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Of Fonts and Students

In their latest Communiqué, AIGA announced the introduction of the Adobe Font Folio Education Essentials (AFFEE), a package of 25 type families for use by teachers and students and made available at an affordable rate of $149.00 — the retail price for Adobe Calson Pro, one of the families included, is $169.00. There are two great things about this effort, as stated in the release: “This product was developed by Adobe specifically to help design students afford and acquire a license to a range of fonts in a single package to minimize their costs, while providing a full family of fonts to assist educators in teaching typography.” If you can provide quality typefaces at an affordable rate you are battling two rampant problems in design education: Font piracy and poor typography.

Adobe Caslon Pro
Adobe Jenson Pro Opticals
Arno Pro Opticals
Avenir LT Std
Bell Gothic Std
Bernhard Std
Bickham Script Pro
Chaparral Pro Opticals
Cochin LT Std
DIN Std
Futura Std
Garamond Premier Pro Opticals
Gill Sans Std
Goudy Std
Grotesque MT Std
Helvetica LT Std
ITC New Baskerville
ITC Officina Sans Std
Kepler Opticals Collection
Myriad Pro
Rosewood Std
Trade Gothic LH Std
Trajan Pro
Univers LT Std
Utopia Std Opticals

Type families included in Adobe Font Folio Education Essentials

Over the last two years I’ve seen our fourth-year students at the School of Visual Arts struggle with typography. I don’t expect master-level usage at this level, but I do see a limitation in what they can do with typography. Part of it — aside from more rigorous training in earlier semesters — is indeed the lack of access to varied, well-crafted typefaces that can take a design in different directions. Too many times they just choose Futura, Helvetica or Rockwell because that’s all they know, without taking into account what it means to make those choices or how those choices affect their design.

The library above is not perfect, and some of the type families are already available when you purchase Adobe’s CS applications, which most students do — although my font drop-down menu now has so many things loaded that I can’t remember what is store-bought and what is software-bundled — but simple additions like DIN and Trade Gothic give important alternatives to students who use Futura because they want something to look “modern.” I jokingly question the inclusion of Rosewood as a typeface to help learn anything other than “please don’t use it.”

I can’t remember quite well what typefaces I used as a student — I do remember an embarrassing use of the perpetually italic ITC Eras — nor being prompted by my teachers to look beyond Times New Roman or Helvetica. It was only until I arrived at marchFIRST, where a full library of typefaces was readily available, that I could really take many of them to task and see what they could do. Before that, it was only by looking at design magazines and books and seeing what others could do with these hard-to-reach typefaces. The TDC annuals were especially helpful as they listed the typeface used.

I may generalize a little here, but it seems to me, from what I’ve seen at SVA and interviewing designers straight out of college, is that there is a lack of teaching typography — and by that I mean, not just the proper use of typography through well-worn formal exercises, but where typefaces come from, how they are designed, what they stand for and how they function. Even if students don’t have immediate access to typefaces like Bodoni, Akzidenz Grotesk, DIN, Meta, Mrs. Eaves or craziness like Template Gothic, I think it’s imperative to understand their background and what it means to use them and not treat them as aleatory design elements that look good.

The AFFEE is probably not the solution, but it’s a step in the right direction in raising awareness in the possibilities that typography offers — an important realization many students would benefit from.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 4553 FILED UNDER Design Academics
PUBLISHED ON Mar.14.2008 BY Armin
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Chad K’s comment is:

Well said. Now its on the teachers to push the issue.

I had great access to typefaces in school and my teachers definitely made us conscious of the effect certain one could have on a piece.

On Mar.14.2008 at 08:37 AM
Doug Bartow’s comment is:

I applaud this effort as well. However, I think they missed an opportunity to take this an important step further (without too much effort or expense). The bigger problem facing our industry as a whole is not the lack of students' access to fonts*, it's the lack of historical context behind their design and usage. This knowledge is critical, and it seems to me, somewhat of a dying subject with many of the recently graduated BFA designers I talk to.

I was reviewing a local student's work last year from a Typography 1 class. The assignment was to choose a type designer, write a bio, and list all the faces they designed. This student chose Hermann Zapf. He gave a wiki-fied bio, and listed obligatory faces such as Optima, Palatino, Zapf Dingbats, Zapfino, etc... Number 9 on the list was "Zapf Humanist." Anyone who has powered through Bringhurst knows the Humanist movement was born from the Italian Renaissance and features an oblique axis and modulated stroke width based upon a letterform (right) hand-drawn with a broad-nib quill (read Jenson and Stempel Schneidler.) When the term "Humanist" is used at the end of actual typeface, however, it usually denotes a cheap knock-off by a third-party digital foundry. This was the case here, as Optima was simply redrawn and renamed. This came as a surprise to all the students in attendance.

Short story long, I think marrying the AFFEE font offering with a bit of history of the fonts and their designers would go a long way in steering young designers away from the scenario described above. Knowledge is power, and typographic knowledge makes for better typography. Why not include a 25-page pdf with the package, with the history of the face and its designer. You could even get draconian with it, and force the history down their throats via install screens as the fonts are unstuffed and installed (Adobe does this awfully well with their software titles.) If more designers knew the genesis of Carol Twombly's Trajan was actually based on letterforms carved in a Roman column in 113 A.D., they might think twice before using it on every horror movie poster from the last 5 years.

- - - - - - - - - -

*admittedly, the issue of properly licensed (ie: paid for) typefaces is more important to Adobe's VP of Sales that it is to me (or most design students.)

On Mar.14.2008 at 10:40 AM
kevin’s comment is:

This is a great initiative from adobe. Sending the link to my students....... NOW!

Not directly related, and I know some desigenrs may cringe at the idea, but there are a slew of quality free fonts out there, both display and text. This link has certainly helped spice up my students work at least a bit.

On Mar.14.2008 at 10:46 AM
ray’s comment is:

Thanks for listing the fonts included in the set. Maybe I'm going insane, but I swear I couldn't find the list of fonts on Adobe's site.

On Mar.14.2008 at 11:05 AM
Scott McLean’s comment is:

As a student in Graphic Design (4th year now) and a laptop program, I wished they would have given me this set instead of the full adobe font folio (and making us pay a fair but still pricey student price for it). It's a bit much to be given 2000 typefaces to scan through in 2nd year especially since the history and connotations are not yet ingrained.

On Mar.14.2008 at 02:48 PM
Whaleroot’s comment is:

This is great. Too bad I'm not a student anymore!

Now if we could get the same typography package put together by typographers. Imagine foundries like H&FJ, Typotheque, or Process Type Foundry submitting some of their most awesome (cough, cough, recent) fonts for students to learn from.

If I was a student and had Archer to work with I'd crap my pants.

On Mar.14.2008 at 03:01 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

It's also a good time to start the student education that font piracy hurts the typographers who deserve their small incremental royalties for their work. Maybe it's the Napster generation who think everything is swipable, but I just had an art director call me yesterday and ask for a duplicate of the fonts I used for a poster to make changes. I offered to reset it quickly and send the reworked piece, but I refused to send copies.They went with redoing it without my choices. And I know none of their font folders are originals. It's too bad.

On Mar.14.2008 at 03:42 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

ps. I didn't mean that in an accusatory way to any younf designers. Sorry. That came out badly... It's a cultural change and the web makes duplication easy. Still, I value fonts enough to want to buy them from the originator.

On Mar.14.2008 at 05:22 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

ps. I didn't mean that in an accusatory way to any young designers. Sorry. That came out badly... It's a cultural change and the web makes duplication easy. Still, I value fonts enough to want to buy them from the originator.

On Mar.14.2008 at 05:22 PM
ps’s comment is:

reviewing student portfolios i don't think the lack of typefaces is the issue... but the level of attention to type beyond the headline. its always refreshing to see when a student sets a couple pages of body copy well and actually cares enough to present it right.

On Mar.14.2008 at 07:04 PM
marko savic’s comment is:

It's also a good time to start the student education that font piracy hurts the typographers who deserve their small incremental royalties for their work.

It's impossible as a student to be able to afford great families, like the new Meta Serif, which are prohibitively expensive for students. Though, even in our underground networks we still don't have a copy (it's still too new! font piracy is not as quick to the take as pop culture). I'm not encouraging piracy for commercial wok, but as students, what do you want from us? We (should) know its wrong, but our options are limited.

My class' graduating design show is in 4 weeks, and every project I do afterwards will use exclusively purchased typefaces. But the majority of my student work does not, and it would suffer greatly in quality if I only used what I could afford or came with my software. I've purchased many a face over the years, and generally only acquiring only one weight at a time. But Meta? Gotham? Those are not student friendly prices, but the numerous weights, stances and widths (not to mention ligatures, figures, true small caps, international support etc...) are as essential to learning good typography as Bringhurst.

This AFFEE package seems like a great idea, though I still think the majority of students will steal their typefaces from the lab computers anyway. But including so many Pro fonts is a great step towards establishing good typographic standards.

So, Pesky, shouldn't the question asked be how do you ensure students follow professional practices after graduation, rather than continuing to use pirated versions? What about offering graduated licensing, where student prices are offered and can be upgraded upon graduation? Or in the case of my degree, a (no longer as of 2009) mandatory typeface design course? Or is it the institutions obligation to provide an adequate library of type for their students, either on lab computers (as my program does) or otherwise?

I realize you didn't mean to disparage us (the students) for doing what we need to – but I think there is a point to be made, especially with the case of your art director, in teaching students the responsibility of licensing fonts when we do enter into professional practice.

On Mar.14.2008 at 09:16 PM
iBran’s comment is:

As a student that, uh, may have pirated the entire Adobe Font Folio (v.9) at some point, I'll admit this is a great deal. I would have purchased this bundle as it's great set of core fonts. Of the thousands of fonts in the Font Folio, those are probably the most versatile and useful.

Now, if only House, H&FJ, P22, or Mark Simonson would do something similar, I'd be in love. Anybody? Veer? Please?

On Mar.15.2008 at 11:33 AM
Sam Berlow’s comment is:

As a type house (Font Bureau), would love to support higher education and we do. The reality is, as any student will tell you, all of our fonts are available free somewhere on the internet. It is the reality of the software market.

I hire interns 2 per year for the past 15 years. Any computer savvy student can hack around awhile and find what they need for a design project. Most students know that they can get away with this practice in school, but if they use fonts in a corporate project they are exposing the client to huge IP infringement suits.

The question here is how to legally provide schools with tools for design and not lose control of our IP. Adobe can afford to give away fonts. They make in a quarter of licensing Postscript, what the entire independent type community is valued at on the open market. The independent type houses sell type and type services, so giving type to students is not the best of business practices. But it is good business to expose students to type families they may fall in love with when the become type buyers after graduation.

It does make sense to provide services for schools that benefit both the students and the teachers. We have several higher education partners who have set up secure servers and licensed (for a very reasonable price) large portions of our Newspaper fonts for use in Visual Journalism classes. The parameters are strict but any school with a IP department can protect files in small labs. If they can, type houses will be willing to work out deals with schools. It is not easy, but it is worth it for both school and vendor.

On Mar.15.2008 at 11:18 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

Like anything else, Marko, you have to start drawing the line somewhere. The excuse that students NEED TO USE the latest typefaces but can't afford them is like saying they need to steal cars because purchasing a new car is prohibitive on a student budget. No wonder ethical behavior is disappearing: Impulse trumps honesty. There's no student work that HAS TO use stolen fonts. Missed opportunities? Too fucking bad. They're students. Not everything needs to be handed to them free.

No, them let them start with the accessible fonts first - there's enough of them to explore - and eventually purchase the latest one at a time like everybody else. There are dozens of great fonts I don't own and I work without them. You can call thievery "resourcefulness" but it doesn't make it right.

The next point is how would they like it if someone swiped royalties out of their pockets all in the name if gottahaveit? There are plenty of typographers who sweat and worked to create the fonts and they deserve to be compensated for their labor. If it's not labeled as free, it isn't. Someone loses income. Is that OK?

On Mar.16.2008 at 08:23 AM
Karsten’s comment is:

Re Doug Bartow's comment: Indeed it is important that students not only get a great collection of typefaces but some historical background too. Still I think that it is teachers rather than type foundries who are paid for the latter part.
(Personally I would hesitate to recommend students to read historical background provided by the originator of any product. Might be one-sided at best, mere advertising at worst. Such documents require a context themselves – then however they can be more than valuable.)

On Mar.16.2008 at 02:14 PM
james puckett’s comment is:

The question here is how to legally provide schools with tools for design and not lose control of our IP.

Sam, you noted in your first two paragraphs that your IP is already out of your control. The question should be how to monetize the way students use fonts, which is very different from the way working designers do.

Students perceive a need to use contemporary high-end fonts, but cannot use the same ones over and over. This is a result of design teachers demanding student work comparable to comps a studio might produce while simultaneously demanding students explore new options and not limit themselves creatively. No matter how great a typographer a student is, not many design teachers want to look at Helvetica, Futura, and the work of Robert Slimbach over and over. For students who can’t even afford their textbooks (I know a lot of them) buying fonts to please such instructors just is not an option.

Offering dirt-cheap one-time licenses for student projects would be a great way for the type industry to monetize the tendency of students to experiment with fonts they cannot afford to license now. Five or ten dollars for a family, for one project.

Would such a system be abused? Sure. But at least some revenue might be generated, as opposed to the current model of looking the other way while grumbling about it.

On Mar.16.2008 at 02:30 PM
Pesky’s comment is:

Probably something IS workable between students and font houses that would work, what would you propose? I'm not saying things to be merely accusatory, it's just that the current situation can use a new idea.

On Mar.16.2008 at 03:39 PM
agrayspace’s comment is:

The issue isn't should foundries be giving the shit away for free.

What this initiative is doing, is resetting the ideology that paying for fonts is the right thing to do. By offering these at a reduced price you increase the likelyhood a student will purchase rather than steal, and thus be setting a precedent for believing in the value of purchased typefaces.

All foundries should be doing this.

On Mar.17.2008 at 12:04 PM
millie’s comment is:

"What this initiative is doing, is resetting the ideology that paying for fonts is the right thing to do. "

I agree.

As a student there were plenty of opportunities to pirate software as well. Tempting--particularly a student who was paying for her own education without parents kicking $$ in--but once you research the pros of buying legit student versions of software, it's a no-brainer decision to do so.

On Mar.17.2008 at 03:36 PM
Nancy D.’s comment is:

Well, this seems to have gone toward piracy fairly quickly, and I am new to this site. So, I have to chime in because I have a problem, related to the earlier topic of students not knowing good typographic skills.

I am one of these students. I can tell you that typography is not only my weak spot, but my downfall. I actually went to school for something else entirely, and discovered later that graphic design is what I have always wanted to do. As some of you know, if you have a bachelor's, you can't get financial aid for another bachelor's. So, I went to a community college which was actually very impressive, but you can only get so far and so much knowledge, because they assume you are moving on to a 4 year program. I drove up to Art Center (2.5 hours away) and went to some of their Art Center at Night classes, which are extended studies classes, and came home at 12:30 am and got back to work at 7 am the next day. I feel like I'm killing myself to get knowledge that I know I need, but I don't know what that knowledge is. I don't know what to do. I can feel that I can do good work, but I miss too much with respect to the typography. Sometimes it looks good, but I don't feel that it's appropriate. I am currently reading Fonts and Logos, by Doyald Young, whom I met at a conference that I volunteered for. I also recently bought the Logo, Font and Lettering Bible, which I'm still reading. I didn't even know what hand tooled was. How can I learn more? Anything... books, online, classes... I can do whatever it takes, but I can't move.

On Mar.17.2008 at 06:45 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

"The excuse that students NEED TO USE the latest typefaces but can't afford them is like saying they need to steal cars because purchasing a new car is prohibitive on a student budget."

When talking about Digital IP laws, it's always risky to toss out physical theft analogies, as they really don't mesh and only polarize the conversation by bringing up extremes.

A student using a non-licensed copy of a font for personal student work isn't the same as grand theft auto. Nor is it the same as fair use. It's somewhere in the middle there.

James is on the right track. It's the track Apple has taken with Music. It's accepting the inevitable and instead of perpetually fighting a losing battle, approach it from a different angle.

On Mar.18.2008 at 09:58 AM
Tom M’s comment is:

So are current-day design students expected to build their own font libraries? I'm curious because I graduated over a decade ago, when no one had laptops and you worked in common "computer labs" with (presumably) licensed font libraries already loaded. (oohh, bad Optima flashbacks...)

On a related note, Letterform Design was a requirement, where we were inundated with historical context and hand rendered alphabets and letterforms. No computers, just bristol boards and black ink, all semester.

Ironically enough, I don't recall much being taught about EULAs and IP :) Fortunately, I learned it immediately on-the-job.

On Mar.18.2008 at 10:01 PM
Brian Hayes’s comment is:

I'll also add that the high cost of licensing has inspired me to start sketching my own fonts. Well, hand-rendered type IS trendy right now, but I do intend to evolve the sketches into actual fonts. That'll keep me armed with something nobody else has.

I'd still like to see some options priced for students from the independent type foundries, but I understand that it would probably be a nightmare for the creators. Fonts are so easy to copy and distribute, and I'd bet that most students would never "upgrade" to a standard license once they graduate.

We're a dishonest bunch.

On Mar.19.2008 at 01:22 AM
LB’s comment is:

My very first class in the design program at my university was typography. I think it was a very good idea at the time, but we were never offered an advanced typography class. I think I didn't learn very much because at the time I was so new to the design world all together I was flooded with everything else about it. I remember going into it thinking we studied fonts or something like that, honesty having no idea what to tell my parents who were paying the bill. I am currently a senior graphic design student and still struggle with type. Although I have been taught "good" typefaces from "bad" typefaces, I still feel as though I am missing something, especially in the way of historical context. Now that I am less than a semester away from graduating my peers and my own desires for an advanced typography class will now be a requirement beginning with next years freshman.

I did buy the student version of software and intend to update to the full price version once I graduate, but fonts are harder to justify to many students unsure if design is really what they want to do.

On Mar.19.2008 at 09:45 AM
marko savic’s comment is:

I am not arguing that stealing typefaces is right, I am arguing that it is inevitable for students and that if it's going to happen, the market or education standards should adjust to compensate.

Like anything else, Marko, you have to start drawing the line somewhere. The excuse that students NEED TO USE the latest typefaces but can't afford them is like saying they need to steal cars because purchasing a new car is prohibitive on a student budget.
...
If it's not labeled as free, it isn't. Someone loses income. Is that OK?

That's the same ridiculous argument used by the music industry when citing lost revenue from file sharing. You can't lose revenue you wouldn't have in the first place.

It is a not a case "gottahaveit," but, what is going to make this project the best it can possibly be? Just this weekend, I had to chose between buying Max 3 Bold or going to a fundraiser for my grad show. I bought Max 3 Bold, one weight, $42, and I used only 4 characters (Ford). My identity is much better because of it, and I could have LiveTraced a preview image off stolen off the internet (which is what many of my fellow students do, by the way), but I didn't. Did I do this because I thought Morten Olsen won't be able to eat if I stumbled into an illegitimate license? No, I bought it for convenience.

There are 400 students across four years in my program. Piracy is rampant, and I bet the majority of them will continue on that path after graduation. How do find fairness when the quality of a student project is based on who can afford the best font for the job? I bet Morten would rather I supported my grad show, anyway.

Like I said, we have to change the options for students, whether its in licensing or education.

On Mar.21.2008 at 11:40 AM
David E.’s comment is:

On a related note, Letterform Design was a requirement, where we were inundated with historical context and hand rendered alphabets and letterforms. No computers, just bristol boards and black ink, all semester.

And that's how it should be. Are there really design programs that don't give students a firm grounding in the basics of type history? I think that's horrible. Without that, you're only designing on a superficial level.

Beyond that, I think students should (at least in the beginning) be required to stick to a basic, core group of typefaces so that they'll become intimately familiar with what these faces can do. They have their whole lives to experiment with other faces if they choose... and when they do, they'll have a point of reference. I dont believe that encouraging students to go shooting in the dark with regrards to typeface selection is going to teach them much.

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