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Variable Fonts for Responsive Design: 5 illustrative examples of using on the Web

A variable is a value in programming that may vary depending on conditions or data given to the program. A variable font is an OpenType font file that contains OpenType Font Variations, a new technology.

These font files, produced in collaboration by four of the most potent technological companies—Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe—contain a massive quantity of extra data compared to standard OpenType fonts.

Individual glyphs with up to 64,000 axes of variation, including weight, width, slant, and, in some circumstances, distinct styles, such as Condensed, Bold, and so on, may be found in a variable font.

When combined with Color Font technology, variable typefaces might appear a little, well, meaningless to the untrained. Many typographers believe that hand preparing fonts is the most professional and satisfying method of doing things.

On the other hand, variable fonts are a logical step for the subject of typography, which is becoming increasingly influenced by advances in responsive web design. Designers seek more significant interaction and convenience from their creative tools, and typefaces that can be adjusted with the movement of a slider are providing that desire.

What’s an axis?

The expression of a single feature of a typeface’s design is a variation axis. For example, the weight axis determines how light or strong a typeface appears. Weight is transmitted with variable typefaces by minimum and maximum numeric values, with designers and developers free to set any number in between.

Although not every variable font will contain every potential axis, the format, browser implementation, and operating systems ensure that they will all function properly. There are two sorts of axes: registered and custom. While there are presently five recognized axes, font designers can create their custom axes to create many variants. Fonts with configurable axes for grade, expressiveness, ascender and descender height of lowercase letters, and a slew of other features are available. The format is intentionally left open to allow for this kind of experimentation.

The registered or conventional axes’ abbreviations are written in lowercase in CSS, whereas custom axes’ abbreviations are written in uppercase. The registered axes correspond to common CSS properties. The new CSS property font-variation settings can be used to reference custom axes.

Why Use Variable Fonts?

The constraints of existing font formats are considerably reduced with variable fonts. Web fonts for purchase are now rigid and don’t scale well; they only provide a few preset styles with names like “Light,” “Bold,” and “Extra Bold.”

Even fonts with only one weight or slant variety exist. We have limitless freedom in weight, slant, x-height, slabs, rounding, and other typographical qualities using a flexible method.

Even better, they help you perform better. As far as we know, web fonts require each font version to be kept in its file. Variable fonts rely on a single font file that only has to be loaded once by the browser. It can serve all of the versions from just one binary once it’s loaded.

Challenges for the designer and developer:

When designing a print project, a designer is constrained by factors such as the physical size of the page layout, the number of colors available, and so on. They can, however, employ as many different typeface styles as they choose. This implies that print media font is frequently rich and complex, resulting in a delightful reading experience. Consider the last time you had a great time reading a great magazine.

Web designers and developers have distinct challenges from print designers, one of which is the bandwidth costs involved with our designs. Richer typographic experiences, which come at a price, have been a stumbling block. Traditional web fonts require users to download a separate font file for each style used in our designs, which increases latency and page rendering time. The Regular and Bold styles and their italic counterparts can add up to 500 KB of font data. This is before we even consider the typefaces themselves, the fallback patterns we’ll need to utilize, or any unwanted side effects.

Many font families include a considerably broader choice of styles, including Thin to Black weights, narrow and wide widths, stylistic elements, and even size-specific designs (optimized for large or small text sizes.) Many web developers prefer not to use these features since they would have to load a new font file for each style (or combination of types), decreasing their customers’ reading experience.

Variable fonts for responsive design:

It might take a long time to format fonts to match your specific needs. Imagine instead of altering a slider in Illustrator to make a typeface somewhat bolder or more italicized.

You may now do precisely that, thanks to variable font technology. Individual font files operate as many fonts, enabling you to change the weight, width, and slant of text while working.

Are changeable fonts, on the other hand, genuinely valuable for designers or just fun but useless gimmick? The practice of designating static fonts with fixed designs for online use nowadays is a practice of choosing typefaces for online usage. But what if a typeface’s design could be as adaptable and responsive as the layout it’s used in?

We’ll look at five illustrative examples of variable fonts used in web design here. So, let’s get started with it.

1.    Running Free:

Glyphs are rather popular these days, thanks to the widespread use of Font Awesome and Dashicons. A changeable font with a single glyph of an emoji horse was utilized to produce a cool animation in this case. The author was able to get an ultra-smooth appearance by using CSS font-variation settings.

2.    Interactive Art:

A changeable typeface is employed as part of a more significant piece of online art in this example. Rather than animating a single phrase or headline, this excerpt resembles a billboard — although an animated one. The shift from hollow to complete (and back) characters is seamless. The order of events is perfect. This may have taken hours of hard Flash effort to accomplish years ago.

3.    Style Slider:

Perhaps more than any other in the collection, this font best exemplifies what a changeable font is. To add custom weight, stretch, and size to the Venn VF typeface, use the sliders at the bottom of the screen. Take note of how easily the configuration changes are shown.

4.    Have It Your Way:

This sample appears to be neatly structured poetry at first inspection. But there’s more to this than simply a title and some words. Font styles change instantly and dynamically. It’s also an excellent example of how certain characters may be targeted.

5.    The Full Effect:

Great things can happen when changeable typefaces, CSS3, and JavaScript are combined. You don’t have to look any farther than this example to see why. This appealing typography has a lovely stretchable hover effect that is cool all by itself. However, if you use the provided settings panel, you may get a better idea of what’s possible.


Is it a gimmick, or are variable fonts here to stay? Variable fonts are another intriguing breakthrough in responsive typography for web designers. Variable fonts, like color fonts, allow web designers to be more versatile and creative in their designs, turning typography into a focal point rather than a necessary evil.

The judgment is still out on whether changeable fonts are beneficial enough to replace manual typographic formatting for print designers. Most designers are unlikely to abandon the usual approach of type formatting until a large number of changeable fonts are made accessible in Adobe software.

Abubakar is a writer and digital marketing expert. Who has founded multiple blogs and successful businesses in the fields of digital marketing, software development. A full-service digital media agency that partners with clients to boost their business outcomes.