Variable fonts: useful tool or trendy gimmick?

5 years ago from , Creator at Sidebar

I've seen a lot of activity around variables fonts lately (see https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-edge/testdrive/demos/variable-fonts/) and while I think it's all amazing from a creativity and technology point of view, I'm skeptical about the practical merits of variable fonts.

In the best case scenario, a variable font is pretty much equivalent to a non-variable fonts that offers a lot of weights. And in the worst case scenario, a variable font is giving you the tool to shoot yourself in the foot and ruin your design with bad typography.

I'm willing to be convinced though. Apart from the really narrow use case of text animation, what are the advantages of variable fonts?


  • Dav ▩Dav ▩, 5 years ago

    I think having only one actual digital file (for what before variable font technology were to be a whole family/set of fonts) is going to be proving extremely useful. Also potentially having sooo many more (in·between) options when it comes to weights and widths sounds intriguing. (Amateurs/newbies/freefontfans are sure going to abuse the hell out of its finer features, but so have they always done with lousy, bad quality fonts in the past, and will for sure in the future with other/newer technologies.) I read quite a bit about variable fonts before, but actually hearing in person (and getting it explained) from a font engineer recently made it much more clearer and sure opened my eyes (and mind). ;)

    [Two links that (should) get mentioned again and again, when it comes to variable fonts: https://axis-praxis.org & https://v-fonts.com]

    8 points
    • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, 5 years ago

      I agree. If all this does is reduce font size downloads, it’s a win. And it’ll likely do way more than that.

      6 points
  • Stephen Szermer, 5 years ago

    I guess this opens up the potential to use ML techniques to dynamically adjust the font according to content and contextual surroundings. Sounds like a fun area to define the rules for interacting with the content.

    0 points