(Reprinted from Print LI:II,
with permission from Print)
This article is about an unpopular subject, namely giving credit
where credit is due in graphic design annuals. With design being an
inherently collaborative process the question as to who should take or
deserve full credit for the final product has always been a matter of
In the past, it was common practice to simply attribute the entire work to
the star designer, the head of the company, or simply to the company
itself. Over the years, perhaps as the result of disgruntled employees and
other contributors who felt that their contributions deserved perhaps at
least a modicum of acknowledgement, things have changed. It became clear
that the anonymous assistants in many cases did much more than simply
realize the ideas of the great "conductor." This must have caused the
editors of design annuals to start listing a hierarchy of contributors
including art director, designer, photographer or illustrator.
For one reason or another, these lists of contributors have continued to
grow, to include printers, paper manufacturers, copy writers, clients, even
film separators. When the personal computer was introduced and graphic
designers took control over typesetting and other production functions
previously left to others, certain design annuals added software programs
and computer models to credit listings. In the introduction to one design
annual it was even suggested that the person filling out the credit
questionnaires and competition submission forms is as much a part of the
collaborative effort as anybody involved in the creation of a design. It
will only be a matter of time before the person making sure there's coffee
in the morning, or the cleaners who come in on the weekend, will receive
All of this, I believe, is a good thing. Comprehensive credit listings
function both as a nice gesture to thank the people involved in the
realization of a design, and they inform us, to an extend, about how a
design was created. However, among the ever growing lists of credits, there
remain two absentees: names of typefaces and typeface designers. With a few
exceptions, the bulk of the design annuals published today do not list what
is often one of the most significant building blocks of any design, namely
the typeface and, by extension,the typeface designer. This one piece of
software, the font, that can contribute the most to the look and feel of a
design, is usually not mentioned, even in cases when type is the only
visual ingredient of a design.
Type designers invest their artistic skills in their creations. And while
most design professionals regard type design as a valuable, creative
activity, it has suffered in the public eye because of a lack of
recognition. As a result, the works of type designers are often pirated -
something that has become easy with digital fontswith no reward for the
author who often has invested months, if not years, to create them. The
anonymity of typeface origins and their designers is an unfortunate
situation that has become increasingly detrimental to the field of typeface
Before the democratization of type, which resulted from the introduction of
personal computer technology, just over a decade ago, there existed an
established collection of typefaces and foundries that were familiar to
graphic designers, typesetters, and others who worked with type. The
introduction of new typefaces in those days was a slow process that allowed
ample time for the type community to become accustomed to the new designs.
Because everyone in the industry could identify typefaces, graphic
designers and typesetters had grown accustomed to leaving out credits for
the typeface names or typeface designers. Today, however, typefaces are
being introduced into the marketplace faster than anyone can keep up with
the selection. One way to keep the design community informed would be to
credit typeface names and their designers, whenever practicably possible.
Having witnessed, over the years, the list of credit lines in design
annuals and publications grow to include many peripheral professions of
graphic design, we took the initiative to approach publishers of design
annuals with a petition outlining our thoughts regarding credits. The basic
request was for publishers to add the categories of "type design" and "type
designer" to the credits listed in design competition submission forms. The
petition was signed by more than 30 fellow type designers and foundries and
sent to some 10 publishers in the U.S. and abroad.
Although the response to the petition has been positive, publishers agreed
in principle with the idea that the type designer and the font should be
credited, many raised questions regarding the practicability and logistics
of doing this. Following are some of the objections brought up by the Print
magazine editors. Our reply follows each point.
Designers can use four or five fontsmaybe even morein
one design. Crediting all of them would take up too much space.
If space is a consideration, then we would ask to list only the two most
Designers often submit work to competitions and/or publications
months after it has been designed and printed. In the case of work
submitted to a magazine for publication as part of a profile of the
designer, or a historical survey, the work may have even been done years
before. It is unlikely that the designer will remember what specific
typefaces he or she used.
First, our request focuses primarily on design annuals that solicit
comprehensive design credits in their Call for Entries mailers.
Second, it is difficult to imagine that a designer would forget the
typeface that he or she used in a particular design, especially for a
design they deemed worthy of submitting to a design competition. Designers
spend much time studying and picking fonts, and many designers use only
four or five fonts during their life time.
To solve this problem entirely, we suggest that designers credit the fonts
in the design piece along with their other credits. This is not at all
uncommon in book design, and makes it easy to identify which fonts were
used, no matter how much time passes since its publication.
While it is illegal to borrow fonts, designers, unfortunately,
do borrow fonts, and as might be expected with designers who engage in this
practice, they don't always know exactly what they have borrowed.
It is difficult to see this as a reasonable excuse since it is in principle
illegal to "borrow" fonts. Perhaps the designer who "borrows" fonts should
simply fill out the form stating: "stolen." It stands to reason that this
"borrowing" is somewhat the result of the anonymity of typefaces. It's
easier to steal from someone you don't know. By repeatedly crediting fonts,
and by attaching the name of the designer to the font, awareness and
knowledge will be raised, hopefully resulting in an increased respect for
the intellectual property invested in the design of a typeface.
Even if a designer knows, for example, that s/he has used an
ITC Garamond, how does s/he know who designed it? In a sense, that
particular Garamond is like a stock photo that belongs to a stock house
rather than to a photographer: It belongs to ITC rather than to the
While I understand the skepticism, I'm optimistic about designers being
able to identify typefaces. Designers are very passionate, picky, and
therefore quite knowledgeable about the typefaces they use. Also, designers
now buy their fonts directly from the manufacturers, which adds to their
awareness of the origins of the fonts. And when it comes to the classics,
designers have always been specific, to the point of snobbism, about
choosing one version of a particular font over another.
For those designers that are unfamiliar with the names of the designers of
the fonts they use, there's all the more reason to try and raise their
awareness. I should also note here that many type foundries can do a much
better job than they do currently in identifying the type designers whom
they license their fonts from.
In response to the question of whether the foundry or the designer deserves
credit, I would like to ask; should illustrators forego credit when their
work is done "for hire"?
What if the designer uses an identifiable font and then
manipulates it. Does the original designer want to be recognized?
Here, too, I need to respond with a question; should the photographer forgo
credit when his or her photos are being cropped, or should the writer
relinquish ownership when the designer manipulates the writing? These
questions run to the very center of the discussion regarding who deserves
credit for what.
All we ask in our petition, since there seems to exist a definite tendency
to list ever more credits, that design annuals also solicit credit
information for fonts used. There will always be situations, such as the
one described above, that are not clear cut. How to resolve this? There is
such a thing as a code of ethics in every profession. If graphic designers
enjoy the continuing influx of new type designs, and their usage shows us
that they do, it becomes simply a matter of decency that they acknowledge
and credit the fonts they use, just as they acknowledge the work of the
illustrators, photographers, copy writers, printers, etc., who make their
work possible. In the end, however, it is up to each individual designer to
decide how much of the spotlight they are willing to share.
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