Brick by brick: News about FontStruct
Posts from Rob Meek (meek)
FontStruct is a wonderful free tool for creating usable, modular typefaces. Sometimes however you may find yourself reaching its limits. If you want control over kerning, vertical metrics, OpenType features or cubic béziers you need to reach for an additional tool. Until now there was just one way to do this: You download your FontStruction as a TrueType font and then edit that font in the desktop font editor of your choice.
This week we’re introducing a great new option for Mac users in partnership with the guys from Glyphs.app.
With the new “Export to Glyphs” feature you can download or export your designs in the .glyphs format used by the Glyphs desktop font editor. One significant advantage over editing a TrueType is that the individual bricks are included in the file and can be edited with complete freedom. You also get cubic béziers (rounder circles!) and access to all the advanced editing features that Glyphs has to offer.
You can choose to download your font files as .glyphs files from the download page, or use the new Export -> “Glyphs” file option from the menu in the FontStructor.
If you’re a Mac user and would like to give Glyphs.app a try, you can download a free 30-day trial from glyphsapp.com. To get an idea on how to work with Glyphs, see their “Getting Started” page, and take a look at the short tutorial videos. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the “Glyphs forum”.
The above image shows a clone of “zapphire eYe/FS” by “elmoyenique” being edited in Glyphs.
Below you can see the individual bricks waiting, all ready to be tweaked, swapped out and generally transmogrified.
FontStruct continues to be used to introduce students to the process of typographic creation in schools, colleges and universities all over the world.
This summer, the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin is hosting the exhibition ‘ON-TYPE: Texts on Typography’. For the supporting programme, Bernard Stein and Florian Hardwig organized a special event about teaching type design. They invited three type designers to present their respective approach to teaching. On July 24th, Martina Flor, Martin Wenzel and Dan Reynolds talked about their preferred methods and tools.
As an interlude, Florian Hardwig showed student work created at HBK Braunschweig. Florian has been offering FontStruct workshops for several years now, as part of his introductory typography course. “What I like most about FontStruct is that beginners can quickly go through all relevant steps of font creation, without getting lost in details. On one hand, trying their own hands at it teaches the students more respect for typefaces and their designers. On the other, it lowers the barriers to entry into type design, when they realize that it’s not some magic, and that they can make their own font within hours.”
Jakob Grommas designed a large-sized poster, showcasing selected FontStructions from the Braunschweig workshops.
Thanks to Florian and his students for sharing their work with us.
P.S.: ON–TYPE is on display until August 11th. If you happen to be in Berlin, grab your last chance to see it this weekend!
We added three new licensing options to FontStruct today:
- The FontStruct License
- The FontStruct Non-Commercial License
- An All Rights Reserved “No Download” Option
The FontStruct Licenses: Control over distribution
We’re introducing two brand new licenses produced especially for FontStruct. Like the existing Creative Commons licenses these allow FontStructors to share their fonts as free downloads. Downloaders are free to use these fonts either commercially or non-commercially depending on which of the two is used. What’s new and different is that both FontStruct licenses prohibit redistribution of the downloads by anyone apart from the designing FontStructor. If you share your work using these licenses, people may not, for example, put your FontStruction on a CD of free fonts without your permission, or offer your FontStruction for download from their website without your permission.
Over the past five years, countless FontStructions have spread virally, appearing as downloads all over the web, especially as part of large font repositories such as dafont.com or fonts101.com. I know some users enjoy this viral spread and if you do, you should continue to use the appropriate Creative Commons licenses.
If however you want to exercise some control over how your designs are distributed, and if you want to ensure that people always come to your FontStruction page at FontStruct.com to get the latest version of your design, then you should try the new FontStruct licenses. There are at least three strong arguments for asking people to come to the original source here at FontStruct.com to download your designs:
- At FontStruct, they will always get the latest version rather than something outdated that somebody down- and uploaded 3 years ago.
- At FontStruct, they will have the opportunity to enter into dialog with you, the designer. They might tell you what they are using your font for, they might request some customization, or maybe just give you some feedback.
- It is always good for the FontStruct project to have more visitors coming to our site.
Note that the new FontStruct licenses do not prohibit other websites from offering FontStructions as downloads by linking back to the relevant FontStruct download page.
The new FontStruct licenses have been reviewed by a legal professional.
Have a look at examples of the non-commercial and the standard versions.
The All Rights Reserved “No Download” option
We know for some of you the two new FontStruct licenses don’t go far enough. You may enjoy showing your work and sharing it with the FontStruct community but you may not wish to share your FontStruction as a download. Maybe you sell a version of your work elsewhere, or plan to do so in the future, or perhaps you have made a FontStruction for a client who does not wish it to be shared as a download.
For this reason, we are also introducing a new “All Rights Reserved” licensing option which basically means others can look but can’t download.
I hope the majority of FontStructors will continue to share their work as downloads using the other licenses, but I also hope this new option will encourage some FontStructors to reveal some of their precious, hidden masterpieces by sharing them on the site. With almost 700,000 FontStructions in our database, only about 27,000 are shared. We’d like to see more of the iceberg.
I just want my font to be free for others to use
If you want to open-source your design, and make it free for all kinds of uses, you should choose one of the existing Creative Commons (CC) license options.
Choose one of the non-commercial licenses if you don’t want people using your designs for money-making projects without your permission. Choose one of the no-derivatives licenses to prevent other designers from cloning your work. Cloning is a wonderful way to share, teach and develop collaborative font designs, but occasionally people publish unaltered or minimally tweaked clones under new names. It’s difficult to stop this unethical practice, so think carefully before choosing a license which allows cloning.
Most FontStructors come here to have fun and create and share their designs, not to plough through pages of legalese. But when you reach a point where you see your designs maturing, your character sets growing, and you find your FontStructions being used in earnest by others, you may want to spend some time thinking about your choice of license.
I strongly encourage everyone to read the updated FAQ article on licensing.
Edit August 5th 2013: We’ve also since added support for the CC0 Public Domain Dedication “No Rights Reserved”.
Five years ago on April 1st, 2008 FontShop launched FontStruct.
Since then we’ve had almost 800,000 confirmed registrations and more then 650,000 FontStructions have been created.
Every day, designers use FontStruct to create new work, or as a resource for finding grid-based, modular fonts. FontStructions are in widespread use in projects all over the world. We’re also especially happy to have seen FontStruct emerge as a widely-used tool in typographic education.
Over the past five years, cautiously but steadily, new features have been added to FontStruct and we intend to continue with this development in the five years to come. To celebrate our birthday looking forward, we wanted to launch a new feature today.
For the first time you can now adjust the proportions of the FontStruct grid itself by scaling it horizontally and/or vertically. Make sure you are in “Expert Mode” then you will see the new controls in the “Filters” palette (Menu > View > Filters).
Grid scaling allows you to define your own brick proportions, opening up a myriad of new creative possibilities. The most obvious use for the feature would be as an aid in creating extended and condensed fonts, but I have no doubt the proven genius of the FontStruct hive-mind will come up with some wonderful and unforeseen applications.
Grid scaling is a feature which was discussed and planned before the initial FontStruct release but just never made it until today. I’m excited to see what FontStructors can do with it.
NOTE: Some people have already noted that the new feature also allows you to effectively increase the zoom level by a factor of 2. I hope that is useful to people with small and low-resolution screens, BUT the zoom was limited for a reason, so be careful with the scale of FontStructions. Working at high-resolution can get slow and frustrating, you are more likely to have technical problems – with saving for example – and you are likely to lose detail in your downloaded fonts.
Thanks to all FontStructors past and present for filling the grid with your modular wonders over the last five years, and a special thanks as always to our generous sponsors FontShop.
Good night and happy FontStructing.
Happy new year everyone! Some great news to begin the new year is confirmation of the continuing sponsorshop of FontStruct by FontShop, the original independent font retailer. This means that server costs, and the ongoing support and development of new features on FontStruct are already guaranteed right through 2013.
FontShop launched FontStruct in 2008 and their generous funding of this free design service demonstrates their special relationship with the global community of designers and typographers. With over 600.000 genuine registrations and a similar number of FontStructions in the database (about 23.000 are publicly shared) FontStruct has established itself as a unique resource for modular, grid-based type. We’re particularly pleased to see it being used in schools, universities and art colleges around the world as an introductory teaching tool. FontStructions are also in common use in all kinds of design projects around the world.
Thanks to all FontStructors for sharing your creative energy, and helping to build the incredible typographic assemblage we see growing each day in our gallery. And thanks to FontShop, we can look forward to more wondrous creations in 2013.
Web Font bug fixed
Many FontStruct users have expressed a wish to try and use FontStructions as “web fonts” (typefaces used to display part of a specific website). The most convenient way to do this for FontStructions is to use a free online tool such as Font Squirrel to prepare the fonts in the appropriate formats. Unfortunately, until recently, this conversion process was not working.
Now, thanks to repeated prodding by FontStruct users and the kind help of the guys at Font Squirrel, we have identified and fixed a significant bug in the FontStruct font generator the “Font Mortar”. FontStructions should now work with the free-to-use “@font-face generator” from Font Squirrel to produce working web fonts. Their generator is an extremely well thought-out and useful tool which I would highly recommend.
Ideas for the next Competition?
The last competition was so incredible, I’d like to launch the next one soon. If you’d like to suggest a concept or theme for a FontStruct competition please let us know in the comments to this post.
Thanks and Happy FontStructing!
We activated 40 new bricks today. First up are eight gorgeous and gothic “Fin” bricks (above) as suggested by truth14ful. truth14ful also requested the four new “Kite” bricks …
… the 8 new “Shard” bricks …
… and 4 “Propeller” bricks.
Thanks for such a wonderful group of suggestions truth14ful! These are all simple and beautiful geometric shapes which logically complement the existing brick set. I don’t think any of them could be created with the current compositing or stacking options.
The so-called “house” bricks could be made as composite bricks, but it’s convenient not to have to do that. djnippa and others have been clamouring for house-shaped bricks for ages. Sorry its taken so long!
Finally will.i.ૐ suggested these small corner bricks, and logic demands them!
All of the new bricks shown here were requested in the suggestions thread on the unofficial user forums. Thanks again to demonics for taking the initiative there.
Changing the brick palette (All Bricks and My Bricks)
Despite the growing number of bricks, we decided to keep the brick palette more or less as it is for now. It’s simple and does the job. But we have added a new option to resize the palette horizontally. This may help users who have a very large number of bricks in the ”My Bricks” window to get an overview.
The Stencil competition was a resounding success. We saw a record number of entries (70!), a great diversity and originality of approach, and overall an extremely high standard of FontStructing.
I was a bit unsure about the “Stencil” theme when we chose it for this competition. I thought people might find it hard to produce something fresh with so many great stencil designs on FontStruct already. How wrong I was to underestimate the creative energy of the FontStruct community. Well done everyone!
Down to business. There was one standout winner which appeared in each judge’s top three, and was also chosen by the community as the “FontStructor’s Favorite”: “db Smoothie” by beate. db Smoothie is an unusual, but highly usable and technically-perfect stencil-FontStruction. Ray Larabie wrote:
db Smoothie bolsters the stencil cuts by lopping tops and bottoms strategically. But it does it in a way that accentuates the differences between letters. That’s something that a lot of other entries missed. You can minimize without making letters look uniform and overly modular.
In fact beate could have won several times over. Ray also enthused over “db Karton” (seen in the image at the head of this post):
db Karton avoids the usual stencil cliches and goes with a counter-less style. I love how the C & G avoid the commonplace “Pac Man” deco pastiche. The squared sharps allow a tight fit, which makes it really useful as a poster or headline font.
So well done beate!
The second winner is Thorin by Frodo7. Ray was smitten by its subtle qualities:
Thorin was my favorite entry. There are a lot of soft stencils around that would fit with a classic military theme, but Thorin has a plausible, contemporary military style. The optimal cuts and low-res polygonal flavor evoke an eerie digital camouflage voice.
The third winner is the brilliantly named and executed Crazy Fredericka by four, a fun, legible and eminently usable form of insanity. High five four!
Winners will be contacted soon about their prizes.
If you entered and didn’t win, please don’t be sad. You were all amazing. And of course if you can’t wait for the next competition to win a poster, you can still order it.
Special Mentions and Thanks
In the course of the competition we were delighted to welcome back funk_king and geneus1 to public FontStructing. Their spectacular returns for the Stencilcomp are one more good reason to hold competitions more often.
We’ve also recently seen the welcome return of jmarquez and, assuming I haven’t been fooled by some nifty photoshopping, congratulations on the amazing knifework for the competition sample!
Finally thank you to will.i.ૐ for his truly incredible innovations most recently in this competition, his willingness to share and unsung, behind-the-scenes volunteer work on FontStruct.
Protective hats off to our guest judge Ray Larabie, and honorary staff judge Stephen Coles who gave us a lot of their valuable time for free. As you can imagine it takes to long time to have a conscientous look at 70 FontStructions.
Ray Larabie is a Canadian font designer who has, for the past 15 years, created over 500 font families. He continues to create new fonts in his new home in Nagoya, Japan. More info about.me/raylarabie
Stephen Coles is an honorary FontStruct staff member, writer, typographer. Editor of Fonts In Use, Typographica, and The Mid-Century Modernist. He lives in Oakland & Berlin.
Rob Meek designs, develops and runs FontStruct.
Watch this space. We’ve got some new bricks coming soon.
In the meantime. Happy FontStructing!
It’s been quite a while since FontStructors have had the chance to battle for fun, honour and prizes in an official competition. Now, the wait is over.
The brief for this latest competition is to design a FontStruction for stenciling. All entries to this competition should be some form of stencil FontStruction published on or before October
12th 13th 2012 and tagged with “Stencilcomp“.
There’s quite a diverse collection of wonderful stencil designs in the FontStruct gallery already, both categorized and tagged, and FontShop also has a huge collection of stencils fonts to admire. But, perhaps a better place to look for original inspiration would be in your life and in the world around you. We hope you will be gripped by the pragmatic and purposeful spirit of the stenciling tradition.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with stenciling you can find lots of great resources online – introductions and tutorials, both basic and detailed. One important idea is that of islands and bridges. For a reusable stencil there can be no islands without bridges! Here are some examples including a Helvetica “O” with its isolated island, some stencil letters with bridges (in yellow), and an apocalyptic approach – no islands!
Every entry to this competition should be accompanied by an uploaded sample. You certainly don’t have to, but we would strongly recommend making and applying an actual stencil from your work.
Here are a few examples of great stencil designs from the FontStruct’s archive. Below that come the detailed competition rules which you should read before entering.
Competition time period
September 21st – October 12th 2012
1. You must be a registered FontStruct user.
2. Your submission(s) must be posted and made “public” between September 20th – October
12th 13th 2012. Although you are encouraged to share your submission(s) at any time between these dates, your FontStruction submission(s) must be public (marked “share with everyone”) no later then October 12th 13th at 11pm PST. Additionally, your submission(s) must remain public until October 26th in order to give the judges enough time to review all qualifying entries.
3. Your submission(s) must be tagged with a “StencilComp” tag. (For fairness, during the competition time period, September 21st to October 26th, no FontStruction with the “StencilComp” tag will be awarded a Top Pick or be available for a Featured FontStruction pick.)
4. Your submission(s) must be downloadable. If your FontStruction cannot be downloaded, the submission will be disqualified.
5. Your submission must be a newly published FontStruction. Simply adding the “StencilComp” tag to an already published font is not allowed.
6. For each submission, you must post at least one sample image in the comments of the FontStruction.
7. No letters in each submission can be MORE THAN 48 bricks high.
8. FontStruct cloning is permitted but the judges will be looking for original work.
9. You may enter up to three FontStructions to the competition.
10. This is a friendly competition. Cheering, favoriting and fun banter is encouraged but cruel and uncivil behavior will not be tolerated.
11. No rules regarding licensing. You may choose any Creative Commons license you like for your FontStruction.
Judging and announcing the winners
All qualifying FontStructions will by judged by the FontStruct staff and guest judges, between the October
13th 14th and October 20th. Three prizewinners will be chosen. One of these will be the FontStructors’ Favorite. Winners will be announced in a FontStruct Blog post on October 26th.
All winners will receive a signed and numbered copy of the FontStruct poster.
In addition, all winners will have their winning FontStructions posted as Featured FontStructions for two weeks after the winners are announced.
The valid entry with the greatest number of legitimate favorites at 11pm PST on October
12th 13th will be one of the three prizewinners.
Spread the Word
Tell your friends. The button floating above every FontStruction is a really quick and easy way to point your friends and followers to your work. Maybe you can drum up some more s for your entry in that way, or entice some novice FontStructors into the game.
If you have questions just add them as comments to this post.
Let’s get FontStructing!
100 FontStruct posters are now on sale at Etsy. The price is 10€ plus postage for those whose work appears on the poster, and a madly reasonable 20€ plus postage for everyone else. All proceeds will go towards paying for the printing and admin costs. Any surplus will go towards the further development of FontStruct. You’ll find some preview images in this post. Click on them for larger versions.
We quietly launched a new version of the FontStructor editor last week. So what’s new?
We thought long and hard about the best way to add new features to the FontStructor editor without cluttering up the interface. Experienced users wish to create complex and sophisticated designs with FontStruct, but the platform has also always been about simplicity, ease-of-use and a non-technical approach to type design. How can we keep the interface simple and intuitive, whilst supporting those who want to push the boundaries of grid-based, modular design even further?