saturated, so people have to lower their prices. Supply and demand. Additionally, consumers may be realizing they don’t actually <em>need</em> any more fonts, let alone ones that costs thousands of dollars. To a small business owner, in a struggling economy, a font might be considered an unnecessary luxury item. I did not always feel this way.

I am by no means an insider in the type design industry, but I would be dishonest if I said that I have not been watching this happen in slow-motion over the the last few years with great concern. There are days when I feel as though I am witnessing the beginning of the end, and it is with baited breath I wonder what will happen next.

The reality is many of us now have more important things to spend our money on. Like food. Imagine an economic collapse. What skills does a type designer have to contribute towards the survival of the species? Ask yourself, knowing what you know now, would you recommend your child get into the business of designing fonts in an effort to eventually support their own families?

Now that’s a bitter pill for those who have invested their entire lives into something they love.

Myself included.

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