AIGA and Adobe’s Fleecing of Design Students

I just saw a link on Quipsologies pointing to a “new” font collection from Adobe and AIGA called the Adobe® Font Folio® Education Essentials and gave it a click. It promises nearly 500 fonts in Open Type format, is available for pre-order and will begin shipping in April. This sounds like good news for the design students of the world (or at least North America), right?

I have to admit that I am skeptical.

Why would I, a design educator and lover of typography, be skeptical about a package of fonts touted by Richard Grefé, executive director of AIGA as “a true foundation for design students and educators alike”? Because Adobe has a history of releasing bad packages of fonts that look terrible and no one in their right mind would use. If this new collection is as crappy as the Adobe® Type Classics for Learning collection it will be a huge waste of $150. Don’t believe me? Look at the font list in this PDF file. I count 19 decent families and 52 worthless display fonts.

One of my problems with Adobe lies in the way they count the fonts. Most design students will see the number 500 and assume they will be getting 500 different font families. You know, Myriad counts as 1 font, not 34 (or however many different weights and widths of Myriad there are now). I feel this is a deceptive practice and takes advantage of design students and their student loan money. A lot of the fonts in this collection will come pre-loaded with Illustrator and Photoshop anyway.

One thing that is suspiciously missing from the website is a font list. Adobe has one for all of their other collections, why not this one? I always look at the font list before I buy collection, don’t you? Are they banking on the fact that most people will see the AIGA logo next to the collection, trust that it is what they need, and drop 150 bucks without thinking about it? I am sure the AIGA will receive a fairly decent cut of the profits for lending their logo and a few sound bites to the marketing effort. The EULA for this collection is also missing from the website. I am willing to bet that there is some fine print in there that prohibits a purchaser from using these fonts for commercial use, including freelance design work. If that is the case these fonts, legally speaking, will be useless after graduation. This whole deal just sounds like another way to squeeze more money from design students.

Of course, I could be wrong. This could be a great collection of fonts that students will be able to use while in school and after graduation. But I doubt it.


1 Comment »

  1. I think you are missing the objective of this collection. It addresses several issues that design educators brought to AIGA’s attention and some that we were wrestling with too. While it is easy for students to be seduced by extraordinary typographic forms, many were not learning the fundamentals of typography because assignments were not forcing students to discover how to draw the best out of entire families of fonts, for effect, not for style. They could not be assigned the problem or execute it because they did not have access to the fonts in a single place or, in many cases, legally.

    Educators wanted a collection that could be useful in teaching typography. AIGA was interested in finding a way to provide the tools to learn design while also making it clear that a design professional must learn from the start to respect intellectual property and pay for software. We were concerned with a young profession that felt strongly about having AIGA help them protect their own creative property but were appropriating others.

    So we gathered a group of educators who identified the attributes of typefaces that needed to be taught, sought as low a price point as possible to encourage students to purchase their fonts, and approached Adobe with a list of styles needed. Adobe was very accommodating in finding styles that would meet the pedagogic needs and for which they had the rights so that we could keep the price low.

    AIGA does not make any money from this collection. It is simply trying to help facilitate the tools needed to teach better. Adobe was not seeking any hyperbole in counting fonts. Our effort here was to work with the education community to fill a need. And there is no fine print limiting use. Representing the design profession and educators, AIGA believes Adobe was an extraordinary partner in adapting to the challenge.

    While you are free to disagree with the intent of this effort, we are responding to the pragmatic concerns of the design education community and young designers who are eager for stronger basic skills and understanding of typography. Clearly, you would have met these objectives with a different solution although I think you would be surprised at how difficult it is.

    You should take it for what it is meant to be. A teaching and learning tool, not the suitcase of fonts that will define your style. And it allows typographic design to be taught without being limited to fonts that are loaded on your Mac nor fonts that are, misleadingly, assumed to be available at will.

    Your doubt is your privilege. We try to help designers and educators solve problems they encounter; this is a real solution to a real problem, developed by design educators and typographic designers for a straightforward purpose. And we had a great partner in Adobe in making it happen.

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