Interview: The League Of Moveable Type

Friday, September 11th, 2009

The League of Moveable Type is a new type foundry that gathers and provides opensource fonts.
Caroline and Micah, the two designers behind this project, decided to create a place to help out designers and typophiles.


Caroline and Micah met at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles where they graduated after working together
on Thegoodsideof.us, their senior thesis and an online community where people can share stories of their good deeds.
Using their creativity to make the world a better place one site at a time is an attitude that they kept and earlier this
year they founded A Good Company, their design studio which brought us The League Of Moveable Type.

DB: Let’s talk about The League of Moveable Type. Please, introduce this project yourself.

Caroline: The League started when we saw this thread on Typophile calling type designers for an open-source font project. We saw the negative reaction that it got from a lot of people, and thought that we ought to do something about it. We thought that it was a great idea, especially with the possibilities of what we can do with @font-face, it seems like too good of an idea to just let die. We also realized that there are a lot of free fonts out there, but more than just giving away free stuff, being designers (and most of our work involve the web) we wanted to raise the standard of typography and design on the web. So we came up with the idea for an open-source type foundry, where we focus on quality not quantity, so we can provide people with hand-picked quality fonts.

Micah: It’s funny, it kind of started as a dare. Everyone was saying “that’ll never work,” and “what a dumb idea,” and the rebel in me was just shouting, “Oh yeah?!” So we came up with this idea, it exploded, and now we’re trying to push even further.


DB: Why you chose to support the distribution of open-source fonts on the web? Is there a phylosophy about the future of the web behind that?

Caroline: Well, you see, we’re communists. No, just kidding.
The reason we support the idea of open-source fonts, is not so much because it’s free, I mean, yes, we like free stuff, as much as the next guy, but we also like the idea of groups of people, from different backgrounds, all over the world, working together, not for monetary incentives, but for the common goal of making something work better than the way it does now. It’s already happening with software, and we want to do the same with typography and design.

Micah: That sounds pretty Communist to me. I love it. That’s what the internet was founded on, and I think that’s the way of the future. People are making money on the internet right now, for sure, but I think it’s just a phase. Eventually it won’t really matter.

DB: was it difficult to launch the site and find other type designers that wanted to join you?

Caroline: in terms of finding people to join us, well, we’ve gotten a ton of support from people who appreciate what we’re trying to do, and that’s been really encouraging for us to work harder on The League, and make it better.

But finding type designers who are willing to give away their typefaces for free, is rather difficult, especially when their livelihood’s dependent on selling typefaces. But we’re also lucky that some designers are actually quite generous with sharing their typefaces, we’re talking about our wonderful contributors, of course.

We’ve been working upon ourselves to turn type enthusiasts into typographers

We’re super grateful that they’re willing to share their work with everyone, and we’re always on the look out for more designers who are willing to share their work or help us expand/finish/improve the fonts we currently have, because I believe that’s the way The League can sustain itself, if people come together and contribute to the open-source movement in some way.

DB: are you making some plans to expand this project in the future?

Micah: I think the biggest issue we want to face with our future plans is how to turn all the people who love typography but don’t consider themselves typographers, into typographers. If everyone who wants to help works together somehow, we can completely flip both the internet’s design community and the professional typography industry on their flippin’ heads.
We’re still very much brainstorming, so we’re trying to collect great ideas from anyone enthusiastic about the topic, and I cannot count the number of hours that Caroline & I have gone back and forth discussing crazy ideas of things we hope to do with this.

DB: how you think Moveable Type could help designers, why they should choose it?

Caroline: I think The League is useful not just for designers but for everyone on the web community. As a part of this open-source movement, designers, typographers, programmers, we can work together to improve typography on the web and elsewhere.

I like to think of us as a collaborative foundry

One of the things that I feel strongly about The League is that we want to offer more than just a site for free fonts. Yes, the typefaces are there for the taking, but free fonts is a finite resource, what we need is co-investments, we need people to also give something back and take away something other than free fonts, something like knowledge or collaboration between peers to make something awesome.

DB: what do you think about the .openfont idea by Tal Leming & Erik van Blokland? And about Typekit renting licences?

Caroline: I’ve been following the webfont discussion, and my personal take on it is this: type foundries, type designers, and entrepreneurs can use whichever solution they find most suitable for them, as long as it doesn’t mean getting rid of @font-face and forcing everyone to comply to one standard of webfont.

People should have choices. Leaving the playing field open will allow people like us (the type users) to come up with our own solutions. Companies and type foundries will continue to come up with different ways to deliver fonts on the web, from Typekit, to .webfont, to Fontdeck, as Johno of ILT says,

we’re all “just hacking away to find a solution that satisfies our demands until a workable standard… is eventually approved and we can all hold hands and sing songs.”

That’s fine with me, and there’s no reason why the open-source type movement should not jump at this chance and be just as active as those guys in finding a solution. I see this as a chance for the open-source community to work together and carve it’s own niche in the world of web typography. There are tons of excellent type foundries out there with high quality typefaces, there’s no reason why the same can’t be true for open-source type, I believe that one day “free” fonts (free in terms of freedom, not just price) will be as legit as typefaces released by a type foundry, it’s just a matter of time, and we’re just trying to do our part in it.

Micah: I have to say, Caroline’s much more open minded about it than I am. It didn’t occur to me until a week or two into the debates that it’d be okay as long as there was choice. It really seems to me that the big type foundries want to follow Microsoft or Columbia Records’ footsteps. They seem intent on DRM, which, in my opinion, hurts the users. I was in quite a tizzy about it all, truthfully. But I guess I’ll put aside my steam as long as The League is still able to do its thing. Cuz we’re gonna knock their socks off.


DB: is there a CSS3 property you are looking forward to be fully adopted? apart from @font-face

Micah: It’s just getting there, but I can’t wait till we use columns all the time. My personal blog uses columns, and frankly, it’s awesome.

DB: do you have any upcoming project you want us to know about?

Micah: Why, yes, in fact, we do! We’re playing around with this sweet new idea. Lettercase, we’re calling it, and it’s a social font manager. It’s in the earliest stages a project can possibly be in, but we think it could be intensely powerful, and while most of the details are still hush-hush, you should keep an eye on http://www.lettercaseapp.com

DB: last question, more of my interest then the audience: what music do you listen to while designing?

Caroline: I listen to all kinds of random stuff, you can see some of them here: http://blip.fm/chadilaksono

Micah: Dogs whining, to the rhythm of Bach’s Concerto in D Minor. Or Noah and the Whale, depending on my mood.

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Comments   1rss

    1. Comment by Andrew Cornett

      September 24, 2009 @ 6:29 pm

      Great interview & insight from Sox! I really enjoyed reading this interview.