• Johannes Neumeier, 1 month ago
    1. Outline glyphs from existing fonts in Illustrator

    Note that with most commercial fonts reusing their shapes to make a new or customized font is breaking their end user license agreement, and potentially can get you into legal and financial, trouble. That aside, it is also unethical to simply chop away at another designer’s work.

    And even many "free" fonts with the SIL license (almost all of Google Fonts) require you to make the modified version available. In fact, the Lato Sans you chopped up in your article is licensed under exactly that SIL license which requires you to redistribute the original copyright notice and license.

    Lastly still, calling this ‘making a custom font’ is somewhat misleading altogether.

    2 points
    • Koos Looijesteijn, 1 month ago

      Hi Johannes, thanks for your comments. I'm sorry the post didn't live up to your expectations. When coming up with the title, I hoped that those who know the difference between font and typeface would know what it would be about and those who don't would be pleasantly surprised it wasn't about creating whole new typefaces but about something they can apply themselves.

      My post doesn't recommend taking an existing font and outlining it in its entirety and then presenting or selling it as a new, original design on its own. That I would find unethical. Taking glyphs and combining or modifying them in other ways then putting them on straight lines is extremelycommon though. My post only recommends saving part of such designs as a separate font file instead of an image. The visual end result can be the same, the only differences are in how accessible a web page would be and how the page is put together from a technical point of view. Neither of which should affect the original typeface designer's moral rights, in my opinion. Unless their terms of use clearly prohibit that. Would be a hard sell, I guess!

      As for the legal aspect, you're raising an issue I haven't spent enough time with. In fact, I should add something to the post to make readers aware of that. I did check Wikipedia though, where I read that in several countries, including the USA, typefaces aren't protected by copyright law. There fonts are considered and protected like software. I assume that means that converting a font to another vector format removes that protection. Just like copying and modifying parts of, say, Amazon's checkout flow for a retail website's interaction design is allowed, but copying copyright protected Javascript is not.

      The SIL License you're referring to could be quite problematic to many designers:

      Original Version" refers to the collection of Font Software components as distributed by the Copyright Holder(s).

      "Modified Version" refers to any derivative made by adding to, deleting, or substituting — in part or in whole — any of the components of the Original Version, by changing formats or by porting the Font Software to a new environment.


      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.

      That could even apply to the practice of outlining a document before sending it to a print shop. Which is actually what some DRM protected fonts require and is recommended by their publishers! How do you see that?

      Thanks again!

      0 points
      • Johannes Neumeier, 1 month ago

        Please be advised that even just copying parts of a typeface is oftentimes violating the EULA and does in fact constitute copyright violation. As you correctly researched, in the US typefaces are treated like software in regards to copyright. Your example, however, would be akin to saying you don’t clone all the code of Photoshop, only the code of some filters. I am sure in many cases the designers of typeface are more than happy to help you out with modifications or might even grant to explicit permission to make modifications if you approach them with your problem.

        Making a logo from a typeface, and even modifying the shapes of letters decomposed to vectors from a typeface, is different from modifying a typeface. I understand what you are going after with ease of use or efficiency of of distribution, but it still does not grant the right to turn modified font parts into a new font.

        In regard to SIL the requirement is if you redistribute the modified version it must be under the same license, and not using the Lato name. It does not, however, mean that your app would have to be distributed under that license, or that you need to make the modified version available, only that if you make it available, it needs to be under SIL (I wrote that too generally in my first answer). Indeed your app, or more precisely, the modified font in your app, would need to list the SIL in some way or form as per §2.

        Outlining a document before sending to print avoids exactly that: Having to provide the printer with the font. To my mind any reasonable font EULA will grant you the right to have a PDF with the font embedded printed, but opinion and practices on that vary.

        2 points