Open-source typefaces

Chris Dean's picture

Please help compile a list of open-source typefaces.

I just came across this on twitter:

Open Baskerville

Feel free to contribute. See what I did there? “feel free.” Ah? Yes?

Chris Dean's picture

It just occurred to me, what’s the difference between an open source font, and a free font?

quadibloc's picture

Supposedly, it's the same as the difference between freedom and beer.

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

And here's some more:

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html

Basically, though, you can play with the vectors in open-source fonts, but the only special thing about a free font is that it didn't cost any money.

hrant's picture

There is "free" as in you don't need to compensate the designer, then there's what people call "libre" which means free for redistribution. Technically all four possible combinations of those two can exist, although in practice you can't really charge money for a libre font because within minutes somebody will put out an identical free version. Of course it can get pretty complicated pretty quickly, for example if you believe that "open-source" means that the tools to make the original also need to be free (or even libre).

The fatal flaw in the "things must be libre" philosophy is simple: freedom is over-rated. It's nice, but it's just another thing that needs to be factored in life. Anybody who's really concerned with social responsibility knows very well that big chunks of individual freedom need to be sacrificed for the greater good. Don't believe all this Western hype.

hhp

5star's picture

big chunks of individual freedom need to be sacrificed

...sigh.

n.

quadibloc's picture

hrant:
The fatal flaw in the "things must be libre" philosophy is simple: freedom is over-rated. It's nice, but it's just another thing that needs to be factored in life.

Survival is the most important thing in life, because it is the true sine qua non: and if you are not free (by one important definition) your survival is at risk.

This is why having a free press and free elections are vital; without control over your local government, you can be enslaved or slaughtered at whim.

Anybody who's really concerned with social responsibility knows very well that big chunks of individual freedom need to be sacrificed for the greater good.

This, though, I don't disagree with, in some senses and contexts. Without governments with the power to tax and conscript, the Western democracies would have been conquered long ago by Stalin or Hitler. So I reject Libertarianism and similar ideologies.

Don't believe all this Western hype.

But here I strongly disagree. I think the Western vision of liberty, handed down in civics courses, is basically accurate.
It does contain a few things that are flawed, though.

There are self-serving rationalizations that define the stealing of land from indigenous people as something other than theft. because they didn't "develop" the land by practising agriculture. To take away the hunting grounds people need to feed themselves is as murderous as denying someone air by smothering him with a pillow (which also puts paid to the "property is theft" nonsense on the other side).

The effort to combat demagoguery, which is understandable, fails to address the justification for the welfare state, if not socialism; children are not at fault for being born into poverty. But the other side can retort that the responsible are not to blame for the feckless.

My logical conclusion is that someone does owe you a living, but it is your parents, not the State; and thus the State may legitimately demand financial responsibility as a qualification for reproduction. How it can do that without outraging the Right (interfering in intimate affairs) or the Left (effective genocide against disadvantaged minorities) is... left as an exercise for the reader.

Karl Stange's picture

It just occurred to me, what’s the difference between an open source font, and a free font?

Licensing and intent. Saying that a font is free or open source does not really provide sufficient information about how it can be used. The kind of open source license(s) a font is released under can have an impact on other software the font is used or embedded with and this issue alone is the reason that a font exception clause that can be applied to the GNU GPL exists:

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#FontException

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPL_font_exception

http://www.fsf.org/blogs/licensing/20050425novalis

To the best of my knowledge the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) Open Font License is the only open source license specifically formulated for use with fonts. Others, such as the Apache, MIT and Creative Commons commune of licenses are either not specific enough about whether fonts subject to them make related content open source by association or very specifically require attribution.

The good thing about the above licenses is that they are very well documented and discussed, thus potential users have no excuse for not understanding what liberties and restrictions they impose upon fonts released under them.

Fonts labelled as free can usually be separated into two categories: 1) fonts released under a standard commercial license but free of charge, either directly to customers or bundled with a larger purchase; 2) fonts released with a basic, limited or no license and free of charge. In the second case it is often unclear what restrictions, if any, are imposed on the fonts and as such their usage potential is often extremely limited particularly for commercial usage.

Another major factor in deciding to use or abuse any of the above is quality or distinct lack thereof and the work involved, for example, in modifying an open source font to work optimally may end up costing more in man hours and time spent testing and revising than it would have cost to license a commercial font that was already there.

Té Rowan's picture

@Karl – The UFL (Ubuntu Font Licence) is a modified OFL. I think the UFL permits selling the fonts as separate products, but it's been a while since I read it.

@Chris – If you want the boiled-down version... Free can be gratis (free beer) or libre (free speech). Open source is libre.

Karl Stange's picture

The UFL (Ubuntu Font Licence) is a modified OFL. I think the UFL permits selling the fonts as separate products, but it's been a while since I read it.

Thanks, I was not aware of that one. Looks like more information can be found here.

hrant's picture

Your survival is at risk if you expect too much freedom.

Free press and free elections are illusions that limit freedom.

I'm not saying freedom is bad, just that we're brainwashed into thinking it's the ultimate goal. Just like we're brainwashed into thinking death is the ultimate defeat. Those are counter to human nature. There's a reason people admire martyrs, even though systems hate them.

the State may legitimately demand financial responsibility as a qualification for reproduction.

That's too Sparta for me. BTW try to see Gattaca.

hhp

quadibloc's picture

@hrant:
Just like we're brainwashed into thinking death is the ultimate defeat. Those are counter to human nature.

Human nature doesn't tend to go too high on the Maslow hierarchy when what is below hasn't been taken care of... which is the case for the vast majority of humans.

So for most of us, these are the three basic goals:

- stay alive
- have kids
- keep them alive

with being safe and comfortable and having fun also important along the way.

Dealing with what stands in the way of that, especially for other people, is a loftier goal, but still one that is understandable.

Chris Dean's picture

@Mark Simonson: That was a great piece of writing. Thanks.

Chris Dean's picture

And please, try to stay on topic. Don’t pull another Luc thread. I want this to be useful. Not another pedantic, narcissistic, self-righteous, in-fighting bitch session.

dishdesigner's picture

I think it's more interesting to consider the meaning of "open source" here less in the sense of commerce than in the sense of intellectual property and potential benefits.

Taken in the broader context of computing and software development, anything that's "open source" implies that the code generating a product is open for inspection, customization, and extension by end users who have myriad needs that the original designer cannot fully accommodate or even predict.

In terms of font development, that would mean an "open source" font is posted publicly with something like the GNU license, and all the character outlines and font metrics are included in some widely accessible format.

This raises the possibility of "crowdsourcing" font design...(ask yourself in how many fonts you've ever wanted to change just a few wordstopping characters to make them more usable, right?! Everyone's got a list...)

It can only be a good, democratizing thing in the long run to prioritize the needs of end users over the rather narrow and often self-driven creative pursuits of one type designer, no matter how talented or smart. We know from research in many areas that the knowledge and creativity of the masses will nearly always outperform that of an expert individual.

Beyond just a list of the open-source fonts that have been attempted so far, it would be a great feat of digital social justice to compile a statistical list of the fonts people would most like to change, down to individual glyphs, prioritize them, and let those fonts loose to the masses to start whittling and improving for everyone to benefit.

(Type geek party game: design one glyph and pass it on...)

hrant's picture

ask yourself in how many fonts you've ever wanted to change just a few wordstopping characters

For some weird reason though that seems to happen almost exclusively with free fonts...

Also, there might be a reason something was designed in a certain way that a non-designer won't understand... until it's too late. For example if you see a "g" that feels a bit vertically cramped and you decide to make it drop lower, you're making things worse not better, and you won't even know.

We know from research in many areas that the knowledge and creativity of the masses will nearly always outperform that of an expert individual.

I for one know no such thing. And it's counter to common sense that you could know how to do something without expending the effort to learn how to do it.

One area that I think laymen can certainly help though is feedback: a mechanism for expressing opinions about what's wrong with a font (or what could be added) would be awesome. Some designers will be too proud to pay heed to outside opinion, but the way I define Designer the good ones will be all ears.

hhp

aluminum's picture

"We know from research in many areas that the knowledge and creativity of the masses will nearly always outperform that of an expert individual."

That's a rather fuzzy statement. The idea that more minds = better solution isn't any sort of sure thing.

That's not to say open source isn't a great thing. Just that whether something is open or closed source isn't a direct indicator of the quality of the solution.

Té Rowan's picture

@hrant – Open-sourced free fonts do explicitly invite this type of tinkering. (chibi-Rowan rubs 's tiny little chibi-hands together in glee with a tiny little manic smile on 's chibi-face…)

hrant's picture

Which part of "feedback" means "tinkering"?

Please don't tinker with a car's braking system. Even if it's your car.

hhp

Khaled Hosny's picture

Please don't tinker with a car's braking system. Even if it's your car.
You haven’t been near my brother :)

Té Rowan's picture

What do you mean, "feedback"? I wasn't talking about feedback at all!

hrant's picture

If you weren't leading off from my "feedback mechanism" suggestion, what were you leading off from?

hhp

Té Rowan's picture

DiSH>> ... ask yourself in how many fonts you've ever wanted to change just a few wordstopping characters ...

hrant> For some weird reason though that seems to happen almost exclusively with free fonts...

What I would really like to know how right now anyone can equate tinkering with feedback. My working assumption is a brain glitch.

hrant's picture

So you're saying open-source free fonts invite tinkering because they suck, and we're supposed to be happy about that? Were you on the team that made the Chevy Corvair?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unsafe_at_Any_Speed

hhp

Chris Dean's picture

So, seen any good open source fonts lately?

quadibloc's picture

Open-source fonts invite tinkering because it's legal, and you can even distribute the modified result. That can be feedback if your tinkering is hailed as an improvement.

Flawed typefaces don't have to be open-source; only when they are is there this recourse.

hrant's picture

That's not how feedback ideally works.

The problem is that people are told they can be astronauts if they just want to be astronauts, no matter how sickly, dumb and/or lazy they are.

hhp

aluminum's picture

What does feedback have to do with the legal concept of open source?

5star's picture

Lato: new free open-source sanserif family by Lukasz Dziedzic

http://typophile.com/node/77283

http://code.google.com/webfonts/specimen/Lato

Long live open-source.

n.

hrant's picture

Darren (DiSH) wrote:

Beyond just a list of the open-source fonts that have been attempted so far, it would be a great feat of digital social justice to compile a statistical list of the fonts people would most like to change, down to individual glyphs, prioritize them, and let those fonts loose to the masses to start whittling and improving for everyone to benefit.

I was trying salvage something usable from that la-la-land talk by saying that more -and more formal- public feedback would certainly be a good thing. (What's ludicrous is expecting untrained people to actually carry out judicious modifications.)

hhp

aluminum's picture

Yes, true. I don't think the concept of open source implies 'anyone and everyone are capable of improving upon it'. It merely states that they have the legal right to give it a shot if they want.

And that's why the more succesful open source software projects have fairly rigorous peer review and gatekeepers. Might be impractical at the level of a font, but possible.

That said, I think the more practical applications of wanting to release a typeface as open source is to offer it as a tool for the broader open source software movement. It allows open source software access to type designs that otherwise wouldn't make it into the products due to licensing issues.

Té Rowan's picture

I'll thank you, @hrant, for not putting words in my mouth! You were the one saying open-source fonts invite tinkering because they suck!

Nope, open-source fonts invite tinkering through their licensing. I can legally (if not skillfully) make them fit my preferences, and in the ultra-remote case that anyone wants my modifications, I can give them a copy there and then.

I'm not God. I'm not Chuck Norris. No way do I claim to be perfect, so I'm obviously not you.

hrant's picture

So one very good concern of somebody considering making a free open-source font is the fear that some dilettante will make a change that people don't have the sense to avoid* and it will drown out his good effort because it's all free anyway. Version control is bad enough when it's internal.

* Like using Comic Sans on a funeral wreath; and no, the dead guy was not a professional clown, he was a highly respected Pakistani statesman.

Perfect, shmerfect. I just know I'm not as good as you at what you do. And I for one am dead sure that neither one of us was ever going to become an astronaut. Face the limits, and you'll inherit higher quality.

hhp

aluminum's picture

I think that's a theoretical fear rather than a real one.

I can grab a copy of the Apache web server source code, make inept changes, and then give it away, but no one is going to use my version over the main branch version. Most licenses require that any derivations be uniquely named as such to avoid confusion as to which is the 'main' branch.

Now, granted, that's all accepted standard procedure when it comes to open source software projects, and maybe that level of project formality hasn't been applied to open source typefaces specifically.

Té Rowan's picture

I'm myself hacking on PT Sans/Serif and Ubuntu (under new names, of course) because there was some simple stuff missing which I wanted/needed at the time. I need hardly say that the project is growing, albeit slowly, since my current goal is to need only PT Serif to read Pyeknu's fanfic.

hrant's picture

It's still better to get an actual type designer to do it.

hhp

Mel N. Collie's picture

Doesn't it depend on what's being hacked by whom, ever? I'mean, modern fonts are full of all kinds of variables... And you know what variables are for don't'cha?

Chris Dean's picture

@Té Rowan: “I'm myself hacking on PT Sans/Serif…”

Is this a typeface you are modifying? If so, what typeface?

Karl Stange's picture

Is this a typeface you are modifying? If so, what typeface?

The clue is in the names, ParaType's PT Sans/Serif.

Té Rowan's picture

And Ubuntu isn't just a distro.

It is relatively easy to compose new characters in all three faces, as there is a good variety of components to build with. And, since I am targetting only myself, I shan't be too worried if an underdot is 0.001em too far west.

hrant's picture

In my book if you can keep the modified version to yourself don't even worry about the license. My own concern is always the danger of harming the original via redistribution.

hhp

Té Rowan's picture

Norrachance... Who wants homebrew Pinyin translit characters in PT Serif anyway? Or an 'okina in Ubuntu? Other than me, that is?

aluminum's picture

"My own concern is always the danger of harming the original via redistribution."

A valid concern. One that is managed on the software side by teams and release management. Perhaps a github type site/org for open source type could serve that same purpose on the type side.

Chris Dean's picture

Correct me if I am wrong, an open source typeface is a typeface with an “open user license.” Have I got it?

Té Rowan's picture

A licence that fits the Open Source Initiative's Open Source Definition, anyway.

Renaissance Man's picture

Huerta Tipografica – Andada Free Font by Carolina Giovagnoli
The free typeface was given the 2010 Design Award by Bienal Ibero-Americana. It includes the basic set, accented characters, signs and punctuation, numbers, ligatures, and mathematical signs. R/I/B/BI all with small caps. Released under the SIL Open Font License.

http://www.google.com/webfonts/specimen/Andada
This link has info, but the download is for Alegreya not Andada:
http://thefontfontyeahs.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/huerta-tipografica-anda...

Chris Dean's picture

@Renaissance Man: Sorry, I don’t think I understand;

1. What is “R/I/B/BI”?
2. What is “SIL Open Font License”?
3. Are you referring to free fonts, or open source fonts?
4. What are the actual names of the fonts, and their respective links mentioned above?

Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of Plain Language writing in a public forum so readers don’t have to Google every second word.

And don’t forget to use informative hyperlinks. Don’t hyperlink words like “here.” Hyperlink a meaningful word-strings that inform the user as to the destination of the hyperlink.

Renaissance Man's picture

@Chris Dean

Renaissance Man: Sorry, I don’t think I understand; Sorry is right. In what grade did you drop out?

1. What is “R/I/B/BI”? AYFKM?
2. What is “SIL Open Font License”? Did you read the post by Karl Stange?
3. Are you referring to free fonts, or open source fonts? Did you define open source fonts? Did you read the post by Karl Stange?
4. What are the actual names of the fonts, and their respective links mentioned above? Duh! ANDADA! Links are for info and download of the whole family as stated.

Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of Plain Language writing in a public forum so readers don’t have to Google every second word. Pretentious and smug.

And don’t forget to use informative hyperlinks. Don’t hyperlink words like “here.” Hyperlink a meaningful word-strings that inform the user as to the destination of the hyperlink. Did I use hyperlink words like “here”? Boilerplate responses make it look like you didn't even read the post before you responded.

Chris Dean's picture

Well of course I read your post, how else could I have asked questions about it?

I dropped out after my masters.

And yes, I read Karl’s posts, I had forgotten them though. I would rather not have to re-read an entire thread to determine the meaning of acronyms. Another Plain Language principle.

Following this discussion, my understanding of open source fonts is still hazy. My best simplified definition would be a typeface with working files for which the creator has granted permission for others to modify and re-distribute. That’s significantly different than free.

As far as boiler-plate responses, I do so because I see the same mistakes over and over. Using acronyms and poor hyperlinks makes it harder for the lay-typographer to participate, and creates accessibility issues for visually impaired readers.

And foul language just reflects poorly on the entire community.

hrant's picture

Chris, plain language is for plain folk. It's not that you should try to be not plain if you are, it's that you shouldn't try to be plain if you aren't.

hhp

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