Hello Reddit! We are Allison James and Dan Johnston, also known as Chequered Ink. We're a British design company that have released over 900 free-to-download fonts and over 200 games between us, with our work receiving over 30,000,000 downloads and being seen by most of you, if even only for a few seconds!

Our font work has been used by numerous high profile businesses and celebrities including Flo Rida, Ariana Grande & Zedd, Rockstar Games, UFC, WWE, JKT48, Kara, Comedy Bang Bang, Conan O'Brien, David Guetta, PBS, Dimitri Vegas, and B.o.B - and these are only the instances we've seen in the wild and those we're not under NDA for!


We're always creating. In celebration of the AMA, today's font release by us is called I Am A Designer https://www.fontspace.com/chequered-ink/i-am-a-designer.

We've also released a game today, Gyro Boss DX, which can be found on Steam here: https://store.steampowered.com/app/971610/Gyro_Boss_DX/ and itch.io here: https://ci.itch.io/gyro-boss-dx And we will be streaming gameplay of it (and possibly other things), concurrently with the AMA, on Twitch here: https://www.twitch.tv/chequeredink intermittently through the day.


Find our fonts on our website, on DaFont, and on Fontspace! (Or just Allison's or Dan's fonts)

Some of our games can be found on our website, on Steam and itch.io!


I (Allison) will be answering most of the questions while Dan streams, however we are in the same room and I'll bounce anything him-relevant to him to answer!

Ask us anything - fonts, games, personal - anything!

Proof: https://twitter.com/ChequeredInk/status/1109057488282963968

Comments: 66 • Responses: 28  • Date: 

NocturneGames14 karma

Hello! I was wondering how you split up your development time between fonts and games? Do you both do them, or is it one on fonts, one on games? Or do you take turns?

AllisonJJ9 karma

We try to keep a steady stream of fonts going, since they provide a fair portion of our income. Normally that will be me - I have made over 700 of our 900 fonts, and they've always predominantly been my thing. Dan does them because of how I've done with them!

But sometimes if I'm particularly deep in the development of a game, Dan might cover for me on fonts to keep us releasing steadily and remaining as visible as we can be on font and design sites.

closedsidewalk8 karma

Where do you get your inspiration for new fonts? How about for new games?

AllisonJJ6 karma

My answer:

I've always been fairly experimental both in fonts and games. A lot of what I do has been the result of playing with metrics and shapes (for fonts) or mechanics and graphical styles (for games). It's extremely rare that I end up with something I've made that is even remotely close to where I started off with it.

For example, my most popular game series, Maddening, was born out of sheer ineptitude. I was trying to make a game in which you run up a tower, akin to Nebulus and one level from Mickey's Wild Adventure. Completely failing to program that instead produced Maddening's circular effect (https://img.itch.zone/aW1hZ2UvNDA0NDkvMTgwMjU3LnBuZw==/original/VbL2q8.png) that actually ended up working in its favour.

Some other games started as homages (eg Ne Touchez Pas being openly inspired by Messhof's Flywrench) and ended up through sequels being warped more into their own thing.

Some fonts follow that too - being inspired by an existing logo - but most again are just me playing around until I like something I see, and then trusting my eye until it's done. Most of my font work falls into that category, such as Vermin Vibes!

Dan's answer:

It depends what mood I'm in for fonts. I normally have the end result in my head when I start, or the product I'm aiming it for (such as Organic Teabags - which I made specifically because I could see it being used on packaging for that). I definitely prioritise making fonts that I believe people could specifically use (Allie doesn't always do this!). My font previews often reflect how I'd see them being used, for example Somerton Dense being previewed on a pub sign.

That is admittedly a fairly business-heavy answer, but I do also appreciate the challenge of trying to make something that fits a particular brief!

In terms of games, character design is my favourite part. I take a lot of inspiration from nature - for example, Gyro Boss' firebrats and squids are based on real animals. Flore Ibrida, Squid Poker, Thysanura, Super Plush Festival and tons of my other games all feature animals heavily.

In terms of influence from other designers, I'm a huge Nintendo fanboy and have always enjoyed series like Mario, Legend of Zelda and Pokemon. I guess you could say the "feel" of my games is inspired by them. I want things to be lighthearted with memorable characters and fun mechanics, but none of my work is directly based on them or even very similar in terms of mechanics.

Tl;dr: experimentation, life preferences, and end goals!

VictorVoyeur3 karma

I don't have a question worthy of a top-level post, so I'll just piggyback on this one to say THANKS! for putting valuable content on DaFont.

AllisonJJ2 karma

Thank you very much! We do try our best to maintain as high a level of quality as we can, and we're happy so many people can find value in our work. πŸ˜„

pepper12915 karma

how long does it usually take to create a font in average? and how do you keep yourself motivated? :)

AllisonJJ3 karma

Fonts can vary in timescale depending on style, expansiveness of its support etc. I can do simpler fonts that only really support basic English characters in a couple of hours. Unique styles might add a couple of hours, a more thorough kerning pass adds time (I always do a basic one to ensure the most troublesome pairings look okay), as does extending the font's support to European characters (accents, circumflexes, diaereses, diphthongs etc) and occasionally even beyond that into Greek, Cyrillic and Hebrew.

My most extensive fonts - for example, Queen of Clubs - have run into a week or two of work, which is still a fraction of the best of the best, but I'm nonetheless extremely proud of the result. Dan always supports full European characters, so his take longer on average than mine do.

As for motivation, there are a fair few factors. Perhaps predominantly nowadays is simply money - this is our full time job now, so we keep to a Monday to Friday 9am-5pm schedule and ensure we keep ourselves productive.

But there is definitely still a love we both have of what we do. Most of our games make a fraction of our fonts, but we just love being able to make a thing we can play, and seeing other people enjoy what we make.

And as for fonts - seeing other people, especially people we recognise - use them is an incredible and surreal feeling. Kurt Angle, one of my childhood heroes, once Angle slammed Cesaro while Cesaro had my font work on his trunks in an episode of WWE, and that breaks my brain in a way I've never felt before! And that's one of many examples - I've also got a font in a music video with 994 million views on YouTube (Ariana Grande & Zedd - Break Free) and that is a number I am completely unable to comprehend.

It's an extremely silent artform, garnering us little to no personal attention, but seeing examples like those and knowing I had the tiniest hand in them is a huge driving factor to me continuing to make fonts.

TalkingBackAgain5 karma

What drives you to create 900, 900!!! fonts and 200 indie games? Is it a bad case of ADD, are you under threat of life? Are you in some kind of debt bondage? Is it a fetish? What happened to you? blink if you’re being mistreated in any way.

AllisonJJ6 karma

We're okay, promise! πŸ˜„ For me especially (I am behind over 700 of the fonts and 140 of the games), I've always erred on the side of instant gratification. I've got a few fonts that took a while, a couple of games that took months or even a year or so to make, and one game project I've been working on for nearly four years now, but I've got an experimental game style and an "optimised" font style that means my production rate is far higher than the average, even though the results are often smaller or simpler than other people's counterparts.

Dan is the same, just to a slightly lesser degree - he'll go about things more methodically, with more planning and overall effort. I wing things a lot!

...blinks

the_goose_says4 karma

How many non alphabet characters do you do in a typical font? Ever do non English language fonts before?

AllisonJJ2 karma

We always (nowadays, I had bad habits in the early days) do basic punctuation - that is, anything that appears on a standard US keyboard without Alt codes. That ends up being around 100 characters, including A-Z, a-z and 0-9 - with a note that a lot of our work uses capitals for lowercase as well, since a lot of our fonts are designed for logos and headlines rather than bulk text.

I will add extended support for other Latin alphabets used in European languages occasionally, resulting in another 60-200 characters (depending on if we just focus on French, German etc or go as far as Polish, Czech etc) - Dan does these as standard. (The only reason I don't is because, as unfortunate as it is, the % of people that require it is tiny compared to the time it takes).

Very rarely, we've gone further still. I've made maybe only five or so that also support Greek and Cyrillic characters (another couple of hundred) and only one to date that supports Hebrew (60-ish?). This again includes anything outside of the alphabets that those languages would use as punctuation that we wouldn't.

We've never gone further than that, though. I have tried a couple of times to begin work on, individually, Japanese kanji/hiragana/katakana, and Arabic, but my understanding of the languages themselves is too low to effectively make those fonts AND verify they work correctly to a native user of them. Not to mention how extensive Japanese is if you want to comprehensively support everything a Japanese speaker/writer would need.

And then to "complete" the answer, we generally don't go far beyond that. We've never done emoji characters, mathematical symbols (aside from the absolute basics), anything you might see in ASCII art etc.

Randy__Bobandy3 karma

What is your opinion on charging exorbitant prices for fonts? For example, if you want to buy the Neutratext 2 family of fonts, you're looking at $300.

While it is a nice clean font, it's not worth $300.

AllisonJJ1 karma

It depends, really! I guess if that particular font's creator is continuing to charge that price, that's the value they see in their work and a price that is working for them (we can't speak for every font developer, but if we could see our prices were too high to be getting sales, we'd lower ours!)

All the advice I can really give is that if the price of a font doesn't work for you, seek an alternative! Pricing of fonts ranges wildly, from completely free, to thousands of dollars for the highest end families, and there is a wonderful range of quality at both ends of the spectrum. We're happy with where Chequered Ink sits, and I'm guessing by that font's creator continuing to charge as much as they do, so are they. It's not my cup of tea, but each to their own πŸ˜„

Randy__Bobandy3 karma

Pricing of fonts ranges wildly, from completely free, to thousands of dollars for the highest end families

What's the most expensive font you've ever seen?

AllisonJJ2 karma

Gotham is the most expensive font I've bought. Just looked up the price of the complete family (which I didn't get when I bought it), and a single-computer license retails at $996 - https://www.typography.com/fonts/gotham/styles/gothamcomplete

I've definitely seen them go for more though. For example, the Lexicon family (https://www.teff.nl/fonts/lexicon/) retails currently for €3,592 - over US $4,000.

StereoTypo2 karma

Gotham I could justify but Lexicon... nope.

AllisonJJ1 karma

It's definitely beyond my reach as well!

malau13 karma

What software do you use to create fonts?

Have you ever had to threaten legal action against a commercial enterprise using your fonts commercially without a license?

Which font did Rockstar use?

AllisonJJ6 karma

We use a couple. I started off in 2005 using High-Logic's FontCreator, and made a few things casually off and on with it (that never really got anywhere online). I discovered the free modular site Fontstruct.com in 2011, which got me into making fonts as a more serious venture, then learnt how to use FontCreator properly in 2013 to expand my abilities. The vast majority of our modern fonts are made in FontCreator nowadays, although we do both still occasionally drop back into Fontstruct for certain styles (it's excellent for bitmap fonts).

No, to date we haven't. It's quite difficult to trace whether people have paid, since a lot of higher end commercial ventures will be using a design studio as a "middleman" which will be the ones that license the font from us. Not to mention, lawsuits are expensive!

Rockstar have used a couple of our fonts in packs for Grand Theft Auto Online. From memory, the Juggernaut) expansion used Sheeping Dogs and another expansion I can't immediately bring to mind used Toe the Lineless.

squid50s3 karma

What’s your favorite font you’ve made and favorite game you’ve made?

AllisonJJ3 karma

Allison's answers:

Favourite font - Queen of Clubs. I went a little all out on its support from being so fond of it, and I use it a lot in my own work. It's probably the cleanest and most professional font I've done from a style standpoint as well. It replaced Front Page Neue for me, which used to be my favourite for much of the same reasoning!

Favourite game - Maddening Euphoria. While I've put a lot more work into Innoquous 5 (which is out) and Tick Tick Pass (which is still in development), Maddening has always been a series that I (almost accidentally) got right from the start, and Euphoria is the peak of that - I just think it's mindless, pure fun! Plus, I got to write 1,000 lines of somewhat crude and comedic poetry that are displayed as small poems you get that describe each of your deaths in a style befitting of the theme you played in (of which there are 36 themes and 7 modes of death). I'm secretly a bit of a poet, so that was right up my alley.

Dan's answers:

My favourite game is genuinely Gyro Boss DX. The original Gyro Boss was this fun, quirky game I made not really expecting the end result to be anything noteworthy and in the end I actually really liked it. DX builds on that in a way that elevates it above anything else I've ever done - In effort and outcome. I just love it.

My favourite font is probably Im Wunderland, but it's a pretty open field if I'm honest. There are so many different styles to choose from that they're all good in their own way.

Power-Lifter-Nate2 karma

How does one name a font?

AllisonJJ1 karma

Dan usually names his sensibly, based on their style, intent, etc.

Mine are a lot more haphazard. My font names are often references to music, current emotions/life events, videos, personalities I like, or even just complete randomness I liked the sound of at the time I started the font!

Oracizan2 karma

Hello Allie & Dan! What's the income of Chequered Ink like, and what side of the business (fonts vs games) produces more revenue?

AllisonJJ1 karma

Hello Oracizan! πŸ˜„ The income is solid enough that we're both living off of our work - we're self sufficient, although we're not, like, living in a mansion or anything!

To answer your other question - fonts. Easily. We both love making games, but the indie gaming scene is ever-growing and ever-changing so finding long-term success there has been a struggle for sure (and with fonts doing so well for us, risk-taking to improve our chances wouldn't be sensible for us). Nonetheless, we'll still make games because they're an enjoyable part of our lives we're unwilling to lose!

yerroslawsum2 karma

Might seem like a cliche question but for the both of you: how did you end up doing what you're doing? Was it a hobby that evolved into something bigger, or a conscious decision, ages of honing skills and whatnot?

AllisonJJ2 karma

Allison:

For games, it's a long story. I grew up in the 1990s with a SNES and then a PlayStation, and it was with the PS1 I got my first glimpses of inspiration - Spyro the Dragon was a massive part of my childhood and I spent a lot of time drawing custom levels in blank notebooks. I always loved the idea of making these experiences you could almost "live" in.

When I was 11, in Year 7 at high school, our IT teacher installed GameMaker on the school PCs with the intent to teach it to us. That never happened, but I took a copy of it home, and it instantly resonated with me. 16 years later, I'm still using GameMaker (I actually worked at YoYo Games, who now manage and build on the program, for five years before me and Dan went independent in 2015) to this day!

For fonts, I loved them from the moment I bought a CD from Aldi containing a big pack of them. Learnt how to make them thanks to a High-Logic FontCreator tutorial in a 2005 issue of Computer Shopper, and that was that! (And I got Dan into making fonts as well through showing him how to make them, and the way I was able to monetise them. He's been a great help in improving that side of things too - he's a lot better at the business side of things than I am.)

Both cases are hobbies that evolved, though. Games were a hobby until I got the aforementioned job with YoYo Games in 2010; fonts became serious in 2011 because, burnt out on making games as a full time job, I wanted a fundamentally different hobby and had an interest in them. The revenue I made from donations of them was serious enough by 2015 that they then took over as my primary income source.

Dan:

I was always making up my own little board games and card games as a kid from a very young age. A neighbour introduced me to GameMaker (6?) when I was about 9 or 10 and I've made video games as a hobby ever since. When I left school at 18 I started releasing games commercially, supplemented by web design work and other bits and bobs. Basically it's just something I always wanted to do and the rise of easy game development tools made it possible! (aside from GameMaker I threw out a few free projects in RPG Maker and hardcoded in HTML5/Javascript, but to this day GameMaker Studio is still my main software of choice).

I didn't start making fonts until me and Allie joined forces as Chequered Ink, so I'll let her tell that side of things.

Machipongo2 karma

Do you have a font designed to be more manageable for people with dyslexia? If so, how did you design it?

AllisonJJ2 karma

We don't have one purpose-built. Neither of us are dyslexic, and we understand its symptoms to be fairly diverse as well, which makes designing one extremely difficult for us (especially without being able to personally verify it works in at least some cases). The closest we've got is one licensee that thanked us for making a font with a certain design of the letter "a" that was helpful.

We'd love to know from anyone that is dyslexic if any of our fonts are helpful to them, though, and if we were better educated on the matter, we'd happily look into creating fonts that are broadly useful to dyslexic people in the future!

Machipongo3 karma

Thank you for your answer and for your openness to working to help people with dyslexia. You are fun a unique position to make a big difference for millions of people.

AllisonJJ1 karma

Thank you as well! If you do know of any resources that would help us in helping other people in a new way, please do send them our way πŸ˜„

aboycandream2 karma

What font making software do you use? Do you use multiple in your workflow?

AllisonJJ2 karma

High-Logic FontCreator is our predominant weapon of choice, although we do also use Fontstruct occasionally for certain styles eg bitmap fonts.

We both also use Adobe Fireworks (still clinging on to CS6!) for some things - all fonts' preview images, as well as certain styles. Dan uses it to create vector-based fonts, and I create grunge/paint stroke fonts in it before importing them into a FontCreator project.

sheriffduck2 karma

Whoa! I thought I was the only one still using Fireworks (Been using it since Macromedia FW)

AllisonJJ2 karma

Same, started using it in late high school when it was Macromedia Fireworks 8! πŸ˜„ Me and Dan actually independently fell in love with the program, and it was a coincidence that we both happen to use it for almost all of our non-font design work.

Seriously wish Adobe would bring it back into development, I'd happily pay for Creative Cloud if they were actively developing it. I've tried getting into Photoshop and Illustrator, but Fireworks is basically embedded in my brain at this point. I love how it's a great jack-of-all-trades.

blue_ruin992 karma

How do the fonts generate income if they are free?

AllisonJJ1 karma

They're free to download, but we charge licensing fees for commercial licenses. (Also, Google AdSense!)

likeAboss0082 karma

Have you created any pixelated RPG open world indie game?

AllisonJJ1 karma

Pixellated yes, but open world and RPG no, sadly! They are gigantic undertakings to make something worth playing, and while I’d love especially to make something open world, that development timeframe is prohibitively long at present.

Fflamdwyn20042 karma

What's your favorite indie game you have ever published?

ford_chicago2 karma

Why isn't there an option to view your entire website in Comic Sans or Papyrus, my favorite fonts?

AllisonJJ2 karma

Where web developers fail, Chrome extension developers pick up the slack! https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/comic-sans-everything/oaehjhfpohkdjkpcdbblepomnflojfli?hl=en πŸ˜„

NFLinPDX2 karma

Something I've always wondered about but never knew who to ask; is it possible to make a font that uses more than one set image per character? I had always wanted to make a font from my handwriting, but we don't write letters exactly the same each time, so I was hoping I could make like 4 versions of each letter and the font could randomly choose one of the 4 each time I use that letter.

Is this possible and how would I go about it?

AllisonJJ2 karma

Sort of no, sort of yes. Technically, the answer is no - you have one glyph per character, and that's your lot. However, you can cheat the system with ligatures, which are single characters that pair two glyphs and can have a different appearance or configuration than either of the two letters would have separately.

Higher-end handwriting font developers (admittedly, not us!) are able to incorporate tens if not hundreds of custom ligatures into an OpenType font, that will simulate, as best as is presently possible, natural handwriting.

However, for simply including multiple, separate, versions of the same letter, you will generally need just to either make a separate "Alternates" font that contains your alternative letters, or include them in otherwise unused characters for designers to manually choose from.

(That is as far as I know for .otf and .ttf formats, which are the predominant font formats of the modern era. There may be more niche and/or newer formats that can do exactly what you're looking for.)

CletusVanDamnit2 karma

What font should I use to replace Apple's Helvetica Neue if I'm on a Windows machine?

AllisonJJ2 karma

I'm a bit weird in actually being quite fond of Helvetica - I think it's great for being timeless. However, it's always worth being wary of "system" fonts, as you aren't always guaranteed to be able to use them commercially despite their inclusion in an OS.

If you're on a tight budget, Open Sans by Google (https://fonts.google.com/specimen/Open+Sans) is a great, clean, and open source font. If you're not on a budget, Gotham is my preferred multipurpose sans serif of choice - I've always got time for a "timeless" font.

FontSquirrel https://www.fontsquirrel.com/ is a great place to get started though. It collates professional-tier free fonts which are a wonderful starting point for fontography.

CletusVanDamnit2 karma

Great, thanks! Our business has been using a company who designs everything on Macs with Helvetica Neue, and we use Windows machines, and cannot find a matching font now that we've switched to doing everything in-house.

AllisonJJ1 karma

No problem! πŸ˜„

cptGumrock2 karma

As an aspiring graphic designer (lol I ain't good at it) what's the best way to figure out which font I need for a project? I.e. best way to find a font that fits my theme?

AllisonJJ2 karma

There's no real steadfast rule, and sometimes, going a little leftfield from the standard can produce incredible results. Nonetheless, you can always draw inspiration from other designers' solutions - find existing examples that roughly match your theme, work out the font style they have gone with, and then either follow suit with something similar and fitting, or trust your eye and experiment with fonts until you find the one you like the look of the most.

That's part of the reason we went with the business model we did - our fonts are free to download and test, so you can try them out and see if they're right for what you want. And if they are, it's easy to follow the link bundled with each font, license it, and then use it as you see fit. A lot of other people have similar models or demo versions of their fonts, so it's always worth experimenting until you find something you like!

Time2352361 karma

Are you planning to create more fonts and games in the future?

AllisonJJ1 karma

Yep! We've both got fonts and games in the works! Dan's going to be supporting Gyro Boss DX for the near future, fixing any unforseen issues and working on suggestions players have. I've finished on my latest game, Ne Touchez Pas 5, and released it recently - and am now resuming working on a fairly massive party quiz game I've had going on since 2015 called Tick Tick Pass!

On the font front, Dan's got one on the go that is presently unnamed while my next is likely to be a vintage-style sans serif called Die Frau.

atoll1011 karma

As a huge WWE/Pro wrestling fan since childhood, I was wondering what work you've done with them? I've gradually come to realize all the small details their production team puts into creating a "feel" of the show so it's cool to see this AMA pop in that vein, so thank you!

AllisonJJ3 karma

I'm with you on WWE fandom! I've seen a smattering of our work on smaller things within the company. From memory:

  • Cesaro and Sheamus' current attire (as The Bar) features Gang Wolfik on the back side of their trunks
  • When they did a Rocket League tournament recently, the team featuring Sasha Banks and Neville ("Nasha") used Sheeping Dogs for their team logo
  • The original Cruiserweight Championship used Berate the Elementary for a number of stage graphics
  • A recent Matt Hardy t-shirt used The Wild Breath of Zelda
  • Indirect, but Flo Rida's My House EP used Vermin Vibes, and he was wearing a shirt with the album art on during his "rap-off" with Bo Dallas - and of course, My House was used as the theme for one of the recent WrestleMania PPVs

I've also seen at least one usage of my/our work in Impact Wrestling, CZW, NJPW, and a number of other indie federations.

And thank you as well! A big part of my modern wrestling fandom definitely comes from all the little idents, graphics and themes that the various wrestler graphics, PPVs, tournaments, merchandise etc bring to the table!