Why don't we hear about more use of variable fonts on the Web?

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  • https://2021.stateofcss.com/en-US/features/typography/#variable_fonts

    20% of surveyed CSS developers said they've used VFs

    40% heard of it but not yet used it

    40% never heard of it
  • https://2021.stateofcss.com/en-US/features/typography/#variable_fonts

    20% of surveyed CSS developers said they've used VFs

    40% heard of it but not yet used it

    40% never heard of it
    The presentation of information on that page is... interesting—as in, not clear. There are bars (equivalent to pie charts) for 2019, 2020 and 2021, but the "Never heard of it" bar gets longer for each year moving forward. Huh?? 

    Apparently the confusion is because fewer survey respondents answered that question in 2021 than in 2020, and fewer in 2020 than in 2019; but of those that responded, the proportion was shifting to those saying "Never heard of it".
  • Makes sense to me, as the survey population grows away from the network of people close to the people running the survey, who are a savvy bunch of early adopters, the population becomes less familiar with the latest stuff
  • 20% of surveyed CSS developers said they've used VFs

    40% heard of it but not yet used it

    40% never heard of it

    They should have also mentioned the number of people participated in the survey. I am surprised, 40% of CSS developers (among the participants) have not heard of variable fonts in 2021. May be because of the evolution of web site builders, page builders and HTML/CSS frameworks, web designers are less interested in checking out new CSS properties and techniques.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,435
    Makes sense to me, as the survey population grows away from the network of people close to the people running the survey, who are a savvy bunch of early adopters, the population becomes less familiar with the latest stuff
    There is also the phenomenon by which a technology may actually become less well known as one gets further away from the initial introduction if that technology has not become a common component in the intervening period. When variable fonts were announced in 2016, there was a good amount of information disseminated about them and a lot of it consumed by potential users. As just one example, I was tracking the number of visotors and readers of the introductory article I wrote, and for the first couple of years after the announcement the readership remained high. It has since tapered off almost to nil, and I think variable fonts are probably less on the radar for newcomers to web design than they were three years ago.

    I think we should not underestimate the impact of web design and development education. My guess is that few students are getting exposed to using variable fonts. Twenty-plus years on from OpenType, it is still possible to talk to graduates of typography classes in design schools and find that they have zero knowledge of OpenType Layout, so it wouldn’t surprise me to find that teaching of web typography is stuck at @font-face static fonts.
  • Twenty-plus years on from OpenType, it is still possible to talk to graduates of typography classes in design schools and find that they have zero knowledge of OpenType Layout, so it wouldn’t surprise me to find that teaching of web typography is stuck at @font-face static fonts.
    I know a lot of teachers who spend quite a bit of time explaining why OpenType features are important. And this is not a small part of what I teach students, too. But, in the grand scheme of a design education, the proper use of OpenType features and the use variable fonts instead of @font-face static fonts is not all that high up among the things I hope graduates take away from their design degree programs.
  • @Dan Reynolds But, hopefully, the students go away remembering that they have, at least, heard of these things and would respond to that effect in a survey.
  • nice find dave! I'm going to run that by a motion buddy

    I'd wager a number of forum members already saw this RE: figma

    I assume the context is that this is a leak of feature in beta testing?
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,196
    Nima and others have a hobby to use decompilation tools to find eg translation strings, UI layout data, etc, that are included in apps but not accessible as active features. 
  • This is all very interesting.

    To the day, I can’t see why VF may be of any interest to me as a font designer, font provider.
    We enjoyed the Multiple Master adventure back in the 90ies, is was a delight but it vanished soon – no tears. We have OT since ~20 years and it has still not yet arrived in the brains of a majority of font users.
    – Of course there are different kinds of font users and hence different product models to pursue.

    What really puzzles me: I can’t grasp a feel that further advancing sophistication in the font’s internal technology does any good to the big majority of font users in this world. For 9 of 10 people all these fancy programming niceties are just too nitpicky or simply uninteresting. No one actually needs that.
    I’d rather think about to reform our means of character input. That seems to me a much bigger problem of today’s typographic practice in a globalized world, that is the Achilles’ heel no one seems to touch so far.
    But that is, admittedly, another thread.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,880
    There is some potential for emergent, unanticipated uses of new technologies.

    For instance, “pseudo randomness” was not a planned feature of the OpenType spec. 

    Similarly, there are certain areas of typography, notably animation/time-based, where VF fonts may prove to be instrumental in creating smooth new effects.
  • I’d rather think about to reform our means of character input. That seems to me a much bigger problem of today’s typographic practice in a globalized world, that is the Achilles’ heel no one seems to touch so far.
    But that is, admittedly, another thread.
    Yes, admittedly a different thread, and perhaps out of scope for this forum.

    But I will say I'm surprised you'd say "no one seems to touch so far" since I think there has been a lot of change in the past ten years in how text is input. Perhaps there haven't been some kinds of changes you have in mind. But text prediction is just one example of major innovation that has occurred and where there is continuing innovation happening. 
  • … text prediction is just one example of major innovation …
    yes there has been some development. But not ‘major innovations’, I can’t see any. Text prediction is hardly an innovation, its a desease. As auto-correction is. Its one of those techy things no one ever asked for and which is above all good for patronizing people and drag them in some prescribed direction. Whenever I type something on my phone it seems to know better than I what I am about to say, and it is always wrong of course. – Ey??

    The other thread I mentioned actually would belong into this forum. Because it is about keyboards, about that 1800-something good old Remington with ~50 keys which users get for to access the 400 or 2000 characters we put in our fonts for them.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,880
    Further to my post of Feb. 5:
    Stretchy
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,196
    https://www.monotype.com/resources/case-studies/evri

    Excellent case study on variable fonts for branding, from Monotype!
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