Oxford University Press

Font strategy for content creation at world's largest university press

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford, which furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. The varied academic content in print and digital environments must address the top challenges for intelligible, elegant and accurate typographic rendering across technical notations and languages.

What did they need?

The Academic division created the role of "Fonts Specialist" in response to an identified business risk, since they did not have sufficient in-house knowledge or mature internal structures and procedures to manage this risk effectively. The press needed to centralise font policy at both a divisional and global level to improve transparency of risk management, control spending and clearly demonstrate expectations around font usage.

What did I do?

Over three years, I led the Academic font strategy to manage costs, risks and complexity of fonts assets for 4 locations: New York, Oxford, Toronto and Delhi with 1,800 in-house stakeholders as well as third party supplier management.

Specific highlights include:

  • Led rollout of Global Fonts Policy, that provides a foundation for font management across 23 locations, and 4 divisions worldwide.
  • Developed and presented fonts training curriculum, mandatory for editorial, production, and design staff. Over 75% approval rating.
  • Implemented fonts license adherence mechanism that successfully assured 100% compliance in third-party typesetting.
  • Supported editorial content needs with expert knowledge of multilingual, ancient language and scientific type requirements.
My approach

The press has quite a complex font history, with a myriad of different fonts with various license agreements and license numbers with differing restrictions on use. There are specific risks that relate to the licensing of fonts, and the penalties for misuse can be extremely costly.

I quickly identified that font intensive workflows often resulted in an “open border” that enabled free movement of unlicensed fonts in co-pubs, export, custom, reprint, M&A, third party, etc. Since the costs for re-typesetting are time-consuming, cumbersome and expensive, I devised strategies and procedures that would manage the risk with minimal impact on existing workflows.

There already existed a clear distinction between the provision and licensing of the Font management tools (Technology role) and the management and licensing of the fonts managed within those tools (Publishing Role). I led the creation of a global font policy and workflows that reinforce this distinction. The global font policy aligns font management approaches across locations, improving oversight to optimise spend and minimise risk to the press.

In parallel, I supported editorial content creation needs for esoteric, multilingual or technical type requirements. By leveraging existing standards, I promoted approaches that allow products to be delivered at fast past, in a way that can be easily adapted for a wide range of content needs across disciplines. This was supported by internal training, workflows and documentation for third parties.

The listing below defines the common character requirements, based on Unicode code charts:

  • Linguistic (Scripts, European Scripts): Armenian; Coptic; Cyrillic; Greek, incl. Ancient Greek; Phonetic symbols; Combining diacritical marks; Egyptian hieroglyphs; Arabic; Cuneiform; Hebrew; Phoenician; Thai; Chinese, Japanese, Korean (CJK) (Simplified & Traditional Chinese); Persian; Sanskrit; Samaritan; Runic; Syriac; Devanagari and the Vedic extensions (that combination allows reproduction of Vedic Sanskrit); Ethiopic.
  • Supra-linguistic (Symbols and Punctuation): General punctuation & symbols; CJK Symbols and punctuation; Miscellaneous technical; Ancient Greek numbers; Arrows; Currency symbols; Music; Vedic extensions; Mathematic, incl. advanced

I developed a keen awareness of technical limitations and content creation needs through self-directed learning, as well as attending conferences and lectures. To enhance my understanding of cutting edge technology, I joined the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as an invited expert and representative for the University of Oxford. As part of my role to address content creation queries, from internal and external stakeholders, I would create custom or modified sorts for esoteric type needs, as well as typeset complex notation and assure alignment with the Unicode standard.

Key Outputs

I led the font strategy to help the Academic division create policies and workflows that improve the way in which it handles its font requirements. Internal structures, training and procedures implemented include the effective management of font licensing and purchasing, font permissions and font compliance among stakeholders.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in this case study are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Specifically, the views are not respresentative of the opinions of Oxford University Press or any other institution. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author and – since we are critically-thinking human beings – these views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time.

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