Source Sans Pro: Adobe’s first open source type family

jabez's picture

Source Sans Pro: Adobe’s first open source type family

In adding to this legacy, I am proud to announce that today marks another milestone as Adobe makes yet another type resource freely available by releasing the Source Sans Pro family as our first-ever open source type family.

The brief & development
The primary need for type in Adobe’s open source applications has thus far been for usage within user interfaces. A second environment of perennial interest to Adobe is the realm of text typography. Thus the immediate constraints on the design were to create a set of fonts that would be both legible in short UI labels, as well as being comfortable to read in longer passages of text on screen and in print. In thinking of typeface models that accomplish these tasks well, I was drawn to the forms of the American Type Founders’ gothics designed by Morris Fuller Benton. In particular, I have always been impressed by the forms of his News Gothic and Franklin Gothic, which have been staples for typographers since their introduction in the early twentieth century. While keeping these models in mind, I never sought to copy specific features from these types. Instead, I sought to achieve a similar visual simplicity by paring each glyph to it’s most essential form.

http://blogs.adobe.com/typblography/2012/08/source-sans-pro.html

vernon adams's picture

So where's all the typophile kerfuffle on Adobe Source Sans???

zeno333's picture

OK, one different innovative thing about it, is hat it's from Adobe and free......

Frank ADEBIAYE's picture

It's good for the FLOSS type movement in general. It make this philosophy even more legitimate.
In spite of CS cloud and various proprietary formats, there's still good in Adobe.
To be continued...
P.S. : there is a nice ligature in "kerfuffle" ;-)

vernon adams's picture

I was expecting more complaints from type designers about such a significant font family being released into the market for free. I wonder how many small foundries see a release like this as a threat to their sales? Especially if it's the start of more free families to come.

hrant's picture

Good question. From where I stand (as a non-Latin designer) it's a good thing because it's an opportunity to latch on and make & sell extensions. And honestly, as I opined during my talk in Istanbul in June nobody should be making generic sans fonts to sell retail any more anyway.

hhp

vernon adams's picture

as I opined during my talk in Istanbul in June nobody should be making generic sans fonts to sell retail any more anyway

ha-ha! I missed that, but it's a very good point.
The fashion industry does very well on endless cycles of new cuts and reshapes of the old, and imo the type industry runs on a similar model, but on a bit slower cycles. Then again, what if The Gap started releasing free jeans for all!

Té Rowan's picture

Should they come up with a method that lets them replicate a single pair unto infinity at little or no cost, it might happen.

Nick Shinn's picture

…endless cycles of new cuts and reshapes of the old, and imo the type industry runs on a similar model…

That may account for the mainstream (to which Adobe and Gap cater), but some of us have other ideas.

vernon adams's picture

nobody should be making generic sans fonts to sell retail any more anyway

@hrant. I would be interested to hear more about why exactly you think that. I tend to agree, but also think there's infinite opportunity for re-invention. So are you thinking that the 'New Retail Sans' is a 'dead end' now more because of 'design' reasons or more 'market reasons'? or both? I opined in Istanbul that 'free-ness' was now a technical aspect of a font, as important, or more important, as 'legibility' or 'language support'. Adobe's ambitious release of the Source Sans design under a free software license, i think backs that up. It's going to be interesting whether other large foundries identify the same need for 'free-ness' as Adobe have done with SourceSans, and if so, what more free fonts will we be seeing? and what effect this could have?
-v

vernon adams's picture

but some of us have other ideas

@Nick Shinn
Nick, i'm interested what relationship these 'other ideas' may have towards the 'mainstream' and also interested in what relationship they may have towards 'free software' fonts? We are very used to the argument from some that free fonts and/or open source fonts are bad because they cannot be of of highest quality, aka they lower standards. The epitome of that stance could well be Mathew Butterick's (http://typotalks.com/blog/2012/05/19/matthew-butterick/). But when a major foundry puts it's resources behind the design of free fonts, those arguments should be redundant (i would say), and we are just left with not wanting stuff to be free. Is there some inherent threat in 'free-ness', to type designers?
-v

Nick Shinn's picture

I addressed this issue some time ago, with regards to the practice of bundling, but it’s a horse I don’t beat any more.

Chris Anderson’s thinking on the nature of “Free” in the digital realm (Wired, 2008) was very useful in helping me get my head around it.

As far as this new Adobe face goes, I don’t see it as competition to the kind of design work I do.
Paul Hunt has designed some interesting faces in the past, but here he has put that on hold while working for the Man. Actually, no man at all, compared to Richard Kegler, which might have something to do with it.

My philosophy, which ironically used to be Adobe’s, is that the best product development strategy is to out-innovate the competition.

Therefore, while “Free” may be able to outprice the competition, there is more to marketing than price alone. The holy trinity has always been Price, Quality and Delivery; and design is a quality that will continue to command a premium of some kind, over what is free, even in the digital era. Anderson has gone somewhat volte face on this:
http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2010/08/chris_anderson_contradicts_him.html

Té Rowan's picture

As I understand it, Adobe's fonts are already libre-free enough for all but rabid Debianites.

For the record, I put the libre factor way above the gratis factor when it comes to free.

Queneau's picture

If this is an open source font, as the name suggests, where are the source files to be able to modify the fonts, add elements missing at the moment (like smallcaps, or other alphabets). Of course OTF files can be opened and edited in fontlab, but as I understood it, this can sometimes have adverse effects on things like hinting. Have I misunderstood something here?

It is interesting that both Google (Open Sans) and Adobe (Source Sans) have both decided to develop a multi-lingual generic sans, with some very simular features, like seperate styles for /a/, /g/ and /l/.
Surely the type world is small enough to know what the other is doing at moment, so why no collaboration?

By the way, the use of stylistic sets for several characters, like the /a/ seems to be a bit of strange tactic; of course designers want all their bases covered (you want single story /g/? we got it!), but are these are design decisions, IMHO, and these should be made by the type designer. My idea is that a type designer has an idea about where to take the typeface, including individual character shapes.

but maybe I am being romantic...?

Té Rowan's picture

You can get their working sources via that blog post.

Theunis de Jong's picture

If this is an open source font, as the name suggests, where are the source files to be able to modify the fonts [?]

The article mentions it's on SourceForge.

(But I don't know what's on there, I took the Lazy road and downloaded the ready-to-go package. First impression: nice! ... And if that monospace comes around, I have a new favourite code editor/Terminal font.)

Nick Shinn's picture

Including alternate character shapes is more design indecision than decision.
But how many users actually use the alternates? Very few.
The problem is that layout apps bury the OpenType menu that provides access to alternates.
Sorry, this is straying off topic.

Queneau's picture

Exactly, Nick, which I think is a bad thing, as it encourages faceless fonts.

Michel Boyer's picture

Here are the source files.

http://sourceforge.net/projects/sourcesans.adobe/files/

This gives a full example on how to make a font with AFDKO, no?

Queneau's picture

Yes, thank you, I guess I did not look well enough.

Jens Kutilek's picture

For the record, I put the libre factor way above the gratis factor when it comes to free.

So do I, but I think you and me are hardly representative. I think nearly everybody else will download and use the readymade fonts package, thus reducing the libre choice to the cheap choice.

I welcome the availability of the Multiple Master sources, and I have the knowledge to build new instances from them, and even write a FontLab script to read the kindly provided TrueType hints in an undocumented format and apply them, or hint the font myself, which may actually be quicker if it’s just one font ;) But who else, especially average users, will do that or even need to do that? And no, in my opinion not everybody will be a font engineer in the future.

I opined in Istanbul that 'free-ness' was now a technical aspect of a font, as important, or more important, as 'legibility' or 'language support'.

Of course I disagree. If free-ness is your most important aspect, you are unnecessarily limiting your choice.

vernon adams's picture
I opined in Istanbul that 'free-ness' was now a technical aspect of a font, as important, or more important, as 'legibility' or 'language support'.

Of course I disagree. If free-ness is your most important aspect, you are unnecessarily limiting your choice.

Jens, you misunderstood :)
I meant that 'free-ness' is now an important technical aspect of typeface design. Free-ness is one more aspect of a typeface that must now be considered by type designers, alongside those other aspects, like legibility, language support, etc. If i'd said that 5 years ago, it would have sounded like pure nonsense to most type people. Oh i remember, it did! ;) Now though, it seems like the evidence of it should be fairly obvious. It's irrelevant whether individuals think their own (or any) fonts should be free or not, the fact is 'free-ness' is becoming a central technical consideration of type.

hrant's picture

Vernon, allow me to moderate what I wrote... First of all my specific point at that talk was that Turks (and what I meant by extension is any ethnic group, that wants to stand out as such) shouldn't be making generic sans fonts; that they should be exhibiting their own culture (although subtly, not in an in-your-face way) instead of trying to act like generic Europeans. Here's an image I used to illustrate that:


You can't tell who made that, where. What is that good for? Maybe making more money for a faceless multinational. But it's not good for culture.

Besides the latching-on I mentioned, another good thing about Source might be that it further weakens the retail market for the generic sans (even though -having that America grot pedigree- it's actually far less generic that something like the font in the image above) forcing designers to wake up and contribute something people should be paying for. Source seems to be exactly the sort of design that should be free.

Concerning "libre" versus "free" versus "gratis" versus whatever, could we get a nice little explanation of how to accurately understand their differences? I've been confused about that for ages.

(I'll try to get to the rest of this nicely flowering thread later.)

hhp

riccard0's picture

What’s an “International bland”? ;-)

By the way, I think the classic (or at least the GNU) interpretation of open source is that “free” should have the meaning used in “free speech” and not that used in “free beer”.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

What exactly does 'open source' mean here?

vernon adams's picture

@hrant. Ahhh i see. I remember your talk in Istanbul, and what you say now is the same as what i remember :) I have to agree with you, the local and the vernacular can so easilly get swept aside by the 'International Corporate'. This is why grass roots cultural diversity is so often a good thing, it usually breeds better alternatives to the 'a few models fit all' approach. It's tricky though, for example, the face in your example, i don't see as particularly 'faceless', even though i guess it's maybe meant to be.

Re - the terminology of 'libre', 'gratis', 'free' etc. The key to all this is licensing, it is not about how much money is paid/not paid.
'Libre' is a term used more and more because it helpfully underlines the 'freedom' of 'free software', that unfortunately 'FREE' in English fails to do :) because 'free software' sounds only about not paying for it. Other languages usually don't have this confusion, trust the English language to equate 'freedom' with 'not paying'.

So... one major point of Libre / Free software is that it's licensing ensures that it is non-proprietary, it can never be sole property, it can 'belong' to anyone who uses it, and anyone who uses it also has the freedom to alter it, add to it, share it, etc. Of course in order to be fully free to be altered, added to, shared etc the software must also be freely available in it's source form. So with fonts - a compiled truetype font, with machine level hinting code, quadratic curves and OpenType tables etc etc etc does not enable the user the full freedom to alter the original design and function of the font. To give full freedom to the user, the user also needs the original source files that the truetype font was compiled from.

'Open Source' is a technical approach to this scenario, literally meaning that the source code of software should be open. However, there's a philosophical difference here, as there are other reasons for opening up source code. Some people open their source code because they believe that software should be totally free (as in Libre) and that only free software allows people control over software (instead of giving software corporations control over people), but others do it for far more 'technical' and less 'ideological' reasons.

I'm guessing Adobe is in the latter camp, and that their reasons for releasing Source Sans under a free software license is technical rather than ideological.

hrant's picture

Thanks for the elaboration.

their reasons for releasing Source Sans under a free software license is technical rather than ideological.

I think it can certainly be a bit of both. One reason I say this is that every Adobe employee I personally know (not an army of them, but still) is a Good Guy.

hhp

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Does it mean that I could copy it exactly and sell it legally?

(No thats not my plan, personally)

Karl Stange's picture

Does it mean that I could copy it exactly and sell it legally?

Yes, as long as you adhere to the following conditions from the SIL OFL (version 1.1):

1) Neither the Font Software nor any of its individual components,
in Original or Modified Versions, may be sold by itself.
2) Original or Modified Versions of the Font Software may be bundled,
redistributed and/or sold with any software, provided that each copy
contains the above copyright notice and this license. These can be
included either as stand-alone text files, human-readable headers or
in the appropriate machine-readable metadata fields within text or
binary files as long as those fields can be easily viewed by the user.

Michel Boyer's picture

That is still not absolutely clear. Here is what I get when I execute otfinfo -i on Source Sans Regular

Family: Source Sans Pro
Subfamily: Regular
Full name: Source Sans Pro
PostScript name: SourceSansPro-Regular
[...]
Designer: Paul D. Hunt
Manufacturer: Adobe Systems Incorporated
Vendor URL: http://www.adobe.com/type
Trademark: Source is a trademark of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries.
Copyright: © 2010, 2012 Adobe Systems Incorporated. All Rights Reserved.
License URL: http://www.adobe.com/type/legal.html
License Description: Copyright 2010, 2012 Adobe Systems Incorporated (http://www.adobe.com/), with Reserved Font Name 'Source'. Source is a trademark of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries.

This Font Software is licensed under the SIL Open Font License, Version 1.1.
[...]

and then comes the SIL license that clearly needs to be kept. The name 'Source' is reserved and any derived font must be named differently so that the fields Family, Full Name, and Postscript Name have to be changed. What about what lies between those names and the SIL license?

Put differently, what is appropriate to put in the file features.tables ?

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Yes, as long as you adhere to the following conditions from the SIL OFL (version 1.1):

1) Neither the Font Software nor any of its individual components,
in Original or Modified Versions, may be sold by itself.
2) Original or Modified Versions of the Font Software may be bundled,
redistributed and/or sold with any software, provided that each copy
contains the above copyright notice and this license. These can be
included either as stand-alone text files, human-readable headers or
in the appropriate machine-readable metadata fields within text or
binary files as long as those fields can be easily viewed by the user.

LOL, so "no" in other words.

Strikes me as rather fake,

vernon adams's picture

LOL, so "no" in other words.
Strikes me as rather fake,

Selling free fonts: The OFL license states that you can only sell the font if you sell it as free software (under an OFL license). You can't sell a free software font as non-free software. Only the original author can do that.

vernon adams's picture

hrant

their reasons for releasing Source Sans under a free software license is technical rather than ideological.

I think it can certainly be a bit of both. One reason I say this is that every Adobe employee I personally know (not an army of them, but still) is a Good Guy.

Of course. And i certainly don't think 'ideological reason=good guy / technical reason = not good guy', as long as both routes respect 'freedom' then both are valid, interesting and good. Also i would be fairly certain than within a large software corporation like that, there could be a very mixed view on developing & releasing a pro-level font family as free software :)

hrant's picture

BTW, realistically, who's going to sue somebody who violates an OFL license?

hhp

hrant's picture

Wow - I didn't know about that at all. Cool. But it seems their most recent legal action was almost three years ago... Is it that people have been behaving? That would be a first in human history... Or maybe SFLC ran out of money, because everything is supposed to be free. :-/

hhp

Khaled Hosny's picture

AFAIK, taking legal actions is always the last resort, most of time license compliance is achieved in more friendlier ways.

As for freeness, from http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.html:

Many people believe that the spirit of the GNU Project is that you should not charge money for distributing copies of software, or that you should charge as little as possible — just enough to cover the cost. This is a misunderstanding.

Edit: fixed the broken link.

Michel Boyer's picture

There is a problem with the link above (on my mac). Here it is again
GNU Operating System — Selling Free Software

Té Rowan's picture

The way I read the OFL is that one can not sell the font on its own as a separate product (the UFL (Ubuntu Font License) allows this, IIRC), but one can certainly toss it into a bundle (say, an OS or app distro) and sell that. So, you could combine or even integrate GIMP, Fontforge, Inkscape and Scribus, shovel on a bunch of OFL fonts and sell the resulting package.

One thing I have not tried but which Fontforge claims it can do is add a table (PfEd) with the info needed to recreate the original SFD source file from just the OTF file.

JanekZ's picture

And it works!

vernon adams's picture

see @ http://scripts.sil.org/cms/scripts/page.php?item_id=OFL-FAQ_web

Question: 1.6 Why won't the OFL let me sell the fonts alone?
Answer: The intent is to keep people from making money by simply redistributing the fonts. The only people who ought to profit directly from the fonts should be the original authors, and those authors have kindly given up potential direct income to distribute their fonts under the OFL. Please honour and respect their contribution!

I think that idea is a little outdated nowadays, but it's fair enough. I tend to think that if someone was ambitious and smart enough to actually manage to sell individual 'free' fonts, they probably deserve whatever they can get ;) plus a shiny Award for Aptitude. In fact, i have come across a handfull of instances when companies have wanted to use some of my free fonts, but claim their policy insists they must pay for them. I never have worked that one out.

HVB's picture

Charge them $2 (one for the font and one for your trouble), send them a nice receipt, and their bean counters will be happy.

Richard Fink's picture

Vernon, if you have a problem with people sending you money for your fonts, I happily volunteer to be the middleman! 50/50 sound fair?

rich

vernon adams's picture

Rich, i don't have a problem with it. Just curious why they have to pay. Anyway you're much too late with your offer. I already cut a major deal with my 10yr old who funnels it all into his Minecraft server & xbox goodies 8-)

PabloImpallari's picture

@Vern
> In fact, i have come across a handfull of instances when companies have
> wanted to use some of my free fonts, but claim their policy insists they must
> pay for them. I never have worked that one out.

Vern, that has happened to me as well.
They want to pay for a license that they don't really need.. funny thing.
In that cases, I usually explain why they are Ok with the Libre license and how the OFL works, and suggest a donation instead of a payment.
If they insist, I sell them a copy of the font, but using a commercial license instead.

Seems that the legal departments inside some companies always require them to pay for fonts, even if the fonts are Libre. I guess they don't know yet about the Libre fonts world.

Si_Daniels's picture

>Seems that the legal departments inside some companies always require them to pay for fonts, even if the fonts are Libre. I guess they don't know yet about the Libre fonts world.

From my experience lawyers are a bit cleverer than this. My guess is that in paying for the fonts they get some kind of buyer's legal protection they wouldn't otherwise get by using the free version. You might want to consider having a separate commercial license drawn up that limits your liability.

hrant's picture

Also, not paying for something leaves a corporation open to accusations of illegal "bartering". It's like boarding a long-distance flight without luggage - red flags go up.

hhp

vernon adams's picture

My guess is that in paying for the fonts they get some kind of buyer's legal protection they wouldn't otherwise get by using the free version. You might want to consider having a separate commercial license drawn up that limits your liability.

Yes, i had guessed it was something like that. I have never had someone asking for this who knew why they needed to pay. It seems like a requirement that's been lowered from a distant office, and i've never pushed too far to find out. Plus, i make it clear, they are not paying for the fonts, they are only making a voluntary donation.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

How about an Illustrator or eps or svg file containing a well done stroke-based alphabet? I mean stroke not in the traditional lettering sense, but in the vector art sense--just lines, no outlines. Kind of struggling on how to state that right but I think most of you will know what I'm getting at. Then the letterforms would be a lot easier to edit, change width and weights, add serifs if you like, etc. I'd be a lot more interested in that.

hrant's picture

Silly rabbit, strokes are for kids.

hhp

HVB's picture

@ryan - then it's not a font, but just images, and essentially useless.

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