Releasing variable fonts alongside static fonts

Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 605
edited December 2019 in Type Business
What is your practice regarding releasing variable fonts and static flat static instances of the same family together?
1. Do you stack "Variable", "VF", or any suffix to the family name? (Or style name?) Or just leave it the same as the static flat static family? For the purpose of adding both to the same family (aka product page) on MyFonts, I suppose I'm better off adding a suffix? Which would also allow to use both formats in apps at the same time, if anyone should need to. As well as give a hint to the user that they're dealing with a variable font.
2. MyFonts only allows OTF (PS, I suppose) or TTF exclusively. Does it allow PS instances + TT variable?
3. Price scheme. I suppose variable fonts could be packaged with the full family (being its extension and counterpart) and not offered separately, contrary to single styles?
Edits: I'm very impressionable, within the first four hours. Anyone feel like touching on the actual topic?
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  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 383
    edited December 2019
    Can we please not say static?  A static font is already a term for the opposite of an embedded font.  I'm fine with "flat".

    Note: To  whoever disagreed, I edited my post for clarity.   It's not a matter for debate, "static" is in common use to describe any font use that comports with a more modern concept of "print".  This covers  the universe of  printed and digital use where the font is rendered as an image and isn't present as software.  
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 605
    edited December 2019
    Any further reading you might recommend? I only found FontFabric's Static Font and an article supporting with this flawed (?) terminology. (I did google "static fonts" "embedded fonts" to get the exact phrases).
    (Btw, language evolves, but that's another thing).
  • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 383
    edited December 2019
    All I can recommend off the top of my head is my  own EULA and FAQ.   I do know I've heard this in use in the way I'm describing by many others to the point I didn't bothered to remember where - I  didn't come up with it.  I'm not disputing that some might be calling non-variable fonts static.  I'm just saying it's inconvenient for them to do so.  "Flat" isn't something I came up with either - Mirko Iverson used it in conversation with me recently.
  • Do you stack "Variable", "VF", or any suffix to the family name? (Or style name?) Or just leave it the same as the static flat static family?
    Yes. "Var" to family name.
    I suppose variable fonts could be packaged with the full family (being its extension and counterpart) and not offered separately, contrary to single styles?
    Of course, you can use the variable font as a bonus to buying an entire family if you want. We sell variable versions separately (a bit cheaper than entire "static" family price), because it takes a lot of time to create true masters compatibility, it's a big loop of testing and outline bugs fixing that occur when changing axes. And also manual hinting in the end.

  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,857
    edited December 2019
    Can we please not say static?  A static font is already a term for the opposite of an embedded font.  I'm fine with "flat".

    Note: To  whoever disagreed, I edited my post for clarity.   It's not a matter for debate, "static" is in common use to describe any font use that comports with a more modern concept of "print".  This covers  the universe of  printed and digital use where the font is rendered as an image and isn't present as software.

    No.

    “Static fonts” is not a new term with reference to variable fonts; it has been in use for years. It is in the OpenType spec, as well as the Wikipedia article on variable fonts.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_fonts
    https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/typography/opentype/spec/otvaroverview
    https://www.lambdatest.com/blog/variable-fonts-cross-browser-compatibility/
    etcetera

    I might agree that it is not a matter for debate—only I would have the opposite conclusion as to what the “common use” is. Mine is backed up by search engines, though.

    EDIT/ADD

    I see that a summary of the Darden Studio EULA terms refers to “static display of fonts.” This isn’t even a conflicting usage of the term! And the word “static” does not even occur in the Darden EULA. I am now curious as to where exactly this other usage of the phrase “static fonts” has occurred? In a presentation or talk, perhaps?

    Like John, my first thought is that our usage of “static” might date back to the MM days of 20+ years ago. But I can’t easily locate any evidence to support that.
  • Doesn't fixed make more sense?
  • I'm not in control of this.  I'm just  telling you what I know. And we've hijacked poor @Adam Jagosz's thread. sorry
  • Doesn't fixed make more sense?
    For which use? Or both?
  • I think "standalone" also works.
  • @Thomas Phinney For not variable.
  • Logic dictates that a variable font containing the entire family of fonts (and the interpolated more in-between) should be more or less the same price as a family package of all static fonts. For reasons of marketing and increasing user adoption the price might differ a bit, but my view is that really it is just a more convenient package for a family. With adoption being what it is, one way to spread the gospel has been to indeed give the variable font away "for free" with family packages.

    However, the naming of ACME font’s variable chaperone is a very tricky business. You might want to use ACME-Variable to point out it is indeed that, variable, or ACME-Uprights/Italics if the masters and thus variable fonts don't encompass the entire family, or the equally awkward ACME-All or ACME-Family if they do. Myself, I have been wondering if, eventually, variable fonts will just be named by the family, e.g. just ACME —but do users understand it?

    I reckon you can just rename you variable ttf file to otf if that is the issue.
  • For the actual question....

    1) If both versions exist, then I will stick VF at the end of the family name for the variable version. I am inclined to do something to keep the static fonts from name-colliding with the variable fonts.

    That said, on further thought, as long as the static fonts are pretty much “the same” and built off of the instances, I suppose that isn’t necessary—as long as you tell people that they can’t have both installed at once. I could be down with that.

    3) Like most people, I am inclined to give a discount if somebody wants to buy the family. I would then also ... simply include the variable font in the family package. Not raising the price. What I am really doing in my head is selling them the variable font and throwing in the static fonts as a workaround for dealing with old apps and buggy apps.
  • Thanks everyone for your input. “VF” seems logical, but will it be as informative as “Variable”? I've also seen around what seems to be using “GX” for style and including Variable in the family name for static and variable fonts alike, though I might be wrong, not having looked at the actual files (Protrakt Variable).
    Also, to embrace the derailing party: the opposite of variable is technically constant. So I'd say both static and fixed are synonyms of that. It's just the question of which was thought of first and/or stuck around (apparently, different things may have or may have not stuck in different places). Also, an easy way out, non-variable, but “non-variable instances” sounds corny.
    Also, if the “traditional” (?) styles are indeed variation instances, do you oppose to calling them static (fixed, standalone) instances, or is it better to stick to standalone/static/local/whatever styles/weights/fonts?
  • The trick about using “instances” in that way is that “instance” already means “a virtual font that is still part of the variable font.” So there is potential confusion using the same term to also mean “a real font that matches a specified instance of a variable font.”

    I sometimes use “instance font” to mean that latter, but if somebody has a better name for that, I would switch.

    I agree that constant, static and fixed are ~ synonymous. It’s just that static is the standard term for this and has been for years. I don’t think there is an advantage to using a bunch of synonyms for a single technical thing.
  • I'd say there's some argument for charging more for the variable font since the level of interpolation is more exacting which results in more labor.  That said, of course, one might want to just eat that extra time as a cost of trying to encourage adoption of the new model - if one believes that model is better. I, personally, have not decided.  I think variable is better for web but have yet to be convinced it  makes any  sense at all in other circumstances.
  • As an end user, I love the darn things and want them. I used to occasionally take an existing static font and variabilize it to get a weight or width tweak, or both.

    That in turn points out one of the things I hate about no-modifications EULAs, btw. I would have done that a lot more, if more EULAs allowed it. Adobe was good for that. But having the whole Monotype library was definitely less exciting because of that.  :/
  • @Thomas Phinney For my fonts, anyone can ask me for permission to modify and if (like you) they have the skill to do so without making a mess I  almost always let  them at no cost.  The only thing i require  is that change  they  name and accept a new license under that new name.

  • Nice! I do ask for permission when it comes up, if the EULA doesn't allow it. Last time it came up with Monotype, and I specifically asked, they said “no, we would only allow mods if we did them ourselves.” (Although ... that wasn’t a variablizing-for-a-new-instance-font case, mind you, it was bigger mods than that. On an old 1930s script face, IIRC.)
  • A static font is already a term for the opposite of an embedded font. 
    I've not encountered this. It doesn't seem like an intuitive terminology: I would have thought 'local' would be more common than 'static' in the sense of an installed font being used to display a document rather than an embedded or served font. And a printed font isn't a font: it's output. 

    Static font has been used to distinguish non-variable fonts from variable for a long time, possibly since MM and GX days in the 1990s.
    I would add that it’s not embedding per se that poses the need for further terminology, unless it’s very targeted.
    And yes, “font”, although it has become a popular, generic synonym for "typeface", it is rather alluding to the technical aspects. I find satisfying the historically aware definition borrowed by Wikipedia which states «In both traditional typesetting and modern usage, the word "font" refers to the delivery mechanism of the typeface design. In traditional typesetting, the font would be made from metal or wood. Today, the font is a digital file.»

    So, since we want just to distinguish between the software representing the typeface in its actual behavior, I would say any suffix could be good (VF or whatever), provided it’s enough clear to make the user aware of the fact that the file is a set of instances as opposed to a single weight/style of the family.
  • The opposite of variable is obviously constant. :#
    Yeah, I would also just add «VF» or «Variable» to the family name. Haven't tried it yet.
  • Cory MaylettCory Maylett Posts: 155
    edited December 2019
    I just append the name Variable to the font name — as in Fontname Variable — to distinguish it from the individual non-variable versions in the family.

    Since anyone buying a variable font is, essentially, buying the entire family, I just toss in the variable fonts when someone buys the whole family. Likewise, when someone buys the variable font, they also get all the non-variable fonts in the family.

    As for MyFonts only allowing standard OTF & TTF, I have variable fonts listed there. Same with FontSpring. I remember there being a small hassle about including them, but it was quickly resolved — so quickly, in fact, that I don't remember the details.
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 605
    edited December 2019
    I'm partial to Variable instead of VF as the family suffix, unless the rest of the name is really long. What about the font file name? FontLab and Fontmake default to Family-VF.ttf (I think). This is a minor point, but how about renaming it manually to Family-Variable.ttf or FamilyVariable.ttf? The former would imply that Variable is the style name, but otherwise looks cleaner.
  • Google Fonts doesn't change anything about the family name. The filename pattern GF uses includes a list of axes. 
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 605
    edited December 2019
    I meant the sheer file name, not the family name. But maybe that's still FontLab's doing upon export to DesignSpace+UFO. It's tricky with FontLab as it has some idiosyncratic behavior when it comes to name fields.
  • I'm partial to Variable instead of VF as the family suffix, unless the rest of the name is really long.
    That is exactly why it should be standardized to VF; to avoid possible confusion when using multiple naming conventions. You might publish something called Newbie Variable and some other person release something called Newbie VF. Which is which?

  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 605
    edited December 2019
    @George Thomas So you'd even name the variable font Something VF instead of Something Variable on the typeface's MyFonts page? I've seen an example off the latter, but none of the former (not that I looked for these long enough).
  • I'm partial to Variable instead of VF as the family suffix, unless the rest of the name is really long.
    That is exactly why it should be standardized to VF; to avoid possible confusion when using multiple naming conventions. You might publish something called Newbie Variable and some other person release something called Newbie VF. Which is which?

    Yes, and two folks could release a font with the same name, without VF/Variable. So, whoever does so first should consider getting a trademark.
  • @Adam Jagosz -- Yes, I would use VF because Variable uses six letters that could be used for the font name.
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