Just minutes ago, at the ATypI conference in Warsaw, the world was introduced to a new kind of font: a variable font.

Variable fonts, a new kind of font for flexible design

Just minutes ago, at the ATypI conference in Warsaw, the world was introduced to a new kind of font: a variable font.Jointly developed by Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Adobe, a variable font is, as John Hudson put it, “a single font file that behaves like multiple fonts”. Imagine a single font file gaining an infinite flexibility of weight, width, and other attributes without also gaining file size — and imagine what this means for design.

Imagine condensing or extending glyph widths ever so slightly, to accommodate narrow and wide viewports. Imagine raising your favorite font’s x-height just a touch at small sizes. Imagine sharpening or rounding your brand typeface in ways its type designer intended, for the purposes of art direction. Imagine shortening descenders imperceptibly so that headings can be set nice and tight without letters crashing into one another. Imagine this all happening live on the web, as a natural part of responsive design.

Gif of the word PEACE animating from a light weight to a bold.

A responsive lettering example, courtesy of Erik van Blokland. This shows one kind of flexibility that variable fonts will enable.

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