Typography trends for 2018, 6. Variable fonts

What typography trends are forecast for 2018 and how can you use them?
Trend 6. Variable fontsts
By Sarah Hyndman

Part 6 in a series of posts looking at typography trends that we predict will influence graphic design in 2018, and explaining how you can incorporate each trend into your work.

1. Vernacular2. Neutral & universal3. Personality4. The return of flares & serifs5. Colour fonts6. Variable fonts7. Fashion / 8. Trend forecasters


6. Variable fonts

HOW TO USE THIS TREND: Variable fonts will enable you to use type in a more flexible way with an infinite range of options within a single font file that will load faster. Keep up to date with developments if you would like to embrace this innovation.

Typo Labs 2018 Brand Identity by Bernd Volmer

Variable fonts are a major leap forward for digital typography, and a far cry from the days when web typography was limited to an unimaginative handful of web-safe fonts. This is a collaborative project between Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Adobe that has taken an idea that has been around for a while, but needed the technology to catch up. With traditional font technology each style within a font (italics, bold, condensed etc.) exists as a separate font file, and all of the files are bundled together to create the font family. This can slow a website down because the more styles in a family the bigger the file, and the time each one takes to render can be a problem, especially in developing countries with poor internet connectivity.

By contrast, with a variable font the whole family is packaged into a single file with an extraordinary range of possibilities. It works in a completely different way to a conventional font as the extremes at each end of an axis are specified (for example ultra light at one end and ultra bold at the other), so the rest of the weights are accessed simply as points on the axis between the extremes. This means there is an almost infinite range of styles in between, which can morph seamlessly from one extreme to the other.

Type can now grow, shrink, stretch and flex to fill the range of different screens and platforms it might appear across, becoming animated as it flows from one to the next. This is the equivalent of responsive design for type designers, who can now decide how they would like their typeface to behave in different settings, and to build this into the design.

Type designer Bernd Volmer says, “We think that variable fonts will make us design in different ways. Instead of thinking about type being a range of static styles, we can think about it as something responsive, something animated and interactive.”

Variable type created on the Variable Wonder workshop combining letters from São Paulo and Rio, from Underware Fonts—click here to see the font in action on Instagram.

Again, this is technology in its infancy and there are exciting times ahead as it develops and its full potential begins to be realised. Read more on the Adobe blog or at Computer Arts.


Post 7 will look at fashion fonts.

Would you like to learn more about typography? Get in touch with Sarah here to book a Type Tasting workshop or event that teaches you about type trends through history and the psychology of typography with lashings of interaction, games and activities.

Sarah Hyndman is the founder of Type Tasting, she is a regular public speaker, researcher and the author of both Why Fonts Matter and How to Draw Type and Influence People.