Variable Fonts?

Animation: Christine Gertsch

Christine Gertsch, what are variable fonts?

Variable fonts are digital typefaces that can morph into several different forms. They set new standards in design and for reading experience. Previously, each font style, such as normal, bold and italic, required a separate file. The latest standard for digital fonts enables not only combining these styles in a single file, but also using any intermediate value. This opens up new possibilities for typographic design and for dynamic typesetting in general.The most common styles in variable fonts define a font’s width or weight. However, other variations are also possible. Properties such as the slant, the contrast in line width or even the playfulness of a typeface’s characters can be adjusted independent­ly and each to a varying degree. For instance, this enables designers to animate type without distortion on moving posters and websites.But the option to animate is only one added value of varia­ble fonts. Today, most people read on screen: on a smartphone, a tablet or a laptop. All of these devices have a variety of sensors such as cameras, microphones or proximity sensors. In connection with these sensors, variable fonts have great potential: when type reacts to their environment, such as screen size, ambient light, reading distance or audio input, not only does this open up new ways of setting the typographic stage, it also allows more precise adjust­ments to enhance the readability of a text – if necessary for each user individually.

Variable fonts combine different font styles in one file from light to bold, narrow and wide. Ian Party, Founder and Design Director of the foundry newglyph, created the variable font Antarctica. He will also be teaching in the CAS Type & Brand. Graphic: Christine Gertsch

In this section, experts from around ZHdK briefly consider key terms and concepts in the arts and culture. The steadily expanding glossary is available online at: zett.zhdk.ch/what-is
The Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) Type & Brand enables participants to discover variable fonts, develop dynamic brand worlds and design their own digital fonts. This advanced course is aimed at visual designers seeking to specialize in type design in the context of branding, as well as designers intending to offer their clients brand development with a particular focus on type and typography. The application deadline is 1 December 2021, with the programme scheduled to begin in March 2022. zhdk.ch/cas-type-and-brand
Christine Gertsch (christine.gertsch@zhdk.ch) teaches continu­ing education programmes in typography and type design at ZHdK and is a freelance visual designer. She runs the CAS Type & Brand together with fellow typography and type design associated lecturer Jonas Niedermann.

 

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