New FontFonts: FF Yoga, A Type System For The New Decade

  • Handpicked Typefaces
Handpicked Typefaces | Yves Peters | February 9, 2010

One of the things FontFont is famous for are its type systems. Also called super families, they are collections of coordinated type families that cross type classifications, and are designed to work together in perfect harmony. They can be sans and serif companions, text and display cuts, or any other combination. The different families in a type system or super family share common character architecture, proportions, x-height, weights, and pedigree, to name a few. The first FontFont super family was FF Thesis, with its 144 fonts in three categories – TheSans, TheSerif, and TheMix – the largest one to have been released until then. Several others followed; many went on to become contemporary classics, like FF Scala, FF Meta, FF Quadraat, FF Absara, FF Nexus, … And now, at the tail end of 2009, FontFont released a brand new type system to usher in the new decade – FF Yoga by Xavier Dupré. Thanks to its strong personality and good legibility this design is ideally suited for newspapers and magazines.

Xavier Dupré in Auroville, South India. Letter sketches courtesy of
Xavier Dupré belongs to a generation of French type designers in their mid-thirties to forties, who emerged at the end of the nineties. What characterises this group is that they learned the ropes during the heydays of grunge, but went on to become “serious” type designers.

After completing his baccalaureate in Applied Arts in Valence, Xavier studied Graphic Arts for two years at the École Supérieure des Arts Modernes (ESAM) in Paris. At the beginning of his studies he purchased his first Apple Macintosh in 1996, and soon started dissecting existing fonts. This formed the basis for his first “grunge” designs, until he finally switched to pencil and paper.
Because Xavier wasn’t pleased with the rather awkward results, he decided to enrol a real type design and calligraphy program. As he would have needed to learn Dutch to attend KABK in The Hague, instead he entered the Scriptorium in Toulouse. There he was taught the basics of letter drawing and 2000 years of history of writing by Bernard Arin and Rodolphe Giuglardo. Prior to Scriptorium Xavier hadn’t realised how important calligraphy was, so this was one of the very first things he learned. He also became aware of the rhythm and structure of letters, of the tension in curves, of the energy one can inject into a character.

FF Tartine Script on various food packaging. Images courtesy of
Xavier Dupré started his professional career in ’99 at Black & Gold – a Paris-based agency specialised in packaging for mass retail. He was responsible for the lettering on packaging for several food brands: “creamy” letters, scripts, rounded sans serifs, and traditional serif faces were the order of the day. Only two designs from that period were eventually published as digital fonts: FF Tartine Script and FF Jambono.
At Black & Gold he collaborated with Ladislas Mandel. This monument of French typography was the assistant of Adrian Frutiger for nine years, and succeeded him as artistic director at Deberny & Peignot. The collaboration between Mandel and Xavier Dupré was a rather informal one, and consisted of Xavier adapting and digitising Mandel’s typographic experiments. Mandel wanted to convey his humanistic vision, that type design could be used to approach the reader and his psychology.

FF Jambono. FF Tartine Script and FF Jambono are the only two designs from Xavier’s tenure at Black & Gold that were eventually published as digital fonts.
To get away from “life in a Parisian agency” Xavier Dupré settled in Cambodia in 2001. One of his big challenges there was the creation of two Khmer typefaces commissioned by two French NGO editors. Xavier forced himself to forget all about Latin letter shapes so he could submerge himself into the essence of the Khmer script, and had to co-operate with native readers to check the legibility of his designs.

After his stay in Cambodia Xavier travelled most of South-East Asia, before returning to Europe and settling in Brussels in the Fall of 2006. Yet he left Brussels for South-East Asia again last summer. When I contacted him at the end of December he was in Singapore, waiting for his visa for India. Xavier currently resides in Auroville, Tamil Nadu, where he fills his days with… gardening at Matrimandir.

Getting to grips with the Khmer alphabet. Images courtesy of
In his last e-mail Xavier explains:

I don’t have enough electricity where I now reside (only solar energy), and I can’t even connect my laptop. These are hard times! As it is the high season all the quality accommodations have been taken. When you are used to spend up to 12 hours a day at a computer screen, there’s nothing like gardening with two bare feet in the soil to reconnect with reality! And I enjoy it very much!
As for future projects I have some general ideas, but nothing concrete at the present time. And regarding type design I have two alphabets in the making – what’s new? – which are on hold because of my limited access to electricity.

Type designer in the afternoon, post-gardening. Photo by Xavier Dupré.
Image manipulation by (The Man From) Gotcha!

Is this current move to India part of an ongoing love story with South and South East Asia?

I actually like travelling in Asia, and Southern India is one of those places I enjoy a lot. It’s the second time I come here. Pondichery and Auroville are two peculiar places in India, very different one from another, although they are quite near, barely 10 km apart. Pondy is some sort of principality at the sea front that has been frozen in time since the 1960s, with very little commerce (the exact opposite of Thailand). As I am quite nostalgic I like the vintage atmosphere, a blend of French and Tamil culture.
Auroville is something else entirely – it’s not even a town, merely a forest planted by well-willing pioneers, which holds infrastructures promoting culture, learning, and spirituality. Auroville also is a way of life, and a place where one truly is in communion with nature. I spend a lot of time observing squirrels, birds, mongooses, chameleons, …

FF Megano in use in book design.

Xavier Dupré gladly acknowledges the type designers who inspire him. In both FF Megano and Zingha he tips his hat to Zuzana Licko.
Although Xavier had a very classic training he is primarily inspired by contemporary type designers like Robert Slimbach, Zuzana Licko, Underware, Fred Smeijers, Gerard Unger, Erik Spiekermann, Christian Schwartz, and Jean-François Porchez. He is one of the rare designers who – in all honesty and with a sense of humour – cites his influences in his type designs. For example FF Megano – a friendly, voluptuous sans channelling the spirit of Lucian Bernhard – refers to the modern classic Triplex, and Zingha – which I once reviewed in my Bald Condensed column – features not to be misunderstood nods to Matrix, with some Unger flavour added.

Characters in a notebook, 2002, inspired by shop signs in Sumatra featuring idiosyncratically decorative lettering. These would later evolve into Vista Sans. Images courtesy of
Xavier Dupré has published his typefaces through various foundries. Zingha was offered to The Font Bureau, Inc. at roughly the same time as his original series of FontFonts, simply to try out different publishing options. Xavier felt it suited better the style and feel of the Font Bureau library. Vista however was originally meant for FontShop International. Because he felt the first drawings were rather plain, he started adding alternate characters that gradually pushed the design in a different direction. Acting on an impulse he decided to submit the typeface to Emigre, and to his surprise the iconic foundry immediately showed interest.
Nowadays, whenever Xavier Dupré starts on a new type design, he knows from the onset what library he’ll submit it to. However he doesn’t let this influence the design process, and doesn’t necessarily stick to his first choice at whatever cost.

Promotional image for FF Yoga & FF Yoga Sans.

FF Yoga

FF Yoga, with its sturdy serifs is a good choice for body text, but it also serves as an original headline face with its subtly chiselled counters. The face mixes the dynamic tension of straight cuts with the balanced rhythm and elegant curves of Garalde typefaces. FF Yoga Sans is a contemporary alternative to Gill Sans, and a sober companion to the serif FF Yoga. Unlike many similar type systems, the sans wasn’t designed by “chopping off” the serifs of FF Yoga and reducing the contrast, but both branches of the family tree were designed concurrently.

Comparison between an early version and the final design of FF Yoga.
FontBlog editor and my co-editor on The FontFeed Jürgen Siebert recently interviewed Xavier for online magazine Design Made In Germany about his latest creation.

Why and when did you start designing Yoga?

X A V I E R  D U P RÉ | “I began designing Yoga two years ago. My intention was to create a text family; a sober and versatile typeface that combines originality with a balanced appearance. I wanted it to be more useful for text setting than my previous family Malaga, yet with a similar impact thanks to sturdy serifs and a refined contrast.”

What inspired you?

X A V I E R | “All my work is inspired by humanistic writings, by American or Dutch type design. I always have calligraphy in mind as well. FF Yoga probably owes most to the œuvre of Gerard Unger and Fred Smeijers.”

What are the challenges when simultaneously designing a sans and a serif family?

X A V I E R | “I find it more interesting to design both at the same time, because it allows me to go back and forth between the serif and the sans. If the structure of the face doesn’t work in both sans and serif variations, it is easier to redesign as I keep global overview on the family.”

Exploring informal versions and the final design of FF Yoga Sans.

What do you think is the strength of this family?

X A V I E R | “That would be the fact that it’s very legible, in combination with the quirky details that give it a distinct personality. The sans has a simpler design, partly inspired by Gill Sans, and the combination of Yoga (Serif) and Yoga Sans offer sobriety as well as originality. The sturdy serifs aid the reading process in small point sizes, and lend a hot metal aspect to the text.”

Are you planning any extensions?

X A V I E R | “Definitely; the initial idea was to develop a type system that covers all type needs. I already started on additional designs, such as optical sizes for the serif version, and display cuts for the sans. But I need more time, and I also have other type families currently in development.”

Why did you call it Yoga?

X A V I E R | “I discovered yoga last year in India, and I still continue to practice it every single day when I wake up. Yoga helps your body become more flexible, and improves balance and tension – notions I consider of chief importance in typography. In a sense the body of a letter is comparable to our own human body.”

Promotional image for FF Masala.

Something struck me when I first examined FF Yoga. I had the impression there were noticeable similarities with Xavier’s previous release FF Masala, which looks like FF Yoga Sans’ casual cousin. And FF Masala’s delicious Script variant shows a certain kinship with FF Tartine. This makes sense – when Xavier showed me the first trials for FF Masala over lunch in March 2009 he revealed that the design had started out as an exercise to make a more formal version of FF Tartine. So I sent him an e-mail to simply ask him.

Is there a creative/conceptual thread, running from FF Tartine Script over FF Masala to FF Yoga?

X A V I E R | “Well, trying to find a rapport between FF Tartine Script and FF Yoga is a bit of a stretch, even if we interpose FF Masala between the two. My style has evolved since 2000 when my drawings were a lot more malleable and soft. FF Tartine still had this rounded style that can also be found in Parango. Since then I have moved on to more structured shapes. FF Masala and FF Yoga illustrate these two aspects in the structure of shapes, the former in the area of food, the latter more typographic.

In fact, it is Malaga which could function as an intermediary step between FF Masala and FF Yoga. If you compare FF Masala and Malaga on the one hand, you can see their proportions are the same. And on the other hand Malaga and FF Yoga come from the same idea, with the chiselled cuts in the lowercase “m” and “n”, and so on, and a drawing that marks the page thanks to the thick serifs.

FF Tartine is an old typeface in my production; it is difficult to see a connection with my recent designs. The original idea of FF Masala was to make a “Tartine Sans”. When I realised what this entailed – notably that I would need to draw in a style that wasn’t really my own anymore – I preferred to develop a new family. The proportions are peculiar as well – the swashes on FF Tartine are rather big, the lowercase quite small.”

Original sketches for Malaga
I interviewed Xavier Dupré for Addmagazine almost three years ago, and his answer to my last question gives us a good insight in what drives him, and how he works.

Usually, when you begin working on a new type design, do you start from a purely artistic impulse, or is it rather a formal exploration, a solution to a specific problem?

X A V I E R | “An “artistic impulse” – yes, that’s exactly it; it is very intuitive. Pure creation is what interests me, and that my type designs may be useful to others; a well-considered creation if you will. I just love to doodle in notebooks, or write a couple of lines with a chisel tip marker. If anything interesting emerges I develop it on the monitor. That is why I rarely accept commissioned work. I know that a typeface is first and foremost a product of craft, but I like to think it still is a genuine artistic expression.”

Xavier Dupré’s type designs were awarded consecutive Certificates of Typographic Excellence in 2004, 2005, and 2006 by the Type Directors Club of New York, and were amongst Typographica’s Favorite Typefaces in 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2008. He was selected as one of New Visual Artists 2006 by Print magazine. These are his typefaces, per foundry, then in chronological order.



The Font Bureau, Inc.


  • Lactis
  • Spotka

Non Latin

  • SIPAR Apsara
  • CKS Chrieng

Typographic doodles courtesy of
Header image: ƒStop 288.016, from Yoga at the Beach. Photographer: Stella

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  1. So you managed to get a couple of pics of Xavier after all? :-) Thanks for the article, which is even more in-depth and insightful than I had looked forward to.

    To me, the serif FF Yoga also has a slight feel of an Eric Gill typeface, namely Joanna. It may be my favourite Xavier Dupré design yet.

    Posted by Jongseong Park on Feb. 9, 2010
  2. Nicely written and comprehensive feature on Xavier. Wish you would do more of these on other designers, too. Yet something doesn’t feel right, Fontshop’s PR machine is pumpin’up someone who doesn’t just acknowledge his sources. The very oeuvre of Xavier wouldn’t exist without the works of those designers. FF Yoga is a slap in the face of Martin Majoor’s Scala, next to other well-know Dutch faces. Why would a foundry like FontShop, which became famous for putting forward talents 20 yrs ago, would end up heavily promoting rip-offs of its own, already released and well-known fonts? I was wondering if it’s just me, but guess there might be more users out there who might have the same views. Cheers.

    Posted by Allice Black on Feb. 10, 2010
  3. Are you seriously saying that you consider this an FF Scala rip-off? Then you can also say FF Scala is a Joanna rip-off, and so on. It’s not because both faces have a specific serif structure – found on other designs as well – and share classical proportions that one is a rip-off of the other. Please be cautious before spouting accusations like this.
    New Age, that was an FF Scala rip-off. I was able to prove it without a doubt, using triangulation, chance mathematics and hip hop music, three years ago at TYPO Berlin 2007 – Music. But not this one. Having seen first-hand in December last year how the FontFont Type Board works has convinced me that rip-offs have virtually no chance of slipping through the net.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 10, 2010
  4. These are not accusations, they are another opinion, perhaps not in the FontShop’s corporative interest (which you are in the position to represent, no?). How the type board functions is of less relevance than what results into the chosen portfolio. And if accusations go, is it you accusing Martin Majoor of ripping off? This exchange of opinions might lead into discussions I do not want to get into, but I’d dare to say to that there is a difference when designers ‘get inspired’ from the a typeface of another generation (going as far as revivals) and typefaces that literally follow 3-5-10 yrs later after another one has seen the light.
    My remark was less of Xavier’s right ‘to get inspired’, it was more a humble observation on FontShop’s PR policy on creating and celebrating [ungeniune] value.

    Posted by Allice Black on Feb. 10, 2010
  5. nice article! thank you.
    (though since when is india part of south east asia?)

    Posted by vegetables on Feb. 10, 2010
  6. (…) since when is India part of South East Asia?

    My bad, I mostly had his previous stays in Cambodia and Thailand in mind. India is simply South Asia indeed, and quite central at that. Corrected.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 10, 2010
  7. These are not accusations, they are another opinion, perhaps not in the FontShop’s corporative interest (which you are in the position to represent, no?).

    You hit the nail on the head – I am a “corporative” whore. ; )

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 10, 2010
  8. This morning, the subject of omitting credit where credit is due — especially regarding inspiration — has again surfaced.
    As I wrote years ago, in what has become an article which has received a fair amount of attention:

    A discussion of typeface sources seems to pop up whether a designer admits to being inspired by historical models or not. Getting the appropriate authorization when needed, and giving the proper credit, are but two of many considerations. Other issues such as fidelity to the model, chronological accuracy, and the pros and cons of revisionist history get debated and argued at length. The talk can get hot. Designers always feel the heat.
    On the one hand, a type designer who makes a serious effort to acknowledge certain sources of inspiration opens himself or herself to criticism concerning the ethics of appropriating the work of another. On the other hand, a type designer who fails to cite sources, or, worse, makes a conscious effort to avoid acknowledging sources, leaves himself or herself open to charges of impropriety.

    This article about the work of Xavier Dupré shows that he admits to being “influenced” by living type designers, but I can see some glaring omissions in his list of targets.
    I’ll be perfectly clear. Xavier Dupré is becoming a sponge.
    Have a look at my comment from a couple weeks ago on a different site for a little bit of background.
    My comment:

    Can’t help but notice the Nky sample above. What does THAT stand for? Nookie? 
    If you put those 3 letters beside the same 3 set in Vendetta Medium, what do you get? 
    FB Ironmonger Goes Venetian?

    Yves, we see that Xavier Dupré finally admits to mooching from many contemporary type designers, but NOWHERE on his own site does he give credit to any of them except for his main mentor, Ladislas Mandel. I can state positively that Xavier Dupré has never approached me to ask for my permission to incorporate features of my own design style into one of his type designs. That was exactly the kind of underhanded conduct I was criticizing in Call It What It Is.
    This is definitely not a joking matter.

    Posted by John Downer on Feb. 10, 2010
  9. Very interesting. What I like in these fonts is the different influences mixed together in a totally new typeface. We can see the historical influences, but the result is a fresh and contemporary design.

    Posted by JBmorizot on Feb. 10, 2010
  10. John, I knew you had quite extreme opinions about appropriation and influences, and though I realise you mean well in this case I don’t agree with your point of view. At all. Saying that Xavier should have “[asked] for [your] permission to incorporate features of [your] own design style into one of his type designs” is quite a stretch and borders on the ridiculous. If you were to dismiss FF Yoga because you personally feel it looks like “FB Ironmonger Goes Venetian”, then you may as well dismiss three quarters of the type production of the past few decades. I am no fan of typographic fundamentalism, just as I abhor any kind of fundamentalism.

    This is definitely not a joking matter.

    I am definitely not laughing.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 10, 2010
  11. Yves, you wrote:

    Saying that Xavier should have “[asked] for [your] permission to incorporate features of [your] own design style into one of his type designs” is quite a stretch and borders on the ridiculous.

    1. I did not explicitly state what Xavier “should” or “should not” have done. You are recklessly interpreting/extrapolating my position. What I stated above, is that he never contacted me. This is a fact. In retrospect, he could’ve done so either as a courtesy, or as a matter of pure professional obligation. He did neither. Call It What It Is. Negligence.
    2. This courtesy of which I speak is *common practice* among professionals, yet is apparently unbeknownst to many who aren’t veterans of the industry. Checking with colleagues first is routine. It has an additional benefit, too. It entitles one to say, “Used With Permission.” Most of my friends who are “established” designers go to the trouble of getting clearance from peers whose work is being used for reference. Saying so up front is what matters. These are the fundamentals I follow, and they are, moreover, the fundamentals followed by a significant proportion of the world’s best and most reputable type designers. Private talks go on all the time. We have a very civilized way of avoiding the kinds of accusations newer members of the type design field find themselves facing.
    3. My statement about Xavier Dupré failing to cite sources and influences pertaining to the fonts he shows on his Web site cannot be refuted. He has refused (or neglected) to do what would be considered the honorable thing — by mentioning other type designers and typefaces by name in each of the blurbs. This is [again] what I deplore. Denying credit where credit is due. It’s unfair.
    You can’t excuse unfairness by contending that it has been the case in 75% of type production in recent times. That’s a cop-out. It’s surely not to be seen as a model.
    In case you need an example of what I mean by being forthright about influences, please read the piece Zuzana Licko wrote about the way she came up with the serif structure she used in Fairplex. It’s known as the Detroit serif — a term I think was first publicized by the American sign painter Frank Atkinson. I seem to recall that Jonathan Hoefler has also made reference to the Detroit serif. As experience shows, it is both wise and prudent to give proper attribution at every possible opportunity.

    Posted by John Downer on Feb. 10, 2010
  12. I’m really surprised by the violence of your reaction Mr Downer. That’s incredible!
    When you’ve mentioned Ironmonger, it was for me a 3D typeface and I checked to see how it could have influenced FF Yoga. I had a closer look on the ‘N’ and of course, it resembles the N in FF Yoga (except the heavy weight) – that’s true. But this letter (N) doesn’t have any curves, and if we want to add more weight at the end of the stem without changing the serif and keeping a straight shape, please tell me how I could do that? I arrived obligatorily at the same result you found for Ironmonger.
    Regarding the influences – when I design, I have some fonts or designers in mind but those are influences which are totally subliminal. When I first showed FF Masala to Jean Francois Porchez, he noticed some Downer (yes, one more time!) & Slimbach elements. That was not my intention, I rather had the Textile font and Underware scripts in mind. I like to use some angles in the counters but when we practice calligraphy, these quirks looks logical, they are not necessary some Sam Sans plagiarism.
    If I’m conscious that a letterform is too close to an existing one, I continue working to improve it in a different way. Above you can see an earlier version of the ‘a’ in FF Yoga which is quite similar to FF Scala, so I discarded this version.
    Asking the permission to another designer to use a kind of serif is absolutely ridiculous! If I clearly identify a close influence, I prefer to redesign the shapes. Besides, comparing 1 serif on 1 glyph as you do with Ironmonger/Yoga doesn’t make sense.
    I’m sorry if you feel copied; anyway, I consider that your comments here are ABSOLUTELY unacceptable & slanderous.

    Posted by Xavier on Feb. 11, 2010
  13. This is the last thing I will say on the matter (John, as you are simply restating your original remarks I see no point in pursuing this surreal discussion). Frankly it makes no sense defending Xavier’s work as I feel it doesn’t need it, and I have far more interesting things to do. To come back to Allice’s original criticism – have you actually looked at FF Yoga and FF Scala? I mean, really looked?

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 11, 2010
  14. John, I’ve read the article “Call it what it is”, and I appreciate your perceptive opinions on this issue. However, your accusations against Xavier are unfair.
    I was confused as to what you were suggesting with the comment on the I Love Typography article, but here it seems you are unambiguously suggesting that Xavier consciously copied FB Ironmonger for his design of FF Yoga.
    This is jumping to conclusions. It seems plausible to me that in working with the design constraints of FF Yoga, i.e. the thin slab serifs and the straight lines, one could have independently arrived at the same bracketing structure as found in FB Ironmonger without even needing to be informed about the latter’s existence.
    With this hasty conclusion about uncredited inspiration and your generalization that Xavier “is becoming a sponge”, you seem to be endorsing Allice’s accusation that FF Yoga is a rip-off of FF Scala. Do you seriously think that Xavier’s work lacks originality and only amounts to copying others’ design ideas? I agree with Yves that it is surreal to have to defend Xavier’s work like this.

    Posted by Jongseong Park on Feb. 11, 2010
  15. I, for one, do not see anything surreal in the possibility/necessity of setting the record straight with your own peers. It is a matter of ethics and correctness, if you want. Of course, one might choose to ignore that, too.
    In parallel, it seems that Yves, you refuse to see the real point of my reaction, please do read my posts again, no offense.
    I doubt that guys like Xavier will change their practices due to such reactions, like mine. I would not expect such miracles either, and, as I mentioned earlier, this was not the issue I was questioning [so far there seems to be more ‘inspiration’ than own genuine ideas. full stop].
    However, by trying to convince us that what we see as ‘inspired’ is actually ‘original/genuine’ points out that perhaps FF is actually underestimating a part of its devoted users/customers.

    Posted by Allice Black on Feb. 11, 2010
  16. Its always incredible to see how, when a typeface designer — today one of the best via the excellent article wrote by Yves — explain that he is influenced and live in a real world where as any of us: We read, look, smell at what happening around us…
    Why people just came to quick conclusions… Based on nothing really very constructive? Very strange.
    So, there is two categories of designers: the ones who have the right to be inspired and the ones with no rights?
    I don’t have problems with inspiration, because its just the reality of life. When I design new typefaces, I’m inspired by the subject, the needs of my client, or the project itself, the world around me like exhibitions, architecture, home cooking, trips, even car design (a large part of Bienvenue Typeface design…) and YES: typefaces created not only by designers from the history (dead for long time) but also by contemporary designers. The ones that I admire.
    To me, nobody can “patent” a specific form of a Z or a (like the beautiful and unique “a” that Xavier created for his Vista…). Such thing will mark “the end of typefaces” if it happen one day.
    Congratulations to Yves Peters for this very good article about of the best typeface designer today: Xavier Dupré.

    Posted by Jean F Porchez on Feb. 11, 2010
  17. For anybody who is interested in conducting the exercise I suggested, please do this.
    – Go to the ILT site where the letters Nky are shown in FF Yoga.
    – Go to the FSI site and set the letters Nky in Vendetta Medium.
    – Put the 2 pages next to one another, letter heights matching.
    What do you see?
    I see strong similarities. The real burn is that I have built a body of work in the field of type design on ideas which are not identified with any other *living* designer. This has been done on purpose, and has been carefully calculated to keep me in good stead with others in my line of work who are established type designers and want their own styles not to be co-opted. Those same colleagues are able to identify my work at first glance because it simply has the “look” of being mine. When I quipped, “FB Ironmonger Goes Venetian,” I was making a jab at the way Xavier Dupré took the serif bracketing structure of Ironmonger and applied it to the Venetian letterform proportions of Vendetta.
    Even in such rare cases as Jim Parkinson and I discovered when his Modesto and my Panetela were developed independently, they came out appearing remarkably alike. This shows that it’s possible for different designers to inadvertently come up with comparable designs without inside knowledge of the other’s activities. Modesto and Panetela both paid homage to a certain kind of 19th century letterform. We thought this was a curious coincidence, so I wrote a piece about it, and Jim posted my story on his Web site. It was there for a couple years.
    All of this is to say that there is no compelling reason for today’s type designers to surreptitiously draw inspiration from the work of other living designers. If you want to roam about, looking for various ways to avoid observing local customs (like ethics & professional courtesy), in the hopes of royally riling the natives, you can do so very effectively without going to the trouble of becoming a sponge…indiscriminately taking bits and pieces, from this source and that, until another font has been cobbled together.
    The surest and easiest route into a cauldron of boiling water is to deny credit where credit is due, as Xavier Dupré has done in the blurbs which accompany the fonts shown on his Web site. His negligence is inexcusable.

    Posted by John Downer on Feb. 11, 2010
  18. Jean F Porchez boldly proclaimed:

    the best typeface designer today: Xavier Dupré

    That’s pretty big talk, I’d say. Hey, you read it here first, folks.
    I happen to believe that Xavier Dupré is not even near the best. In fact, he’s not even near the best if you look just at designers under the age of 50. Xavier Dupré simply hasn’t found “his own voice” — to use an expression favored by teachers of creative writing. He is still grasping at various identities, in an effort to find one that might work for him.
    To get a broader perspective than JFP offers, take a look at the work of Akira Kobayashi, and also the work of Cyrus Highsmith.
    Then, look at who those two fellows are working with on a daily basis, and have been working with for a number of years already.

    • - In the case of Akira: Hermann Zapf and Adrian Frutiger.
    • - In the case of Cyrus: Matthew Carter and David Berlow

    Akira and Cyrus have commanding leads, each in his respective area of type design. I don’t truly think there is anybody who can catch up with them. Zuzana Licko might be in contention for a bronze medal, but realistically it’s only apt to be a 3-way race if you’d handicap Akira and Cyrus by taking away the advantage of the regular mentoring they receive from seasoned professionals.
    When you team talent with talent with talent, you get winners!

    Posted by John Downer on Feb. 12, 2010
  19. It is a pity that this discussion has gone a little bit sideways and Allice Black’s question has still not really been answered. I’d like to make a few minor comments, hoping to bring things back on the right [according to me] track again, and I have to ask for your patience, because it might take a little longer than just a sentence or two.
    First things first: it is of course good that FSI makes publicity for the products and their designers. Equally good is that FSI does not discriminate in this, so in general they put a spotlight on a rather wide variety of products and designers.
    But now there was critical remark on FSI’s publicity strategy posted by Allice Black. Looks like that Allice knows FSI a little longer, because she refers to its early days. So, I tend to see her as a possibly loyal and grown-up customer, or maybe a FontShop fan, probably also rather experienced. There is nothing wrong with such customers and usually they are the ones who pay for the typefaces on their hard discs.
    In principle, she is mentioning that it would be good to have similarly  comprehensive articles on other designers, too. Also older FontFont-designers, I guess. This is a simple, rather objective and I find it interesting observation, clean from any matters concerning personal preferences or taste. This question has not been discussed nor has it been answered yet! And it’s worth honoring it with a proper answer.
    The above is part one, now comes the more difficult, part two.
    Allice justifies her question with remarks that enter the field of taste, and from this point, the discussion becomes a bit heated up, not at all her intention. So after this, our loyal customer backs off (not good).
    According to Allice, why pump so much energy in an oeuvre that leans so much upon the achievements just made by others? She thinks that the oeuvre of XD is not genuine enough. To me she is more or less saying the following, ‘I do not understand why a big company is hollowing out their own first-rate resources by over promoting second-rate products, which are based upon their first-rate products.’
    This is very interesting, because it seems as a loyal customer or fan she might loose faith in FSI. And in fact as I write these words I see she has reacted for the third time and indeed, she literally spells it out for FSI, and I quote ‘… that FF is actually underestimating a part of its devoted users/customers. cheers’
    I think this is not the result we want to have. A moderator of such discussions should use his ‘antenna’ in a better way: be thankful for and above all, listen to points of critique. After all, it is critique that might help to develop further. But no, instead of listening, the FSI reaction does not get much further than just defending XD.
    There’s no need in sarcasms as ‘corporative whore’. Instead, why not take Allice more seriously and pay more respect to her point of view by, for example, asking if her remarks only count for FSI or also for more foundries? Are we alone in this, Allice? or is it more a general trend according to you?
    But now it might be too late, we might lose folks like Allice as a customer or fan (and I still think she deserves a proper answer), we have to ask ourselves is she right about XD?
    It is at least interesting to note that, maybe not all of them, but quite a few people who say something about XD-faces, immediately start comparing, referring them to other typefaces. For some, this is exactly were the quality lies, for the others this is precisely the reason why they are second-rate. Indra Kupferschmid ( spells it out nicely ‘… mit unubersehbarem Einflussen: Smeijers-Punzen, Majoor-Serifen, Gill Sans, bisschen Unger … da gibt es viel zu entdecken und man kann stundenlang nur einfach hinschauen.’ In plain English this means: ‘… with undeniable influences: Smeijers-counters, Majoor serifs, Gill Sans, a little bit of Unger … there is a lot to discover and you can simply look at it for hours.’
    Kupferschmid is talking about Yoga and classifies it as her choice of the year. It seems as if for Indra Kupferschmid a good typeface could also be something of visually interesting puzzle. And when it clearly contains ingredients which, beyond any doubt, refer to other people’s qualified work she, unfortunately, does not mind. On the other hand, she is certainly having a point there. In general she knows what she is looking at and when she for example writes ‘Smeijers-Punzen’, believe me, she is clearly seeing them. Kupferschmid must be referring to the lowercase counters of Yoga roman n, m, h. If you want to see very similar work, not just the counter, but basically the whole letter –n,  look at Boekblad typeface (designed in the 90’s) in Type Now (Hyphen Press, 2003). Not a bad book to read anyway for anyone interested in this discussion.
    But for now, it does not matter if you think such a strong ‘quotation’ is a quality or sheer charlatanism. One thing is clear, somehow the work of XD has problems with standing on its own, it is not really able to do that… so far.
    And that is, in itself, not so much a disaster when it happens once or twice. To be honest, this happens to every type designer, but usually it counts only for their first type designs. In the case of XD it seems that it counts every time.
    What is going on here? I think the explanation is quite simple: some basic rules have been disregarded for too long.
    First —
    any piece of work which claims a certain artistic originality (be that a piece of music, dance, painting, architecture, etc) its level of originality is valued by simple, but common wisdom. As soon as a so-called original piece of work shows its roots and influences in a very obvious way, and when these roots and influences remain obvious bits and pieces brought together and do not succeed of flowing into a coherent piece of work, then it can never be very original, and words like copy or pastiche enters one’s mind. This is a basic rule for valuing originality, and it’s principle counts for the high-profile designer as well as for the green grocer around the corner, or your own grandma. This basic rule has developed itself over decades or even centuries and is embedded into human mind. From this point of view, the genuinity-remarks made by Allice Black and John Downer bear more truth than fantasy.
    It takes, therefore, much more than just a powerful publicity machine to change this commonly accepted rule (not even French pride as well as French comradery is really enough to overrule it).
    Second rule of thumb disregarded here —
    you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.
    In other words, FSI should stop trying to advertise a Fiat Punto as a Mercedes A-klasse.

    Posted by Fred Smeijers on Feb. 13, 2010
  20. M. Smeijers wrote:

    As soon as a so-called original piece of work shows its roots and influences in a very obvious way, and when these roots and influences remain obvious bits and pieces brought together and do not succeed of flowing into a coherent piece of work, then it can never be very original, and words like copy or pastiche enters one’s mind. This is a basic rule for valuing originality, and it’s principle counts for the high-profile designer as well as for the green grocer around the corner, or your own grandma. This basic rule has developed itself over decades or even centuries and is embedded into human mind.

    In fact, it’s not true. When DuBellay wrote his first poems, he was aware that he plagiarized the old writers from Antiquity (Ovide, Horace, etc.) But he is known today as one of the creators of the French language. A lot of poets and writers have done the same during the Renaissance. When Descartes published the Metaphisics Meditations, a text that doesn’t quote any philosopher (against the manners of scholastic philosophy), his correspondents were surprised of it. Etc, etc. More closer to us, I can talk about Duchamps and his ready-mades, or the manners in which Heidegger developed his own thoughts by commenting Aristote.
    The American world often thinks you can create anything from your own: poetry, philosophy, art, music, politic, etc. But in fact, as Hegel said “philosophers do not grow like mushrooms”. Type designers have roots, like others. J.-F. Porchez has said it, you can’t escaped from the world around you, that made you, that drives you.
    When we read:

    One thing is clear, somehow the work of XD has problems with standing on its own, it is not really able to do that… so far.
    And that is, in itself, not so much a disaster when it happens once or twice. To be honest, this happens to every type designer, but usually it counts only for their first type designs. In the case of XD it seems that it counts every time.”

    If I understand, you must have a trick, a personal gimmick, because if you have not, you are a cheater. I think it’s too easy: have a gimmick, use shapes that remain each time you draw.
    Emigre says about Malaga of XD: “Dupré is the new global designer who can take disparate influences and fluidly process the information into a coherent whole.” It’s an another point of view, that I find more interesting. It’s not a shame to work this way. The great philosopher, Gilles Deleuze, has create his own system by commenting on Spinoza, Bergson, Nietzsche. Today a book on Nietzsche by Deleuze is considered as a book of Deleuze, not only a book on Nietzsche. One of his last book, Le Pli, on Leibniz, is very Leibnizien, but very Deleuzian also. By interpreting, commenting, fluidly processing the information, to quote Emigre, you can CREATE.
    It’s a false debate to pretend you can’t.

    Posted by JB Morizot on Feb. 13, 2010
  21. Fred – You spend a lot of your valuable time explaining your thoughts in detail, which I truly appreciate. But then you end with a quick throwaway but provocative declaration that seems to have no basis or explanation. Where do these two models of automobile enter into your argument?
    Typefaces are tools, not art. From a type user’s point of view, Xavier Dupré creates tools that are truly useful to a typographer. That they draw influences from various sources (in a way that is quite ethical in my view) bears no relevance on their value as a tool.

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 13, 2010
  22. Some quick remarks, unfortunately not really addressing the discussion at hand.

    (…), instead of listening, the FSI reaction does not get much further than just defending XD.

    Fred, sorry about the “corporative whore” sarcasm. I was simply alluding to the fact that contrary to what Allice implies I am not a spokesperson for FontFont. Whenever FSI asks if I want to write about a certain topic, I check if it interests me, and do a write-up if it fits my schedule. Just like I would with any request coming from other sources (where are those press releases by the way?). I’m afraid you mustn’t look at me to get that “FSI reaction”; in that respect there had not been an FSI reaction yet. It was I who was personally defending Xavier because (a) I like his work, and (b) I like him. Personally I’d rather move on to the next post.

    As soon as a so-called original piece of work shows its roots and influences in a very obvious way, and when these roots and influences remain obvious bits and pieces brought together and do not succeed of flowing into a coherent piece of work, then it can never be very original, and words like copy or pastiche enters one’s mind.

    Prince – soaking up influences from Little Richard over James Brown and Sly Stone to Jimi Hendrix – made some of the most fresh, exciting, innovative, and memorable music of the eighties. He was widely regarded as one of the top artists of that decade. And continuing the legacy of hip hop, arguably the most successful new music genre of the past decades, today sample artists are creating mind-blowing compositions. I have a couple of fantastic albums at home where the artists haven’t played one single note on an actual instrument.

    Jean F Porchez boldly proclaimed:
    >the best typeface designer today: Xavier Dupré

    John, I think Jean François boldly mistyped, and forgot to add the crucial word “one” before “of the best” in his last sentence. You left off the “of” in your citation, which pulled his quote out of context and altered the meaning of his words. In his first sentence he writes it correctly as “one of the best”. That’s his opinion; no need to turn this into a contest. :)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 14, 2010
  23. “Type System For The New Decade”, “best typeface designer”, etc:
    Not very modest. How about a bit more humor and self-irony instead?

    Posted by Jürgen Sanides on Feb. 14, 2010
  24. A Type System For The New Decade,” not The Type System For The New Decade.” The new decade starts, FontFont launches a new type system. No-one ever implied that FF Yoga is the type system that will reign supreme over the coming decade.
    one of the best typeface designers,”, not the best typeface designer.” I just explained the typo in Jean François’ personal opinion.
    Please don’t pull words out of context to make it sound as if Xavier or I said things we didn’t say. Whenever I spoke to or interviewed Xavier he was always affable and self-effacing, being very forthcoming in explaining his designs, but never making any statements about their perceived value nor comparing himself to others.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 14, 2010
  25. This is partly about details being “borrowed” from one designer by another. I just looked at Charter, designed by Matthew Carter in 1987. The stems are bracketed with 45 degree connectors. At the time that was a device to save data, just like Zuzana Licko did with her Matrix a little later. These brackets turn up again in Vendetta, by John Downer, 2006, and FF Yoga, Xavier Dupré, 2009. I am sure there must be others, and I have no idea whether Matthew considers himself the inventor of this device. Triangular brackets have been around for more years than any of us can remember, even connection thin upstrokes to serifs.
    Just keeping things in perspective..

    Posted by erik spiekermann on Feb. 14, 2010
  26. Ah, Yves, now we’re getting somewhere!!! (I Just wish that you had shown the correct weight of Vendetta. Show Vendetta Medium.)
    But that detail aside. I can tell you that I am in the habit of consulting with Matthew to get his OK before I release a typeface which I believe he might feel is too close to one he designed. His normal response is to reassure me that he doesn’t perceive my submission as failing the Helvetica/Universe similarity test. Moreover, he never seems to want credit for inspiring a design of mine which he, himself, regards as being sufficiently original and novel to be attributed to me alone. In short, normally he prefers to decline the credit I offer. This does not mean that I neglect to *offer* him credit.
    FYI: There are typefaces I’ve designed which have received Matthew’s blessing, yet to this day, remain unreleased. One is called Da Salla, named after Antonio Da Salla, a priest, scholar, and scribe who was a younger contemporary of Bartolomeo Sanvito. Robert Slimbach has interpreted Sanvito’s’ scribal work with full attribution in his typeface, Sanvito. I repeat: with FULL ATTRIBUTION.
    In addition, I have in my files test proofs (photostats) of a type Matthew began at Merg, which he based on the handsome italic of the Spanish scribe, Ferdinando Ruano. Matthew never completed the face. The exemplar can be seen in a manuscript book housed in the British Library. The specific tract is titled _La Paraphrasi_, by Flaminio. Matthew urged me to continue designing the face he had begun at Merg, but had not been inspired enough to finish. I consider this gesture to have been one of genuine trust.
    So, again, I demonstrate that cooperation and communication between established type designers is not only common, but is also not considered to be “ridiculous” (to use your word).
    Newcomers who are unfamiliar with the customs and protocols commonly practiced by professionals can blame their mentors for not teaching/enforcing these valuable pleasantries, formalities, and forms of etiquette … or blame themselves for refusing to honor them.
    Any other questions?
    If not, then I have one. Can Xavier say that Matthew was contacted in the case of FF Yoga?

    Posted by John Downer on Feb. 14, 2010
  27. John, do you really think that a triangular serif connection was invented by Matthew or someone else for that matter? I have always credited Letter Gothic as my main inspiration for ITC Officina, but there must be dozens of these details, for all sorts of reasons. Charter was early Postscript, so the reason was technical. But other designers have tried out pretty much every possible connection between stem and serif. Of course it is likely that most of us have seen Charter or even Vendetta, but that doesn’t mean you have to ask everyone who has ever used that type of detail.
    I have been influenced by every single typeface I have ever looked at, but I cannot remember what they were and what each one meant to me. Luckily, most of the designers of the old Berthold fonts are dead, so I don’t have to apologize to them.
    I am not defending Xavier or anybody in particular, because I don’t know how he works and whether he processes his influences directly or with a life-long delay like us older guys. But I do know that designing text faces means staying within a very narrow corridor of some 10% that can even be changed or else it wouldn’t be a text face anymore. If I wrote a letter or a comment every time somebody actually uses FF Meta’s data, let alone the shapes, I would never get away from my keyboard.
    Let’s concentrate on the real crooks. You know who they are.
    And sorry about showing the wrong weight of Vendetta. I just did some quick screen grabs and sent them to Yves without thinking about it very much. The point does come across.

    Posted by erik spiekermann on Feb. 14, 2010
  28. Hi Stephen,
    odd that the comparison with the cars is not clear: these ARE both useful tools, except that they belong to different niches. Besides, your argument regarding tools could also defend any wild rip-off as long as they are usable (read technically savvy,) and by that I mean packed with OpenType features or having a serif/sans counterpart. The quality of a type design/typeface comes from aesthetics and usability, more often than not one is inherent to the other.
    I choose a Fiat Punto hoping to make clear that I do not consider XD’s typefaces unusable. On the contrary! I am not interested in insulting somebody or lowering a product, I just want to maintain the right to call things by their proper name! XD’s work is built on quotes and this pattern is repeated OVER AND OVER AGAIN. That is exactly the reason why I make my opinion clear rather late, I could have expressed it sooner, with earlier typefaces. As nothing had changed, I am left to think that perhaps this IS a deliberate strategy.
    The issue here is not XD’s work, but the FF/FSI marketing role in this. And this blog is not the place to address it.

    Posted by Fred Smeijers on Feb. 15, 2010
  29. Erik Spiekermann erroneously concluded:

    Just keeping things in perspective.

    No, you’re not, Erik. You are not doing us a service.
    You may be trying, but you are failing. You’re being exceptionally sloppy. I can see that JFP may have made a colossal error in composing his silly ranking of XD’s talent, but your English language writing and speaking skills are far above JFP’s. Try to be fair when you offer evidence. You can start by doing the following:
    – Please show the right weight of Vendetta.
    – Please reveal the correct year of release.
    – Please show the entire y for Charter and Yoga.
    – Please hear what I say about the ritual of asking permission.
    If you bother to reread what I have stated about asking permission, I think you will more likely grasp the precise ethical issues I have been writing and talking about for decades.
    What you seem to be deliberately avoiding, is a discussion of whether the custom of asking permission is proper, whether it’s needed, whether it even exists on a widespread basis. I’m not going to focus on extinguishing *only* the big fires, and thereby forget about putting out the small ones. Small fires turn into big fires if you don’t stop them early enough. XD is burning many of us, and he seems not to have a care in the world about the reason we say “OUCH.”
    Erik, you know my views, and it is apparent that you have no effective challenge to them. All you’ve done, is resort to paraphrasing what the pirates ask. Pirates want to know, “What reason is there to seek permission from anyone who may have not invented ‘that style of type’ on his/her own?”
    For the record, Matthew dismissed any concern about the angle bracket when I was designing Ironmonger, in San Francisco, in the late 1980s (just a few years prior to the release of the first two styles of Ironmonger). He and I agreed that he had not invented the bracketing device. That was NOT the issue. I knew it well from my earliest experiences lettering high above eye level, on brick walls in the 1970s. However, at the time I was working on Ironmonger, Matthew was the only living designer I could name whose work in type (not hand lettering) incorporated this feature. So, I politely asked him for his views.
    Jump ahead nearly ten years. I was working on Vendetta. Matthew was no more concerned about my use of angled brackets then, than he had been earlier, in the case of Ironmonger. Obviously, neither was Zuzana. She and Rudy were serving as my Art Directors. They were not the least bit alarmed about any possible similarity between the serifs on Vendetta and the serifs on Matrix, I can assure you.
    (Again, Erik, you seem to have gotten things wrong. Worse, you’re managing to muddy the waters by discouraging an examination of the sanctity [sorry if this word is too “religious-sounding” for you] of individual design styles, as opposed to unownable genres of type.)
    But, back to my story…
    So, Vendetta comes out in 1999. A year or so later, while looking at something Fred has sent me in the mail, I notice that the structure of certain serifs in Vendetta are very much like the baseline and x-line serifs in Fred’s Quadraat Italic.
    Oh no! How did that happen? I was aghast. I couldn’t get over my own carelessness.
    Well, the only thing I could do at that stage was to write to Fred, describe my faux pas, apologize, and ask for his opinion. I don’t recall if I got a quick response. In fact, I don’t recall if I received a response at all — but I do know that Fred is an upstanding fellow, and that if there had been any resentment on his part, he would surely have mentioned it to me by now. Whatever tension may have been created by my faux pas has dissipated.
    Designers must get to know one another, and be able to communicate face-to-face. Not just by e-mail. That is not the way to “know” another person.
    Fred and I are not just casually acquainted — a fact which is very, very important in this discussion of treating colleagues right. I know Fred best from hanging out with him, the two of us, over a period of 3 or 4 days in LA, when I invited him to join me at an annual pow-wow of professional sign painters and gold leaf lettering experts. He does indeed speak his mind. I wish that I had been first to size up the bad habits of XD in the way Fred did, but again Fred has put it best, and he deserves full credit for it. This is oh-so-true:

    I just want to maintain the right to call things by their proper name! XD’s work is built on quotes and this pattern is repeated OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

    Amen. Call It What It Is.

    Posted by John Downer on Feb. 15, 2010
  30. To quote fictional self-important designer Mugatu, “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here”.

    Posted by David Earls on Feb. 15, 2010
  31. Yes, David. But you may have the spelling wrong. I think the pronunciation would be more like the sound of Mooguru. It has something to do with India, cows, gurus, mystical/divine inspiration, etc.

    Posted by John Downer on Feb. 15, 2010
  32. I’ll only stick to the car-metaphor, it hasn’t been pushed far enough and the other utterances here do qualify themselves.
    So Fred’s tools are Mercedes and Xavier’s Puntos? These are not only useful tools, but entail strong connotations! While the former might evoke money, elk-tests, pomp, virility problems and being full of oneself, the latter stands for a pragmatic and useful solution from Italy where, albeit all shortcomings, life is actually beautiful. And isn’t FS also in Berlin?

    Posted by Titus Nemeth on Feb. 16, 2010
  33. John,
    you know that I share your opinion about rip-offs, pirates, free-riders. I just wished the discussion wouldn’t get into details such as serif-shapes. That’s what I was trying to point out. We all know what we see, and you and I belong to a generation who did know everybody else in the business, so we could talk to each other. Now there are thousands of type-designers out there, and they simply haven’t got our old-fashioned habits.
    I grew up learning that tax evasion was theft, that one doesn’t throw away food and that mine is mine but yours is yours. Today’s moral is “mine is mine and yours is mine.” We should keep this discussion about moral issues and give the kids a chance to learn. I encourage everybody to talk to me when they are in doubt, as I talked to Zapf, Frutiger, Lange et al. I am not saying that we should tolerate intellectual theft, but be lenient with those who mean well and will learn. Not everybody who is heavily influenced by what he sees is a pirate.

    Posted by erik spiekermann on Feb. 16, 2010
  34. Oh Boys!
    As I get mentioned here, let me explain and update my opinion.
    I first saw Yoga prior to its release at FS in Berlin last December and immediately said: »Smeijers and Majoor, and others the longer I look at it«. (I was not that familiar with your work, John, sorry.)
    My feelings were rather not positive about that. But then I was told that Dupré himself stated those two in an interview as his main source of inspiration and the designers he most admires. (see interview)
    With that in mind I more thought about it as a hommage or like Yves compares it with music: sampling pieces of my favourite typefaces to make something, maybe not purely original, but visually interesting – a kind of »best of« of Fresco, Boekblad, Arnhem, Quardaat, Scala, Swift, Vendetta, Gill …
    So I think/thought Dupré does give credits to his inspiration (if that is consolation enough is another issue, see below). And I still think that it is an appealing variation on the theme.
    Though, meanwhile I have to say that Yoga Serif did not quite live up to my expectation of a text face for continous reading. I find it flickering quite a bit and the sharp parts stand out too much. But I still find it interesting in bigger sizes which makes it suitable for magazines, jobbing and also house-style work. And that is the market which is always craving for new, fresh typefaces = a market every foundry does/should aim at. So, from a mere marketing point of view, FSI does it’s job very well.
    Let’s take a look at it from the »tool user«’s perspective. Imagine I’m a designer looking for a typeface for a job. My all-time favourites FF Quadraat and FF Scala would fit perfectly but I used them over and over again in the last 18 years. My client, resp. customer is complaining already and wants a fresh, new typeface to look fresh, new and up to date. I’m glad I find something similar. And by that I mean similar qua impression, not in every detail of a letter. That’s why the direct comparison of single parts and letters doesn’t help much. A typeface can have largely different details and still look rather similar.
    I think the car-analogy doesn’t work that well, because car manufacturers don’t have something like a back-list.
    Think of it more like »Why should Vitra produce and market a new chair by the Bouroullecs when they already have the Eames’ classics in their collection?«. Because customers have different applications, taste, budgets and bottoms.
    Or, even closer to our case: »Why does a publisher still publishes more introductory typography books, when the already have mine?«. Because a) they hope to reach the clients, who didn’t take notice of my old book from their backlist and b) to even get those to buy it, who already own my one.
    I can’t blame them for that.
    Of course I mourn. But I also know, that a publisher can’t just live from his back-list. He’d very soon be forgotten and with him the good old stock. Yes, I am jealous, I also want features, reviews and promo material. Why don’t they do that for my 11 year old book? (Obvious.) So I go and make a new updated edition (read: Next, Pro, Nova … add more variants and open type thingies) but sadly enough it still will mostly be seen as something, which is around for quite a long while. The younger folks will go and buy the new books, possibly with similar concept and my ideas in it.
    And then a colleague like me now comes and says »hey, after all they mentioned your book in the bibliography«.
    Not a real remedy. Deep down in my heart I don’t want any competing products from any company around. But that also would imply, that I think my »product« is the ultimate, prefect take on the theme — a very silly, ridiculous thought.

    Posted by Indra on Feb. 16, 2010
  35. Erik, your sense of humor is inimitable! Fully intact, too.
    You stated:

    I grew up learning that tax evasion was theft, that one doesn’t throw away food and that mine is mine but yours is yours. Today’s moral is “mine is mine and yours is mine.”

    Which I’d further say is today’s moral as much as it’s today’s immoral. What a paradox. We need to keep the rules of engagement in the forefront, in order for them to be known, and hopefully, practiced.
    I reckon it would be best to articulate what we value about “our old-fashioned habits” for the benefit of any new type designers who’d actually be willing to listen. That way, they’d have a clear choice whenever etiquette is an option. All too many aspiring type designers today learn about digital tools BEFORE they learn respect, manners, ethics, and all-around good behavior (be it business or personal).
    In any business, or social construct, there is normally a “pecking order.” Those who are at the top of the pecking order seem to like it that way, while those at the bottom think it is a horrible arrangement. Trying to abolish the pecking order is futile. It has proven to be resistant to most forms of tampering. You and I cannot independently assign or affect rankings. The rankings (i.e., one’s status) will be determined primarily on the basis of personal achievements. Yet, it will also, to some degree, be based on one’s ability to fit in with others, harmoniously.

    Posted by John Downer on Feb. 16, 2010
  36. Academic texts employ the work of others as integral devices to complete an argument. These references are collated in the bibliography that enables any reader to look up that source and make their own informed judgments. Therefore it is not necessary for the author(s) to seek permission or approval from a source (which, for a variety of reasons, may not always be forthcoming) thus enabling them to steer the text according to their agenda. So while attribution is a critical part of academic writing, it does not become restrictive or determinative.
    I wonder if this approach is something that could be developed by a community of typographers/designers, who rightly care for attribution but nonetheless recognise the multiplicity of influences (overt and covert) and mechanisms (material and immaterial) that each work emerges from?

    Posted by Marcus Leis Allion on Feb. 16, 2010
  37. My better judgement is urging me to stay out of this, but I appreciated so much Fred’s long and thoughtful comment and wanted to develop and idea that he put forward:

    As soon as a so-called original piece of work shows its roots and influences in a very obvious way, and when these roots and influences remain obvious bits and pieces brought together and do not succeed of flowing into a coherent piece of work, then it can never be very original, and words like copy or pastiche enters one’s mind.

    The idea I want to pick up on is this ‘flowing into a coherent piece of work’, which I think is key to the transformation of ‘roots and influences’ into something new that stands on its own merits as much as on the shoulders of others. This is something that JB Morizot seems to miss in his response to Fred’s comment. I don’t think Fred is for a minute suggesting that typefaces, or any other creative product, can be produced ex nihilo or that this is what ‘originality’ demands. He’s saying that the roots and influences need to be subsumed into the new whole, not cobbled together à la Frankenstein’s monster.
    It’s a question I’ve been thinking about recently in terms of music, listening to John Taverner’s West Wind Mass setting and Ludwig Senfl’s Missa L’homme armé, both of which are based on folksong melodies (the latter one of several Mass settings by different composers based on this particular secular tune). What interests me in this case is not only the question of how something new is made from something old but how something sacred is made from something secular. I think the answer in both cases has to do with the transformation that subsumes the influences, the quoted melodies, into what Fred has rightly called ‘a coherent piece of work’, such that even when one is aware of their presence the new work stands on its own merits and in the new context that is has made for itself.
    I don’t highly value originality for its own sake: something may be original and simply not very good. But when a work makes use of ideas from other sources — or even ‘quotes’ those sources quite directly — then there is a dual obligation to acknowledge and to transform.
    [I don’t think there is a moral obligation to ask permission, as John Downer’s comments suggest, to make use of another person’s ideas (although there may be a legal obligation if the ideas are patented). Obviously, making use of another person’s ‘things’, e.g. opening up their font and making your design by manipulating theirs, is a different matter. If you think another person might be upset by the use to which you will put their ideas, it may be considered simply polite to explain to them what you intend and ask if this is okay, but politeness is not a moral obligation: its just a good idea for the sake of the community.]

    Posted by John Hudson on Feb. 16, 2010
  38. @Indra
    I don’t know if you use, or have ever tried, Fontographer. But I presume that you have licenses to use FF Quadraat and FF Scala, so you should be able to consult the EULA for each of them to determine if the following is allowed:
    1. Using Fontographer, open FF Quadraat and FF Scala.
    2. In Fontographer > Elements > Blend fonts, set the desired blend percentage and check or uncheck the next 3 boxes to suit your own tastes.
    3. Say OK, and see what result is achieved. If what you get isn’t exactly what you desire, play around with the settings to see if you can improve on your original effort. Any luck?
    If not, then so be it. But do not despair. Perhaps all is not lost. You may have discovered the “secret” to concocting a recipe for a delicious & nutritious smoothie. (Choosing ingredients carefully is always the key.)
    @John Hudson
    I can clarify both what I did mean to suggest, and what I didn’t, but please consider again what I actually wrote in posts above.
    Was I suggesting that impoliteness is some form of immorality?
    I don’t think so. My intent was to explain that there is an ethical component to morality. Ethics can encompass various things. For example, there is an element of protocol involved. There’s the matter of fairness, the concept of integrity, plus the notion of honesty, and frequently even a dose of business acumen.
    Let’s take the matter of fairness. I could say, for instance, that the principle of fairness is applied when 4 bank robbers split their loot into even shares, so that each one gets 25%.
    But it’s a silly argument. It ignores that a crime was committed.
    Just as there are crimes defined by legal statutes, there are crimes defined by moral norms. Violating the rights of a man or woman can be a case of acting improperly in either a legal way or a moral way. If you need further convincing, you have only to ponder the issue of consensual sex (between adults). If one of the persons involved either declines, or refuses, or is incapacitated to the point of being unable to consent, decline, or refuse, then the sex is NOT consensual. It goes by the name of rape. Often, a rape victim doesn’t become aware of the rape until after it has been committed, thus missing the opportunity to resist. So-called “rape drugs” are altogether too prevalent. But a shocking statistic is that a rapist who preys on a drugged victim is not necessarily the person who drugged the victim. It so happens that such rapes are “crimes of opportunity,” much as “free stuff” on the Internet is a big temptation for IP thieves. Easy pickings.
    This stark and graphic analogy will probably be seen by some as inflammatory. My aim is not to incite … so please hold your fire until you have a day or so to calmly think about the Rights issues: Moral Rights, Legal Rights, & their lovechild, IP Rights (who stands little chance of getting by on Public Assistance).
    I am not calling anybody here a rapist, and I’m not insinuating anything about the inability of those who are involved in this discussion to process and/or comprehend the issues at hand. I am simply providing an alternative way of looking at issues, in terms we seldom, if ever, see put forth for critical analysis.

    Posted by John Downer on Feb. 17, 2010
  39. John,
    That’s it, now we (well at least I am) are convinced that you must be taking some kind of weird substance. Please do consult someone. Somewhere someone can help you (maybe in India) ?

    Posted by Frank on Feb. 17, 2010
  40. @John Downer
    Not convinced that your analogy works for a number of reasons. Here’s one.
    To paraphrase Julian Young, violence/violation (rape in your example) is differentiated from damage (IP Piracy in your example) because violence/violation is essential harm, it prevents something from being (or becoming) what it is. While you may find ground to argue that you have been somehow damaged, you cannot assert that you have been violated, and so your future comments may wish to take that into account.

    Posted by Marcus Leis Allion on Feb. 18, 2010
  41. Frank, do you mean… Yoga?
    First step, beginning by a vegetarian or vegan diet which helps to decrease agression, paranoia and open the mind. I also advise Mr Smeijers to follow this way of life.

    Posted by Xavier on Feb. 18, 2010
  42. @Xavier
    Though the thread has gotten a little over-the-top, I think Fred Smeijers does have some very good and reasonable points that shouldn’t be overshadowed by the ensuing mayhem. I thought his comments were sober and not close minded, paranoid or aggressive.

    Posted by Jackson K on Feb. 18, 2010
  43. Whether you agree with them or not, I concur that Fred was quite articulate and level-headed in expressing his opinions, and made some valid points. Maybe I overreacted a little myself in my first comments. So let’s all take a deep breath and cut back on the name-calling please, or I’ll be forced shut down the comments to this thread. If you wish to continue this discussion, please stick to the topic at hand and don’t let it get personal.
    And although I will keep an eye on the comments, don’t look at me to be moderating this thing. I have more pressing matters to attend.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 18, 2010
  44. @Xavier
    while John Downer is an easy prey, your attack on Smeijers is a sign of either despair or shortsightedness (maybe both?). Rudeness is by no means a counter-argument to his views.

    Posted by Bart on Feb. 18, 2010
  45. Bart, I think Jackson and I already covered this, so there’s really no need to add to it. Though I don’t condone Xavier’s jab at Fred Smeijers, I will attribute it to his frustration and irritation over the many attacks he endured. Let’s move on.
    I just wanted to mention that I have added line breaks to everyone’s comments (especially the lengthy ones) to make them more reader-friendly. Due to some glitch in the formatting of the comments double returns do not translate in space between the paragraphs. This made some comments appear quite compact and heavy. I hope nobody feels “violated” by this. ;&#8202)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 18, 2010
  46. I shouldn’t have to say this: rape is a COMPLETELY inappropriate analogy.

    Posted by Elizabeth on Feb. 18, 2010
  47. No, Yves.
    Although half of the dicussion might be rather frustrating and offensive, I remain quite disappointed.
    This could have been a stage for you, Mr. Dupré, to explain yourself instead of giving us dieting tips.

    Posted by Indra on Feb. 18, 2010
  48. Elizabeth wrote:

    I shouldn’t have to say this: rape is a COMPLETELY inappropriate analogy.

    Hear hear.

    Posted by Sarah on Feb. 18, 2010
  49. @ Indra
    When 2 persons are offensive (like Downer & Smeijers) towards someone they never met, and don’t know anything about his life and how he works, I think an answer about yoga (!) and vege diet is quite peaceful (but not a joke!). I could be more aggressive as well.
    I know how I work and I am always aware of the criticisms that help me improve my work. But these criticisms above are without any basis and purely offensive, full of hatefulness.
    When I observe other typefaces, this is always to compare them with mine to avoid similarities, NEVER to copy certain serifs or shapes.
    Comparing my last serif faces FF Absara, Malaga & FF Yoga, we can see the evolution in my own work with the same concern; Venetian shapes, angles, sturdy serifs.
    When we arrive at a result similar to another design made earlier by a designer, this doesn’t prove it’s a copy. I didn’t know that ‘N’ in Yoga was quite similar to the one in Charter. Type creation is interesting when we tend to design plain shapes but these shapes may have some similarities with existing ones. UC or LC ‘i’ (the simplest one) is similar in most of sans serifs but we never say “this ‘i’ is a copy of…”.
    All my work is influenced by everything I see, but all my shapes are my own.

    Posted by Xavier on Feb. 19, 2010
  50. @ Elizabeth, Sarah:
    Dismissing as “inappropriate”an analogy/idea expressed by an opponent is not what I would classify as “critical analysis” of any description, substance, or consequence. If you can use your head, please do. I’m not positive you share one, but you do seem to be of like mind, the two of you. Try collaborating.
    You could start by asking XD for pointers. He has managed to “collaborate” with some of the world’s top type designers. You wouldn’t know this from reading the blurbs on his Web site, but don’t fret. His silent partners are beginning to raise their eyebrows as word is getting around — albeit virulently.
    As a matter of fact, I did consider what you have suggested I might want to consider in the future, and I thank you for the point you have made. Although I was unfamiliar with Julian Young’s writings, I will certainly continue to pursue the lead you generously gave. (More on this subject later, if Yves will allow it by keeping the Comments section here open.)
    Fred noted that Allice seems to be wondering why FF is now peddling & promoting second-rate products which are based on their own first-rate resources. It is a perplexing riddle.
    As a consumer, I recycle. As a vegetable gardener, I compost.

    As a responsible type designer, I stay out of other consumers’ recycling bins, and other gardeners’ compost heaps. I do not trespass to admire their produce or compare their vegetables to mine, either.
    While it is obvious to me that XD has been unable to make an original typeface that can surpass the integrity of the first-rate resources which served him as inspiration, I would add that he has also begun a pattern of recycling his own typefaces. Thus, he is deriving his latest second-rate products partly from his earlier second-rate products.
    Charting a career course in such a foolish way cannot initiate a progressive path.
    @Yves, Erik, Stephen
    We all know one another. We are not foes or adversaries. The fiery PR blaze this FF Yoga article has ignited is only a symptom of what Fred and I have been highlighting. He asked, rhetorically, and then answered:

    “What is going on here? I think the explanation is quite simple: some basic rules have been disregarded for too long…”

    Expounding on this touchy topic is, I would say, essential. If you stop to consider that the type review board which is assigned the task of periodically meeting in Berlin to make decisions about which font submissions will be accepted, it should be clear that not all members have vast experience in the discipline of drawing glyphs as a primary pursuit. It should also be apparent that the individuals in the industry who are most qualified to determine whether their designs have been co-opted, are not consulted during the selection process (which must occur in order to keep building the FF library). What’s needed is a second tier of screeners. Those of us in the industry who make an effort to regularly offer critiques of typefaces (at TypeCon, for example) sincerely hope that the industry will benefit. Unfortunately, there’s been a disregard for the expertise of old pros who are not members of the type review board. I can’t believe that no veteran outside the FF operation is either uninterested or untrustworthy. It’s up to you fellows, and your colleagues, to set in place a routine by which more careful screening is in force. One way to comply, would be to put a handful of recognized and well respected type designers on retainer. They needn’t travel to attend meetings. Send them PDFs. Hiring a backup team would prevent innumerable snafus.
    Your latest response demonstrates that you haven’t been well coached in the finer points of handling PR disasters.
    Here again, we see that you have come up short. I observe, as well, that Allice Black’s doubts have been fully realized.

    I doubt that guys like Xavier will change their practices due to such reactions, like mine.

    For immediate release.
    Public Relations Rhetoric Comes to The New Feudal System
    (from _The Nonconfrontational Respondent’s Handbook_)
    Rule 1: Issue a Concise and Dignified Statement to the Media
    Example 4a
    We wish to express our firm disapproval and palpable disgust regarding the recent events. As has been reported in the news, a particular neighboring tribe (you know who you are) staged an attack on our village, night before last. The intruders acted in a rude and belligerent fashion. They have taken our animals, abused our women, and devoured our young. Such hostility is totally unacceptable. The raid has upset many of our surviving villagers. We feel that the warriors who invaded our peaceful hamlet did not show us due respect or basic courtesy. In short, we are disappointed in the aggressors from the offending tribe.
    That is all we have to say.

    Posted by John Downer on Feb. 20, 2010
  51. Your latest response demonstrates that you haven’t been well coached in the finer points of handling PR disasters.

    I didn’t realise the ravings of a single lunatic constituted a ‘PR disaster’. It’s the same as the lone, rabid, furious protester outside a corporate building desperately waving his placard about while the pedestrians give him a wide berth, feeling sorry for him.

    why FF is now peddling & promoting second-rate products which are based on their own first-rate resources.

    Aw, boo-hoo. It sounds like someone isn’t getting enough marketing for his own second-rate products.
    Be careful people. Big Brothers is watching.

    Posted by Jane McGovern on Feb. 20, 2010
  52. Jane, darling: Lemme ‘splain you.
    I have no faces in the FF library. Hence, no promotion is expected from the FF advertising folks for non-FF faces. Capiche?
    In the FSI offerings, there are faces of mine which were published & promoted, sufficiently, prior to their inclusion in the FSI distribution channel. Again, no additional promotion is expected.
    I have no contracts with FSI. The contracts are between my *publishers* and FSI. Such deals are the sole prerogative of my publishers. I have never asked for a vote or veto.
    Look at the faces in the FSI library which I have designed. They’re all at least ten years old.
    Faces that old live on their merits, or die by their faults. I can assure you, from knowing how sales of licenses are going, that not one has stopped selling. This leads me to conclude that not one has yet fallen from fashion or become seen as a second-rate product. I bet you won’t hear anybody from FSI contradicting me on this point.
    Learn the business before you mouth off again, please.

    Posted by John Downer on Feb. 21, 2010
  53. This leads me to conclude that not one has yet fallen from fashion or become seen as a second-rate product.

    That makes sense on the surface, but even McDonald’s sells a million burgers a day. We’d hardly think their burgers are first rate, now would we? It would be a mistake for people to think that sales volume = quality, just look at the MyFonts sellers.

    Learn the business before you mouth off again, please.

    Mouthing off? Are you serious? You’ve just spent the last couple of weeks on a vitriolic attack on behalf of your (presumably) invisible cadre of ‘old-pro’ supporters. You could have sorted it out like a reasonable gentleman. But here we are, wondering whether the Downer legacy will be his typographic skills or his one-man crusade against the young ones, screaming at them to “get off his lawn”.

    Posted by Jane McGovern on Feb. 21, 2010
  54. Ten years is normally how long it takes to know if a typeface has “legs” and will survive in the rough-and-tumble of the ever-changing market. As Matthew Carter wisely says, “The cream will rise.”
    Sorry for the misunderstanding, Jane, but you have misjudged me and my motivations. You are trying to get the gist of what defines or drives me by what I write, or maybe design, or perhaps imply.
    This is precious:

    You could have sorted it out like a reasonable gentleman.

    Gentleman? Oh, wow. You’re really barking up the wrong tree, honey.
    There’s nothing inherently gentle about this man. Nor will there ever be. I am not temperamentally suited to softness, reticence, or gratuitous diplomacy. That’s not me at all.
    Contact sports which call for strength, stamina, skill and strategy are much more to my liking than is … uh … something like yoga.
    I’m now in mind of the recurring Saturday Night Live skit called Point Counterpoint, which I will make a note to watch after I’m back from my 2-hour water polo scrimmage this evening.
    Oh, one more slight correction. What I’m actually shouting is, “Get off grass.” (not “lawn”)

    Posted by John Downer on Feb. 23, 2010

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