Become a FontFont Designer!

In 1990, Neville Brody and Erik Spiekermann launched the FontFont label with the mission to provide “fonts by designers for designers”, inviting their friends in the graphic and type design community to contribute. Twenty years later, nearly all the 2500 FontFonts came to the library as submissions from designers of every stripe, famous and unknown. Some contributors, like Martin Majoor, had never released a typeface before. Now Majoor and his FF Scala fonts are household names.

The FontFont submission policy remains as open as it ever was. The TypeBoard, a committee of internal and external experts led by Spiekermann himself, meets every six months to review submissions.

Are you the next FontFont Designer?

TypeBoard in May 2013
TypeBoard discussing submissions

(Erik van Blokland, Stephen Coles, Jürgen Siebert, Erik Spiekermann)
 

Why be a FontFont designer?

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1. MAKE BETTER FONTS.

 

Some outlets simply accept fonts and blindly throw them in their web shop with hardly a glance at the files or a conversation with the designer. Not here. Each FontFont must meet rigorous design and technical standards, and that means our experienced Type Department will give your work a careful audit, working with you to make sure the finished product is something we are all proud of.

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2. BE PAID AND TREATED FAIRLY.

 

FontFont was founded by type designers, so we always have our type designers’ interests at heart. FontFont royalties are 30% of the retail price, paying you a consistent cut no matter how or where your fonts are sold. This is a better deal than other foundries who offer designers only a percentage of the wholesale value, kicking back smaller royalties as the fonts move down the distribution chain.

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3. GET PROMOTED.

 

We truly love every typeface we accept into the collection, so you can rely on FontFont’s proven sales and marketing team to get the word out. We handle everything from pricing and licensing to marketing and promotion. Our worldwide distribution network reaches a wide variety of buyers, from direct online sales to major corporate licenses.

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4. STAY ON TOP OF TECHNOLOGY.

 

FontFont has a track record of leading the type industry. We were the first major foundry to offer webfonts via Typekit and as stand-alone WOFF files. Investing hundreds of hours into optimizing these fonts for screen display, Web FontFonts became the high standard for rendering quality. Meanwhile, we managed to reduce font file size for faster loading on the web. Your fonts will get the same royal treatment, ensuring they are always ready for the latest technological developments.

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5. JOIN AN ELITE GROUP.

 

That’s not just fancy talk. A FontFont carries with it the reputation of all the world famous, critically acclaimed, premium quality fonts in the library. When your typeface is in such good company it reflects well on you and your work. With hundreds of thousands of fonts on the market many buyers avoid confusion and trouble by sticking with trusted brands. FontFont is at the top of that list.

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6. PROTECT YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY.

 

FontFont is a fierce advocate for your work, monitoring FontFonts against piracy, unlicensed activity, and misuse.

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7. SPEND MORE TIME DESIGNING TYPE.

 

We handle all technical support and other customer inquiries so you can stick with doing what you do best: making typefaces.

Submission guidelines

The TypeBoard judges submissions on their aesthetic, technical, and practical merits. The library represents a wide variety of styles and genres, but we do prefer to release FontFonts in sets or families. If you have designed only a single weight, we may recommend you extend it by adding additional weights or variations before we release it for distribution. Otherwise, almost anything goes. As long as it’s an original design, it will be considered.

When submitting your typeface you’re welcome to present the typeface as you wish and to include additional materials, but here are a few hints and tips as to what we’d ideally like to see:

 TypeBoard submission guidelines

 

 

You are also welcome to include sample applications of your typefaces, such as posters, advertisements, or postcards. 

Your font submission does not have to be perfect when you send it, but keep in mind that the closer your font data is to a finished product, the sooner it will reach the market. Once your work has been accepted, we provide you technical guidelines that help you optimize or complete your font. 

A submission is not bound to any commitment. We would love to release your submission if it’s accepted, of course, but merely submitting your work does not require you to publish it as a FontFont. We will discuss contractual arrangements upon acceptance. If youd like any further information or have any questions, please do feel free to get in touch.

TypeBoard submissions guidelines

 

How to submit

To submit a typeface design for review, simply mail us printed samples of your design and a short cover letter to:

FontShop International GmbH
Attn: Ugla Marekowa/TypeBoard
Bergmannstr. 102
10961 Berlin
Germany

or send us PDF samples by e-mail. Please include your mailing address.

Hannes von Döhren

FF Basic Gothic

You have a background in advertising, what made you make the move into type design?

Like so many designers, I was always interested in fonts and the process of handling and working with fonts. Therefore, I began studying graphic design and through my love for typography I became addicted. It started off as fun in my free time, alongside my job as an Art Director. I started drawing experimental fonts, made these available as free fonts on the Internet and used them for my own projects. This ‘playing’ brought a lot of joy, so much that I grew more and more interested in fonts, in their rules, and background, and through that came larger projects that were focused on classic typeface design. I looked at lots of other fonts and tried to understand how they were created. I took great interest in everything that was to do with type design and font creation.

What was it like setting up your own foundry?

Since the beginning of 2008, I am 100% an independent type designer. I have my own foundry, HVD Fonts, work every day on new fonts, do presentations and adverts for my own typefaces and deal with all related office work. I am happy that I have followed this path, in that I can combine all the areas that fascinate me: fonts, graphics and advertising.

What was it like working with FontFont? 

I worked alongside Livius Dietzel on FF Basic Gothic, once we’d ‘finished’ it we submitted it to FontFont. Our typeface was accepted and we then began working together with Christoph Koeberlin on the font files to polish them, FontFont then took over the hinting and generating of the final fonts. A few months later, the font came to market. FontFont oversaw the marketing and, much to our delight, FF Basic Gothic was used as the ‘house font’ for TYPO Berlin 2011. The personal contact with the foundry was great fun, to pop in and speak with Christoph or Ivo about typefaces, control points, or marketing, was and is always a great pleasure.

What part of the foundry’s work was most valuable to you?

On the one hand type design is all about creativity, optical decisions and the visual, but on the other hand there is a lot of engineering behind a font. Therein, I believe, lies the strength of FontFont. There are many type designers who would prefer to concentrate just on the visual. FontFont takes over the optical and technical quality testing during the font production and with that guarantees a high level of quality for their fonts.

All font lovers that want to create something that is visually appealing and perhaps want to concentrate on other things aside from business, marketing and the engineering behind font production, should publish their fonts together with a foundry that ensures technical quality and solid marketing. For those font fanatics who are certain what they want, with all the challenges that come along with itmaybe it would be the better decision to publish their fonts independently.

When you compare your own label to a bigger label like FF, what are the main differences?

The difference is essentially the time. As a small foundry you are more flexible and can make your own decisions a lot quicker. With a large foundry it can often take longer until a font is released. The advantage of a large foundry is the customers and I think larger customers prefer to buy from a larger foundry as they can be sure that the fonts are of a high quality.

Second thing is that you get a higher royalty rate if you go alone, but maybe you have less clients without a bigger foundry— vice versa with a bigger foundry you get a lower royalty rate, but you might have more clientsso maybe that has to be estimated individually.  

You’ve also published some typefaces through other foundries such as Linotype and ITC. Do you recommend to release through several different labels?

For me, it was very important to have the opportunity to compare. When I first started in the ‘type business’ I knew very little. Who called the shots? How big are the foundries? Can you make a living from it at all? How do you finalize typefaces? All my releases through different foundries have given me a better overview about the scene and all the goings on. You can only find out when you do it yourself, and so I did.

What does it mean to you to be a FF designer?

When I was studying, it was a little dream of mine to appear in one of the FontBooks. At the time those books meant a great deal to me and I promised myself, one day you will appear in one. I found many of the FontFonts to be good and so I actually sent my first designs to FontFont, unfortunately they were rejected. However I found a different way over the first years and was successful working on my own and forming my own foundry. With FF Basic Gothic I worked in partnership with Livius and FontFont and managed to fulfill that ambition that I had when I was younger, whilst still being able to set up my own successful business.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in type design?

Keep your eye on your goals. I believe that you can achieve everything when you really want to. But the most important thing is: Have fun with what you do!

Max Phillips, designer of FF Spinoza

Max Phillips

FF Spinoza

We gather you spent over eleven years designing your beautiful FF Spinoza typeface, how did you keep yourself motivated over those years?

The short answer is: I didn’t. I gave up half a dozen times at least, and set the typeface aside every few months as I either ran out of time to work on it or ran out of ideas on how to fix it. But I’d wanted to design a garalde text typeface my entire working life, and this particular one kept nagging at me. And at last it came together enough for me to show it to the FontFont TypeBoard. Philip Roth once said the difference between a poet and a novelist is the difference between a racehorse and a plow horse. Type designers and novelists have to be plow horses. The work is usually a slog, not a sprint. You have to keep plodding along until the whole field has been tilled.

You have a multitude of talents aside from type design (illustrator, toy designer, and novelist), how do you think your background helped you when you started designing your first typeface?

On a certain level I think many creative processes resemble one another. Revising a book and revising a typeface have a lot in common. You have to keep sight of an overall idea for months or years, and maintain your energy and interest all that time. You have to create a unified whole that has some sort of life to it, and some sort of personality. You have to distinguish between the good bits and the show-offy clever ones that break the flow and distract from your main idea. You have to make sure the overall spirit of the thing is reflected in the smallest details. Also, I think it helps to love books if you want to design a book typeface. In fact, I don’t see how you can do it properly unless you love books.

What led you to choose FontFont as the foundry through which you released your font?

The quality and variety of the typefaces they publish, the respect they command in the design world, and the international reach of their marketing. They were always my first choice. It wasn’t anything I had to think about.

What does it mean to you to be a FF designer?

Basically, I was asked to join a club whose members include Kris Sowersby, Tobias Frere-Jones, Akira Kobayashi, Jean François Porchez, LeTeRror, Hannes von Döhren, Martin Majoor, Nick Shinn, Jeremy Tankard … the list goes on.  And, of course, Neville Brody and Erik Spiekermann.  It was the greatest honor of my professional life.

What was it like working with FontFont? 

They took tremendous pains with the work. When Andreas Frohloff returned his first edits on Spinoza, I was a bit dazed. He’d altered almost every glyph in every font. In some cases he'd clearly improved things. In some cases I felt that he was correcting real problems, but that I wanted to correct them in my own way. And in a few instances I just flat-out disagreed with the changes. (I think he had a vision for FF Spinoza that was a bit more calligraphic than mine—more Minion-style.) Anyway, we talked it over, and I swallowed hard and explained that, as much as I’d liked most of his edits, there were some I just couldn’t accept, and that I would understand if that meant FontFont wouldn’t publish the face. He was surprised, and replied that of course this was my typeface and that I would have to decide how I wanted it to look. He was just there to help. And that’s the way things went. FontFont put a lot of work into FF Spinoza, but they left the final design decisions to me, even though I was a first-timer and they’re the world’s foremost independent foundry.

When you sent your final font files to our tech team, were you surprised about the additional work that needed to be done then?

Well, since FontFont took care of production and hinting, I never really knew if the process was a difficult one or not.  They did all the heavy lifting. I had a few comments on the first round of hinting, and they addressed them right away, and that was that.

What part of the foundry’s work was most valuable to you?

Andreas’s critical eye, his patience, and his skill. For instance, the final versions of the italic S, s, O, and o are basically the ones he redrew. He just made them flow much better than I could have. But the whole face is much stronger than it would have been without his work. Even in cases where I didn't accept his modifications, they drove me to draw better forms.

Would you publish future type designs through FontFont again? If so why/if not why not?

I’d love to work with FontFont again.  For one thing, I’d like to add a sans companion and some ornamented versions to Spinoza.

Do you think you will create another typeface in the future?

I’m working on about three right now: a geometric display face, a constructed sans, and a humanist sans.  It’s a slow process, but hopefully it won't be quite as slow as the process of designing FF Spinoza.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in type design?

It’s a bit premature for me to be offering advice; I’m just starting out in type design myself. Anyone out there have any advice for me?

Nina Stössinger

FF Ernestine

You started off studying a completely different degree at university, what made you make the move into type design?

Yes, I originally studied in the Humanities, happily envisaging a life immersed in books and knowledge. But by the fourth semester, I came to the (somewhat clichéd) realization that I actually enjoyed selecting fonts for my term papersand observing how they made the content appear in a different lighteven more than I did researching the content. (These memories even involve a FontFont: FF Blur was one of the first typefaces that consciously captured my attentionalong with, ahem, ITC Bookman.) I became curious about that interface between content and form, about its rules and its power; and a little later, I realized that my increasingly passionate hobby of designing and building websites might possibly be turned into a careerand that’s when I went off to study multimedia design, and really learned to love type, enough so to go on to a postgraduate type design class. It’s a development I would not have expected back then, but I’m very glad that I had the chance to follow my curiosity into a field where I now feel truly at home.

What does it mean to you to be a FontFont designer?

To be honest, I have for a long time dreamed of one day not only designing a typeface, but releasing it through FontFont!Ambitious dreamsand I’m still amazed that they have actually come true.

I am both proud and humbled to be part of this great library which in my perception sits right at the crossroads of relevance and innovation, utmost professionalism and agile freshness, trustworthiness and openness to experiment. Which is a wonderful combination.

What was it like working with FontFont? 

Stimulating and productive. In the beginning I/we had some tricky (but educational, and ultimately quite helpful) design-related back-and-forths with Andreas and the Type Department; and in the final production process, communication with the tech team (especially Jens) was smooth and relievingly uncomplicated. For me as a first-time designer, besides collaborating with a designer more knowledgeable and experienced than myself (Hrant Papazian), knowing that this typeface would thoroughly pass under the hands and eyes of seasoned professionals before being released into the wild was immensely reassuring. Oh, and I’m grateful for the deadline, without this thing would probably still not be finished!

When you sent your final font files to our tech team, were you surprised about the additional work that needed to be done then?

Well, since I’m generally quite nosey (I call it ‘curious) I had already learned quite a bit about the mastering process by then, so I wasn’t so much surprised. I was mostly just glad I didn’t have to take care of all that technical stuff on top of the design work; and envious of all your great testing tools and workflows!

 

What part of the foundry’s work was most valuable to you?

Testing for inconsistencies and errors stood out as a quite immediately beneficial thing in the process; in an overall context, I suspect screen optimization might be the most crucial thing, since this has actually enabled FF Ernestine to work very well on the web, toowhich I had hoped would be possible, but couldn’t fully control or predict myself.

Would you publish future type designs through FontFont again? If so why/if not why not?

While some other options are on my radar as well, publishing future designs through FontFont (given that I end up designing something again that fits into their library) certainly remains a very attractive option. Royalties may be higher elsewhere, but to me the very high production quality and tremendous exposure make up for that, not to mention the overall lovely and professional collaboration with the FontFont team.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in type design?

Don’t rush it. 

I think the biggest mistake new type designers can make is to be too focused on quick, tangible results, and so many end up with fonts that aren’t truly usablewhich is disappointing, and sort of misses the point. (I’ve been there.)

Learning to design type involves first of all learning to see detail that you have probably not consciously perceived before. This takes time, and it requires slowing down. It may involve downright ridiculous amounts of iterations, trying out little changes many of which you end up discarding; know that that is not lost time, if you manage to learn as much from it as possible.

What’s next for you? Can we expect more type designs?

Definitely stay tuned! I am currently exploring a few new type design ideas (plus exercising the craft by helping some others with spacing and kerning); it’s not always easy to make the kind of time for type design that it truly requires, but it’s really what I most love doingso I’m not going to walk away anytime soon.

Travis Kochel

FF Chartwell

You studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, graduating with your BFA in 2008. What did the design curriculum there look like? Did you have a lot of typography coursework?

Typography was drilled into us. Even in classes not explicitly labeled typography, good type choices and typesetting practices were stressed. At the time it felt more like boot camp, and I actually tried to distance myself from it. It took a few years of real world experience to fully appreciate and understand the value of it. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but it just sort of clicked one day, and turned into an obsession.

What inspired you to start designing type? Did your client work at Scribble Tone help while you started your first typeface?

At the time, my first explorations in type design felt more like a curious exploration of letterforms, and a way to take a break from client work. I think what keeps me coming back to it is a strong desire to control every detail of a project. Type is one of the most basic building blocks of a design piece, and there’s an interesting power that comes with controlling that.

You first released FF Chartwell in 2011 under the TK Type label and it was received really well. As Chartwell was already successful in its own right, what prompted you to submit the typeface to FontFont? Do you think it fared better as a FontFont?

Releasing typefaces on your own comes with self doubt, and the nagging question of how it would fare with the feedback and marketing power of an established foundry. After the initial success of Chartwell, I started working on a few additional styles of charts and thought it would be a great opportunity to see what someone else could bring to it. I’ve always had a great admiration for FontFont, and they’ve taken on many experimental releases in the past, so it seemed like a good fit.

Admittedly, I was a little nervous about making the transition, but it has outperformed my expectations by far. FontFont has really given FF Chartwell an amazing second life. I’m also extremely happy with the team’s solution for the web version. It was a brilliant approach to break free of the font format, and instead focus on the interface.

What was the main advantage working with FontFont? Would you publish future type designs through FontFont again? If so why/if not why not?

I will definitely consider FontFont again if I have a design that fits well into the catalog. The biggest advantage is the feedback and insight from the team. It’s comforting to have experienced eyes looking over everything, and offering outside perspectives. It’s also quite apparent that they care every bit as much as you do about the work.

The nuts and bolts of FF Chartwell’s features really push the boundaries of the OpenType format. Are you tempted to continue experimenting and pushing OpenType technology even further?

There’s a lot of opportunity to push OpenType technology further, and it’s definitely something I think about a lot. I haven’t quite found another opportunity where an OpenType solution makes sense, but I’m keeping my eyes open.

How do you spend your day? Can you carve out regular chunks of time for type design? How does your work/life balance look?

My schedule is very erratic, and it usually comes in weeklong chunks of time being focused on one thing. A rough estimate of my time in the past year:

FF Chartwell

Chicago, New Zealand, Portland … you seem to get around a lot! Do you think that your geographic location feeds into the results of your design work?

The designers and community in each city have definitely influenced the way I think about and approach design. It brings new ideas and perspectives, but also forces you to think about where you stand on those issues.

What’s next for you? Do you think you will release another typeface in the near-future?

Type design will definitely continue to be a large part of my future. But I also really enjoy having a variety of types of projects to work on. It keeps the days interesting, but also brings new perspectives. FF Chartwell was one of those moments where two seemingly unrelated fields of design happily overlapped.

If you could offer a single piece of advice to an aspiring type designer, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just be sure to learn from them, and keep an open ear to feedback, even after releasing.