Font designers can become legends and millionaires. Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, the celebrated type designers, created one popular font that costs $299 to license for a single computer. Now one foundation, with its project HomelessFonts.org, is hoping that the homeless people it serves can become successful font creators, too.
The idea is the brainchild of The Cyranos McCann, an advertising agency, and the Arrels Foundation, an organization that serves the 3,000-person homeless population in Barcelona, Spain. The funds raised through licensing the fonts will go to fund the work of Arrels in keeping people off the streets.
“This project aims to become an international reference point in this field and also encourage homeless from all over the world to participate in the initiative,” wrote Laia Gilibets, an account executive at Cyranos McCann, in an email.
To design the fonts, the project team held a workshop in which homeless people collaborated with design experts on a series of writing exercises. Using markers of different thicknesses, the participants “stamped their personality on the letters of the alphabet they set down on paper.” From there, professionals converted the letters to digital format and converted them to “usable” fonts while respecting the creators’ personalities.
There are the thick lines of Luis Serra font, based on the handwriting of a man named Luis Serra, a man who became homeless after struggling to find stable work. There are the curlicues of Francisco font, based on the work of Francisco, an older man who lives on the streets but used to be a graphic designer. There’s the childlike scrawl of Gemma, a 37-year-old who has been on the street after a series of misfortunes and wrong decisions. Now, anyone can go to the website and buy a license for one of several typefaces.
The price varies, but many fonts cost 19 euros for a personal license or 290 euros for a professional one. While companies work to brandish socially responsible images on their packaging, it couldn’t hurt to use socially responsible fonts, too.