Distributors which specialize in variable fonts

Are there any general type distributors that can handle variable fonts? Some distributors allow variable fonts as an attachment with a family, but customers can’t preview or purchase it separately. On MyFonts, I can see typefaces with the word Variable in the name, but they only show the regular style and the only indication that they’re variable is in the description. I’m starting to produce variable fonts for existing families, but it seems like none of my current distributors can deal with them.

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  • Yeah, it’s pretty funny that Google seems to now be the leader in this field.
    (They are up to 18% of their families—261 of 1451—being variable fonts.)
  • Here's what Monotype's foundry support says about variable fonts.

    "Variable fonts are shown in a single, default instance on our sites. Because variable fonts are a new technology that hasn’t yet seen a pickup in customer demand, we’re not investing in advanced preview features yet. We’ll let our partners know if we do see the market change and decide to change how we display variable fonts."

    I suspect much the same is true of other font distributors; Variable fonts aren't a priority since consumer interest is still low.
  • >>since consumer interest is still low.<<

    Customers must still remember Adobe Multiple Masters
  • edited September 22
    Seems like a chicken/egg situation. There won't be increased demand without them being pushed vigorously. Same with color fonts. 
    Then again, many of my customers haven't figured out stylistic sets yet. 
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,234
    I feel like the interest in variable fonts has ramped up in the last few months on social media. I was holding out a few years to see what happens, but now it seems like the right time to jump in.

    If distributors allowed promotional videos, that could be a way to work around the lack of a test drive feature.
  • At Type Network, we started selling variable fonts a few months ago, with a lean previewer that lets you play with the available axes: https://store.typenetwork.com/fonts/

    You can also filter by available axes from the sidebar. 

    The inventory of variable fonts is growing slowly but steadily, since we’ve been doing a lot of QA on the fonts to make sure they’re built to spec. 
  • Type Network can help the industry by publishing its QA checks to help everyone making variable fonts build them to spec :) 
  • Still refining them!
  • Here's what Monotype's foundry support says about variable fonts.

    "Variable fonts are shown in a single, default instance on our sites. Because variable fonts are a new technology that hasn’t yet seen a pickup in customer demand, we’re not investing in advanced preview features yet. We’ll let our partners know if we do see the market change and decide to change how we display variable fonts."

    I suspect much the same is true of other font distributors; Variable fonts aren't a priority since consumer interest is still low.
    The irony: https://www.monotype.com/fonts/helvetica-now-variable
  • I keep hearing (especially from type designers who haven’t released variable fonts) that consumer interest is low, but I’m not seeing that. The following isn’t a scientific survey, and Typographica has a lot of enthusiast followers, but it’s a decent sample size, and half the respondents would seek variable fonts when they look for fonts.


  • That's nice but like you say the sample is likely to be biased. I'd be more interested in sales figures.
  • This reminds me a bit of automakers when they say “Americans only buy big cars” while offering the U.S. market very few compact models, especially with new tech (e.g., EVs). 
  • Speaking of Variable fonts, what are the software supporting them?
    Apparently, not the ones aimed to the average user like MS Office. (see Variable Fonts – Support (v-fonts.com))
    This may explain the lack of success.

    Not speaking of the additional time to create well-designed errorless variable fonts.
    And how to test them if you don't own the professional softwares? Only with Axis-Praxis?

  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 957
    edited September 24
    • The examples used to demonstrate variable fonts are interesting but tend to imply that animated tricks are the purpose of variable fonts. This perception undercuts the far more important practical value of the fonts in everyday design.

    @Cory Maylett You make a lot of great points, especially the one above. I’m just suggesting that interest is not low. Like every significant advance in technology, full-scale adoption in the mainstream market takes time. It always starts with those willing to experiment and take the risks you describe. Naturally, that experimentation began in smaller websites and other digital media, as the entries on Fonts In Use indicate, but we’re seeing plenty of variable fonts in print output too.
  • Cory MaylettCory Maylett Posts: 224
    edited September 24
    @Stephen Coles, when I mentioned "low," the reference was primarily to the quote from Monotype saying much the same thing and the likelihood of other font distributors viewing variable fonts similarly. In other words, they don't currently see high enough sales to warrant recoding their e-commerce platforms to more effectively promote and demonstrate variable fonts.

    I agree with you that the word low doesn't accurately describe the underlying interest, even though current sales might not reflect that interest. However, I don't hear the same buzz in the design community regarding variable fonts as I did two or three years ago.

    I'm old enough to remember the buzz over multiple masters in the early '90s that came and went. A superficial look might lead to concluding that much the same will happen to variable fonts. However, I see differences that I hope will keep variable fonts from meeting the same fate.

    First, variable fonts are often a byproduct, of sorts, of larger font families. When type designers use interpolation to create intermediate instances, simultaneously producing a variable font is often a simple matter of exporting it. The relative ease of doing this will help ensure that typeface designers will continue to produce variable fonts, even when subsequent use and sales are relatively low.

    Second, as more designers get inexpensive or free access to variable fonts through Google Fonts or Adobe Fonts, they will realize the benefits of using them, and the demand should, I hope, increase. The increased demand will pressure font distributors and graphic software developers to up their games and take variable fonts more seriously.

    I'm not great at predicting the future, but I'm still optimistic about variable fonts.

  • Here’s more hard data on variable font usage, just released by @bramstein for the Web Almanac:
    Usage of variable fonts has nearly tripled since the last measurement in the Almanac’s 2020 Fonts chapter! Nearly 29% of websites use variable fonts. Most of this growth seems to have happened in the last year, with an amazing 125% growth.
    Google Fonts accounts for 97% of variable fonts served […] Regardless of a single actor being responsible for the growth, it is an amazing achievement, and a good indicator of the usefulness of variable fonts to optimize your site’s performance.

    On the other hand, most users are only utilizing the performance benefits of having multiple styles in a single file, not the benefits of fine tuning adjustments (e.g., a weight value of 525).

  • When thinking about the pace of adoption of variable fonts, something that tends to be overlooked is that adoption of this font technology innovation has been spreading more rapidly than any other font tech innovation since the introduction of TrueType in 1991. For example, Web fonts / @font-face were introduced in CSS2 back in 1998 but did not take off until an additional font tech innovation, WOFF, started being supported in browsers around 2010. OpenType Layout adoption has certainly been slower, as has adoption of colour fonts.

    That's not to say that there aren't some significant gaps and hurdles. There's certainly a significant desktop app gap: variable fonts would certainly be beneficial in apps like PowerPoint, and in an informal survey I did late last year, I heard over and over people saying they didn't understand why variable fonts aren't yet supported in After Effects. But there were also other recurring themes, including the challenge of explaining the benefits to customers and a big need to educate graphic designers generally.
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