Are variable fonts used in Graphic Design?

Are there any programs used in Graphic Design in which you can use a variable font and vary the parameters of the font to achieve the look you want ?

I know variable fonts can be used just like any other font in most applications but use their default settings and you do not have access to the ‘variable’ part.

The free applications I use (Scribus, Inkscape, Libre Office, Gimp ect.) do not allow you to vary a variable font. Do the Adobe applications allow such access ?

So far the only widespread use of variable fonts I am aware of seems to be on web pages where you can vary the parameters of the font.

I would think that the use of variable fonts will not become mainstream until ordinary graphic design, word processing and DTP applications allow the user to vary the parameters of the font.

What do you think ?

Yes. Variable fonts are supported in all Adobe applications as far as I know. I know that you can have fine-tuned control over them in InDesign and Illustrator at least.

I make extensive use of variable fonts in print design using Adobe software. For that matter, it’s getting to the point where I intentionally stay away from static fonts. The ability to adjust and fine-tune (especially) weights and widths has become extremely important to me.

I’ve largely given up on using the Affinity suite of products because they don’t yet support variable fonts.

Of course, I design fonts as a side project, so I’m probably more familiar with them at most.

slightly off topic

by LoveFrom,

I am happy that there are some desktop applications which can use variable fonts. May this trend continue.

For my part I have had little success with making variable fonts. The only variable I made was called ‘Sans Mateo’ and as far as I could tell it worked but when I tried to upload it to FontSpace the website choked on it and told me it contained an invalid font file.

I was unable to delete it because as far as the website was concerned it didn’t exist but I was unable to upload a different version (without the variables) because as far as the website was concerned it did already exist. My requests for help to the website admins went unanswered.

I have not produced another variable font since then. It would be good if someone with a desktop application which uses variable fonts was able to check out ‘Sans Mateo v2’ to see if it is a valid font file and can actually work. As I said it works on my system but I have been unable to test the variability apart from within the font editor software.

My font archive is on Mega and the file is (you could also use v2.010 but that is not the latest version).

P.S. anyone is welcome to use any of the fonts in this archive. :+1:

I will test it when I get home tonight. At the moment, all I have with me is my phone.

I tested it and it does seem to work and load fine and I was able to adjust it’s weight in InDesign.

Here’s a list of apps that support variable fonts:

Hasn’t been updated recently, but I don’t think it’s outdated.

Your font Sans_Mateo_v2.106 looks fine to me, tried it in Typeface app without issue — contains a single Weight axis 400-700

‘Sans Mateo’ was just an experiment to see if I could design and publish a variable font. It was a lot of work because the original ‘Sans Mateo v1’ was not a variable font and all the weights had been made separately so the contours may not have had the same number of points as each other and the points may not have been in the same order. This took a long time and a lot of work to synchronise things.

In the end the problem was the FontSpace website and their crappy upload which didn’t know what a variable font was.

I may try again and produce another variable font at some point.

Thanks to everyone who looked at ‘Sans Mateo’.

I installed the fonts on my Mac and ran into numerous issues.

You apparently built the fonts in FontCreator Project, which I don’t have. However, I opened the VF .ttf files in Glyphs and FontLab, which could have introduced additional problems.

Anyway, the first problem I noticed is that when I installed both the italic and roman font, my Mac told me I had installed duplicate fonts. This made me suspect a naming problem. Upon opening the VF.ttf file in Glyphs, I noticed names of the fonts were all Sans San Mateo, which created the typeface family and is as it should be. However, the italic masters had the same names as the roman masters. The italic masters need to be named differently from the roman — for example BoldItalic and Bold.

In addition, both Glyphs and FontLab told me there were discrepancies between the glyphs in the masters. For example (one of several), in the italic fonts, the E in the light master has an anchor for the descending diacritic combining marks, but the bold master does not. I suspect these sorts of issues exist within the roman fonts too but I didn’t check. These discrepancies interfere with the interpolation of the instances between the two masters.

I also noticed that the character set of the roman VF file is much more extensive than the character set of the italics. I don’t think this would cause the problems I noticed, but the character sets should be the same.

In addition, I couldn’t get the fonts to show up at all in Adobe Illustrator, but they did appear in InDesign. However, some glyphs were missing. For example, InDesign tells me the italics space character is missing (didn’t check the roman). This is weird since the unicode position, 0020, is present in both italic font masters.

These are all things I noticed while trying to install the fonts and subsequently opening the VF.ttf files. As I mentioned, opening the compiled fonts rather than the .fcp files might have introduced problems on its own. Unfortunately, I suspect the fonts contain multiple problems that are showing up in various ways in various software applications.

Very interesting, I have obviously made a mess of things but it was my first attempt at a variable.

The naming problems may be caused by my attempts at clearing things up. When it didn’t upload as ‘Sans Mateo’ I changed the name to ‘San Mateo’ and tried to upload a version with just the fixed instances.

The name fields used by Macs are different to the ones used by Windows as there are several extra fields which need to be filled in. So you can get the situation that a font works perfectly well in Windows but has some problems on a Mac (fonts which work on a Mac nearly always work on Windows).

The extra glyphs in the Roman font were only meant for the fixed instance of the Roman font and should not have been included in the variable.

I spent a long time finding the discrepancies between the instances and obviously did not do a good enough job. ‘Sans Mateo’ started out as a fixed font with four versions (Roman, Bold, Italic and Bold Italic) all designed independently with no concern for making them identical, this is not a good strategy for developing a variable font. Next time I will start out with copies of one font so they start out identical and then modify the glyphs to make them bold or italic or whatever.

The anchors should have been assigned automatically. In Font Creator there are two ways to create anchors, you can do each one manually or you can automatically assign them (and it usually puts them in the correct place). I did it the lazy way and assigned them automatically but I must have messed up on some of the assignments.

@Just-B thank you for your time and for giving the font a thorough check out.