This is the true spirit of hacking:
> So, this stumped me for a while. I decided I needed to get to know fonts better, so I built a simple web app to view the lines, curves and control points present in the fonts I had. On this basis, I started to consider the ways the features (vertices, curves, stems, serifs etc) might be matched up between fonts. However, this was a rabbit hole I might never get to the bottom of - particularly when considering some of the more unusual varieties of font. Perhaps there was a simpler idea that was evading me.
Of course, now what I'd like to see is the source code to generate the "average" font on a different machine. It would be interesting (for me at least!) to see the average font from a font designer's machine - or someone who collects different monospaced fonts - or my own machine.
I suppose it's not so much "source code" as it is a bunch of manual steps - but would be interesting to know more about those steps, maybe even enough to repeat them.
Off the top of my head, one thing that could help solve the knot problem is treat the serifs and sans-serifs as two different subsets and make two Average typefaces. Additionally, he could calculate 'average distance to X nearest points in reverse direction'. By that I mean, a point on a curve pointing down should look at all the points that point up (meaning they are on the other side of the filled polygon or hole), and find the 5-10 closest points and take the average. This could tell you how thick the line or hole is at that point. Then use this as the weight to come up with a weighted average of all the other parameters for each point.
All-in-all, this is a fantastic project and the weeks and months of independent research is time well spent. Hacking for fun is wonderful.
Read all the way to the end - that's what he did.
Avería Serif Family (ZIP, 323kB) OFLB
Avería Sans Family (ZIP, 320kB) OFLB
Great work in any case.
Oddly enough (bringing us full-circle back to fonts) that was one of the key design parameters for the ubiquitous Helvetica, the intention being that the font itself has no character so simply carries the message of the content without imparting any extraneous "meaning" (i.e. the font was designed to be as much "function" and as little "form" as possible).
It's a really attractive font, actually. Regular enough that it coheres as a font, but just irregular enough to evoke the output of old movable-type printing presses.
Are you allowed to copy intellectual property like fonts, perform a function like averaging on the intellectual property, and distribute the result of the function performed on the intellectual property?
So, in this case, he analyzes the original outlines, and produces new outlines, and then produces a derivative work based on many such derived outlines. I think a judge would just laugh it out of court.
If not, I think it would probably fall under fair use in the USA, specifically the "amount and substantiality" clause. The most relevant precedent might be visual collages. 
But, I don't believe algorithmic averaging has ever been tested as a derivative work. Personally I'd argue that "average" artworks are more like facts about the world, but I doubt a judge would be sympathetic.
Jason Salavon started doing similar artworks with photos more than a decade ago, for instance in "Every Playboy Centerfold: the Decades" and many artists have done similar things since then. I once asked him if he'd ever had any legal issues, since I was doing a similar experiment, but he never replied to that.
On the other hand, I wonder... if I take an existing font. Print it to a very high resolution PNG (not vector graphic so all Bezier curves are lost), and use some font creation software that recreate the font by doing an approximation... whether this is still consider a copyright infringement. Just curious...
Looking at the first average rendering, you can see that it isn't clearly defined like all of the other letters. It also has two very different versions in the serif and sans-serif fonts linked at the bottom.
I wonder if one of the gs will eventually be lost, similar how it's so rare to see an "a" represented in a font as a single-story "ɑ".
I would love to see a professional designer "clean these up" -- use the exact same dimensions and curves, but standardize the stroke widths, curves, etc.
Then I wonder -- would this become the most legible, anonymous font of all time? The serif version could be spectacular for body copy that lets the content speak for itself.
Also, I imagine this could be a fantastic font to "design on top of" -- by overlaying your own designs, you can immediately see what is most distinctive about your own design.
> Under U.S. law, typefaces and the characters they contain are considered to be utilitarian objects whose utility outweighs any merit that may exist in protecting their creative elements. As such, typefaces are exempt from copyright protection in the United States. However, this finding was limited in Adobe Systems, Inc. v. Southern Software, Inc., wherein it was held that scalable computer fonts, i.e., the instructions necessary to render a typeface, constitute a "computer program" for the purposes of copyright law and hence are subject to protection. Hence the computer file(s) associated with a scalable font will generally be protected even though the specific design of the characters is not. Furthermore, a rasterized representation (e.g. bitmap) of the characters in a scalable font is not protected by copyright in the United States.
According to this, the author will have to create his font by directly modifying the original font file to make it a derived work. Since his font is created from rasterized representation, the resulting font file is not considered a derived work. But again, IANAL.
There's a bit of angst about this in typography forums, and social pressure among typophiles and some subset of designers to avoid using "ripoff" fonts.
Not sure if I'd use it for a project, but it's interesting none the less.
*edit : copied his idea and used baseline center
- CSS3's new font-face extension, supported by newer browsers, allows specifying custom fonts to be loaded for a page
Original CoffeeScript source: https://gist.github.com/2473373
In this specific case, the font is blurry, unattractive, and lacking any character. It looks like someone tried to autotraced a photocopied fax of a carbon copy.
It's an interesting experiment to be sure – but this is not, in anyway, a solution to … anything.
This is, in some ways, the solution to... visualizing the average of all the fonts on this system.
(Although, I think the result is attractive. Probably not very readable, or useful other than for some sort of logotype. Almost makes me think of letters made out of the balls in world of goo.)