Variable fonts with non-conventional axes

Hi everyone. Firstly, apologies if this is the wrong place for this post. I'm designing an art book for a client that is linked to an exhibition that centres around themes of change and resistance to polar norms and categorisations. One of the ways I'm looking to bring this concept into the typgraphy is through the use of variable fonts. I've used scripts in InDesign to vary the weight axes of a couple variabe fonts through the book but one of the group of people commissioning me is dyslexic and finds the variation from light to bold very difficult to read. I've experimented with varying the width but I find wide fonts aren't particularly suitable for body copy and quickly look ugly and distracting.

So, this brings me to investigating fonts which have variable axes beyond weight and width. I found Varianz, which I love and fits perfectly with the resistance to categorisation concept as its axes change it from sans serif to serif, but unfortunately the group just doesn't like it. I'm still fighting Varianz's corner and asking them to put concept above personal preference, but I'm also going to look for other fonts that have interesting axes that aren't weight and width.

I've scoured Nick Sherman's amazing and there are some great options there, but all I've found apart from Varianz are out of budget. I should add that the client is a not-for-profit gallery/charity and their budget, once print costs are paid for, is very modest so this will come out of my fee, so I'd ideally like to keep it to less than £100.

Does anyone know of something that might fit the bill? Are there any other resources that I should know about?



  • Thomas Phinney
    For playground sites, see also and

    To see more axes besides weight and width, I would suggest especially Amstelvar and Decovar as typefaces with many axes, Decovar having many unusual ones. Both open source.

  • Alex Visi
    Check out Recursive by Arrow Type
  • Jono-CES
    Thanks Thomas. Avenir Next could be a good shout, shame it doesn't seem to available via github any more though. Amstelvar seems alittle rough around the edges for body copy to my eye. I found Literata on the Typetogether site and that could work as it has the optical size axes which could be quite a subtle effect to play with.
  • Jono-CES
    Alex Visi said:
    Check out Recursive by Arrow Type

    Thanks Alex, I think this one is a probably not a great font for extended reading as body copy. It's a really interesting concept though, I can see me using it elsewhere
  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,159
    edited November 2020
    The intent seems to be to politicize form, by means of suggesting that the spectrum of possibilities along a variable design axis corresponds to the spectrum of human cultural identities such as gender, favouring the non-binary.

    This conceptual design would be explained in a rationale to the client, or in a colophon, I would imagine, because it would not be apparent to the reader otherwise.

    I’m not sure how it could be implemented in body text, which is inherently binary in nature (majuscule and minuscule).
    You could throw in frequent small caps and italics, in the manner of the 18th century, but that’s awkward and still not much of a spectrum.
    Or switch typefaces frequently, 1960s style.

    Another alternative to norms would be pseudo-randomization (not-repetition of adjacent glyphs), in which each character may be represented by a variety of glyphs. There are a few fonts that do that. Those I’ve produced (e.g. Neology) usually have only two glyphs for each character (because that’s all you really need for the non-repetitive effect). I have done a type with four alternates, Duffy Script, but it’s not exactly what you’d call a text font.
    I’m surprised nobody has published a pseudo-random old style text font, mimicking the vagaries of letterpress.

    I employed another non-conformist approach in Oneleigh and Fontesque, in which the usual strictures of a serifed type (standardized x-height and stem width, cut-and-paste serifs, etc.) are avoided, for a wonky effect in which each character is markedly individual, and even added pseudo-random alternates in some of the Fontesque styles.

    With this diversity of glyph shape in mind, I would say that for body text, old style faces such as Bembo and (Monotype) Garamond are the most humanist of all. So in one respect, the old designs are the most socially progressive, not reductive modernism! 
  • Dave Crossland
    Amstelvar seems a little rough around the edges

    Are you using Amstelvar Roman (2020) or Amstelvar Alpha (2017)? You can easily tell them apart as the newer design has a ball terminal on the 'a'