Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the font-water.
On September 14th, representatives from Microsoft, Adobe, Apple and Google made a joint font announcement in Warsaw: OpenType 1.8 was unveiled, featuring variable fonts, a.k.a. OpenType Font Variations, based on an all-but forgotten Apple technology, GX Variations.
Variable fonts enable type designers to create fonts that have one or more design axes, such as weight or width. Use of a design axis frees designers; for example, if there is a weight axis, a designer is free to choose any arbitrary weight within the font's design space, not just a few pre-set weights.
Many type designers have long used such technology for font design, so there is a backlog of existing typefaces that could be adapted to this technology. But two previous axis-fonts technologies did not take off: Apple's GX/AAT Typography allowed it, and Adobe's Multiple Master did as well. Why should this be different?
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Thomas Phinney is President of FontLab, the font software tools company. Previously he was product manager for fonts and global typography at Adobe, and then senior product manager for Extensis. In the 2000s he was instrumental in driving the adoption of OpenType, both within Adobe and in the marketplace.