Open Sourcing Fonts

Typefaces that can be freely used and modified give others a chance to hone their craft—and share valuable feedback.

The incentives to create open source fonts weren’t always obvious. In early 2009, a graphic designer and programmer named Micah Rich came across a forum post by a student who was interested in knowing more about how fonts worked. The student asked whether there was a professional-quality open source font to learn from. The replies weren’t kind. “There were like 20 pages of professional type designers saying, ‘This is our livelihood, how dare you ask us to work for free?'” Rich says.

Rich understood where the designers were coming from. Type design is a laborious craft. In addition to drawing hundreds or thousands of individual characters, you need to define the relationship between characters or groups of characters. It takes months of full-time work to create a new font. But the complete dismissal of the open source model bugged him.

“I would never have learned anything about code if not for open source,” he says. “Design and programming are not that different.”

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