Why typographers should beware of the bundle

Michael Paul Young is the owner and creative director of YouWorkForThem, one of the world's last remaining large-scale independent font shops. He explains why typographers need to stop devaluing their work...

Michael Paul Young

Michael Paul Young

Because I love type and design, my goal since starting YouWorkForThem in 2001 has been to help foundries and designers by providing the coolest fonts in the coolest shop. A niche. An independent corner of the space people discover and tell their friends about. A place where I'd shop.

In recent times, the font marketplace has trended toward deep discounts, where SALE, SALE, SALE is the message. The presiding 'Fontopoly' dictated it, and the foundries fell into lockstep.

One by one they have chosen to bring the 'HUGE DISCOUNT!' methodology to each of their new releases.

TJ Evolette A is unique, customisable, experimental, fashionable and clean font on YouWorkForThem

TJ Evolette A is unique, customisable, experimental, fashionable and clean font on YouWorkForThem

I've watched the steady progress of this trend as one watches a spreading rash. Even as I write, the 'bundles' are coming, and they're going to bring everyone down. It's a race to the bottom that I haven't even been able to bring myself to address beyond a tongue-in-cheek tweet.

So I was taken back when we received some feedback from a foundry that requested we pull their whole catalogue from our shop, because they were not able to "resist this trend somehow".

Spreading rash

What truly floored me was that even though they acknowledged that the Fontopoly was to blame for this trend, they were still going to sell their fonts there.

So I submit to the font community, and the design community as a whole. Look closely at this rash of deep discounts and bundles as they continue to spread across our space, mandated by the Fontopoly with such presumed authority that even designers who deplore such methods are forced to capitulate.

The monoline script Filmotype Lucky was originally penned by Ray Baker in the early 1950s. Buy it on YouWorkForThem

The monoline script Filmotype Lucky was originally penned by Ray Baker in the early 1950s. Buy it on YouWorkForThem

Fonts are worth more than that, literally and figuratively. We see examples of custom licenses constantly, with clients requesting special use and willing to pay big money.

Custom font design is a valuable, rare niche. Don't devalue this precious commodity by giving it away, or giving in to the pressure of the 'bundlers'.

Stop giving your work away

Another devaluing trend is the 'renting' of font licenses, which we're now seeing turn to an app-based model. But that doesn't compare with the bundlers who are contacting somewhere between 100 and 500 foundries/designers regularly, asking everyone to contribute.

Then they sell those 100-500 stock items for $1.00 or some similar insanity, with the perceived 'value' being big exposure.

This is the farthest thing from the truth, since it devalues the work and you get no exposure. But it also means so much stuff gets dumped on the customer's plate that they don't even know what they've got.

It's like buying a couple of hundred cheap knock-off toys versus one good set of Lego.

Look, selling a font for a small discount to attract attention is smart. Sure, do it. Put some stuff on sale. But 80 per cent off? 90 per cent? I say your work is worth regular price. Stop giving it away.

Illustration: Żaneta Antosik

This article first appeared inside Computer Arts issue 244: Earn More as a Designer – on sale now. Get up to 54 per cent off a subscription to CA here.

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