The story of open-source type, and why it's so important to us.
We are the founders of The League, the first open-source type foundry.
As designers on the web, we have a calling to raise the standards of the web-design world. We’re not the only ones who value good design, and it’s time for the web world to catch up with it.
We started The League, back in the beginning of 2009, as browsers were just getting the capability to use more than the 12 or so web-friendly fonts that everyone had installed on their computers.
As Google, Apple, and Mozilla finally pushed the code to enable custom
@font-face rules in stylesheets on the web, we, designers ourselves, found that nearly no type foundries allowed using custom fonts on the web.
As we were trying to push the boundaries as web designers, we came across an influential forum post. Paraphrasing, someone asked:
"As a student, are there any resources out there for me to learn how fonts are made? Are there any professional-quality free fonts, that I can open up and modify, use, and learn from?"
The reaction was overwhelming, and in a horrible way. Professional type designers came together to shun the poor student, saying things like:
- "How dare you ask for free fonts! This is our livelihood!"
- "There's no such thing as a professional-quality free font!"
- "Why should we share our hard work with you?"
As children of the amazing open-source software development community, we were utterly shocked. Design and development aren't that different, and we wanted to show everyone how much open-source could help.
We collected a few fonts, from our archives, from old classmates, and from strangers on the internet who believed in our mission, launched a site, and have been working towards showing the world that open-source type can be a vehicle for goodness since.
The Open-Source Type Movement
There are 3 reasons we believe open-source is good for the type community. We believe strongly in these 3 tenets, and we want to do everything we can to help empower designers to feel it, too.
1. Open-source Enables New Fonts
Open-source type, similar to open-source software, enables new type designers to make new things faster, by building on solid foundations instead of making everything from scratch.
2. Open-source Enables Licensing
Open-source type gives us a means to use fonts freely, across mediums, and without restriction.
3. Open-source Enables Education
Open-source type gives us the ability to inspect great fonts, and discover how they were made, so that we can learn how great typography works ourselves.
The Business of type
Now, the elephant in the room.
There are people who design typefaces for a living, and we want them to make money off of something that they do well. This revolution is not a movement against type foundries and type designers; it’s quite the opposite.
For designers who have contributed to our open-source catalogue, we do everything we can to promote their work & their commercial fonts, because we believe they deserve to make a living off what they're doing so well.
There's still a place in that business for open-source. We want type foundries and typographers to start thinking,
“Maybe there’s nothing wrong with giving things away sometimes.”
It’s not always about the money — sometimes it’s also about making a contribution to society, and in this case, the design community.
We all have a responsibility to our peers: to support each other, encourage each other, teach each other, and empower each other.
We’re not asking type designers and type foundries to sacrifice profit, we’re asking them to consider the benefits, to create a community where we not only have a high design standard for print and web alike, but also a community where we’re able to share our creations, knowledge, and expertise with our peers and the world.
Everyone’s Welcome to Come
As a user, everyone is welcome to browse, download, and use our collection of hand-picked typefaces. All fonts available by The League are subject to SIL’s Open Font License.
It means that you’re allowed to use these fonts personally or commercially, as long as you credit the original creators. You're allowed to modify all our fonts, and if you made tweaks and changes to the typefaces, any new typefaces resulting from it must be licensed under the same terms. That way all our work can always be open.
We Want the Best of the Best
As founders of The League, we use our best judgement whether or not to add a typeface to our collection. We don't include every free or open-source font that exists, but not because we don’t appreciate anyone who has something to share, because we want to maintain the highest of standards and the vision we have for our catalogue.
If you're interested in talking about contributing an open-source font you've made, are working on, or would like to make — email us.
The League members are a group of very special people.
It includes, us, the Founders, as well as the all important Contributors, and those interested in participating and supporting the movement.
These are the people who made it all possible, the reason why we have beautifully crafted, hand-made typefaces for everyone to enjoy, the people who help us fuel this revolution, and those who keep the open-source type movement alive.
So, thank you all. We're here to change the design world, together.