I’m a newbie at designing fonts, and I’d like to start with something. I’m a fan of the Baskerville font, which has the added benefit of being in the public domain. I’d love to be able to start from the originals, so I can’t learn by making adjustments to an already widely used font.
Does anyone know where I could find them?
Or more generally where I can find original files for public domain / open source fonts? I would love to find a collection of UFO files for a range of common fonts, for example.
You need to keep in mind the difference between the typeface (the visual form of the letters) and the font (the digital manifestation of the typeface). While for most typefaces designed by people that are dead, it’s fairly safe to assume that the designs are not protected anymore, for the fonts it may be different.
Not wanting to go into the discussion of copyright protections for fonts, if you want to be on the safe side, a common duration of copyright is the death of the author plus 70 years. It will be hard to find digital source files for such fonts. So you should assume that you need to look for fonts that have been explicitly placed in the public domain, or check the licenses of other fonts and see if they allow what you want to do.
I’m aware of two Baskerville revivals licensed under the OFL, thus are free to modify:
If those are not sufficient, you could search for scans of Baskerville type specimens and use them as a model to draw you own version from scratch. Then you can do whatever you like with those, even license them to others under your own terms.
The OFL (Open Font License) has the condition that any derivative versions must also be licensed under the OFL. If you don’t want that, you should draw your own version from scratch. You will also learn more by doing so
Many Google fonts have sources available
Just want to point out that this may not be a good way to learn. A beginner tweaking a finished professional work? It might be more helpful to do a proper revival from scans
It definitely isn’t a good way to learn, much like you don’t learn cooking by sprinkling salt and pepper on a finished dish.
You all would know much better than me! But I have to say I’m surprised to hear everyone say this. To use the cooking metaphor… the way most people learn to cook is by learning existing recipes, tweaking them, and eventually trying to invent their own recipes from scratch. It’s pretty daunting to try to invent a new recipe having never cooked!
You’re not inventing a new recipe. As Toschi said, you’re rather looking at reference material in order to reverse-engineer an existing recipe, if you like. Sure this is a long, time-consuming process, but that’s no doubt how you will learn the most. Tweaking a finished product, you will rarely even realise what you are tweaking and why it was made the way it is.
If we stay with the cooking recipes, changing an existing font is like learning to make pizza by messing with a frozen pizza.
When you start to design type, the most important things to learn are rhythm and contrast. Rhythm is mostly about spacing (the width/proportion of the shapes and more importantly the spacing between them). If you start with an existing font, you can hide behind the decisions made by the original designer.