Open Source & Hyper-capitalism
Jimmy Fallon introducing Måneskin : Teatro D’Ira Vol.I, featuring Sinistre by Jules Durand

Open Source & Hyper-capitalism

Luigi Gorlero

Part of the “job” at Collletttivo is managing relations. People get in touch with us through email or DMs to propose collaborations, submit their typefaces, ask for information or to just say hi. Replying is always a delightful diversion from whichever task we are focused on, but it routinely chips tens of minutes – if not hours – off the workweek. In most cases, however, these questions revolve around the very same topic of Open Source:

“How does the license work?”, “Can I use this typeface for my commercial project?” or “Is it really one-hundred percent free?”.

Safe to say we are the main ones to blame here; Collletttivo debuted as the first Italian Open Source type foundry over six years ago and we still have not managed to produce an exhaustive documentation on usage DOs and DON’Ts (but it prompted us to post about it recently, though).

However, we chuckle when – sometimes – these questions come dressed with a tad bit of suspiciousness; perhaps it‘s the sign of times haunted by overpriced digital “assets”, everything as a service and free* products riddled with aggressive user profiling / advertise bombing. Collletttivo has no hidden costs; as the license describes, our Open Source typefaces are free to 1) download, 2) install, 3) use (on both personal and commercial projects), 4) modify and 5) re-distribute. No extra catch.

Despite some minor ideological hurdles, our commitment to Open Source has never been in question. Collletttivo debuted in 2017 as a digital platform to publish our first type experiments. At the beginning, the catalogue was far from refined, containing an uncurated assortment of single-weight ducklings with missing symbols, unbalanced proportions and two-point Bézier curves. They were naïve and unsophisticated, but we all started somewhere. For many of us, this informal approach had to do with a rather unorthodox introduction to typography: three months after learning about the history of letterforms and the basics of shading, we had our first (proto)types done and exported.

With no means of local higher education on the topic – and during an era when the internet was surprisingly jealous of its typographical knowledge –, we banded together during evenings and weekends to sketch, design, review, learn the software and spread the word. We borrowed skills, inspiration and technical know-how from each other, developing and sharing methods and tools of collaboration. When the fonts were ready, open-sourcing them felt like the natural choice. The catalogue has since expanded to 12 original typefaces, downloaded over 200 thousand times and used all across the globe (one even went 5× Platinum!).

A <a href="" target="_blank">series of posts</a> by the Sony Music Instagram account featuring Ribes Black.
A series of posts by the Sony Music Instagram account featuring Ribes Black.

Looking back to where we started, the free price had possibly played a big role in our early success. Since then, however, the catalogue has been enriched and improved to industry standards. So, why do we still release Open Source?

We are strongly against the belief that free fonts will undermine the value of the practice; Open Source has the ability to bring visual artists closer to typography, inform their choices and produce better design.
We believe education should not be limited to teachers and knowledge be accessible to all those that seek it; type design is already plenty gatekept, hostile and obscure.
But more importantly, we believe not every creative product should be subject to the “rules of the market” as, in some cases, a price tag can hinder creativity, freedom and autonomy.

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