Adapting someone else's typeface design..Revival or Remix

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Clear Attala's picture
Joined: 8 Jan 2014 - 4:58pm
Adapting someone else's typeface design..Revival or Remix

Hi there, it would be great to hear some of your opinions on tweaking/sampling/adapting or reviving someone else's typeface design?

Thanks so much for your time!

Jason Pagura's picture
Joined: 10 Sep 2006 - 6:19pm

Unless you've made arrangements with the original author or current copyright holder, or the font license allows for this kind of reuse and modification, you have to do some inspirational cleansing to avoid running afoul and making a plagiaristic copy.

Erik Spiekermann said something about this on these forums some time ago. I'll paraphrase what I remember, but I welcome correction. Really, paraphrasing what you remember is at the essence of what he said.

Study the font you intend to revive in great detail. Examine whatever existing copies you can find. Sketch out the glyphs by hand, and become familiar with every curve and corner. Then, lock it all away for a month. Don't look at it. After the time has passed, sketch it out, from memory, on paper, without looking at your references. Build your font from these sketches.

I'm sure I left out a step or some philosophical point or something. Apologies for what I got wrong.

Donald H. Tucker's picture
Joined: 13 Dec 2012 - 3:47pm

There is a continuum from the outright illegal -- copying and editing digital outlines generated by a computer program without the permission of the copyright holder either via the license or by individual arrangement -- to the perfectly legal -- reviving or adapting a printed sample in a foundry specimen book from the 19th century. For everything else laws vary from country to country. There are a few legal cases for guidance but most situations are not properly resolved. Best to be cautious. If in doubt get competent legal advice that applies in your jurisdiction.