Variable Fonts: a talk with Laurence Penney

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your work

Axis-Praxis website home page

What fascinates you about Variable Fonts?

What technological aspects make a font variable and useable today?

What has to happen or rather, what innovations are still needed to make Variable Fonts usable on all devices?

What are the advantages of Variable Fonts for the end user in your opinion?

Laurence used the Glyphs app to trace 16 frames of Eadweard Muybridge’s horse photographs (c. 1880), and saved them as intermediate masters of one glyph in a variable font. Hooked up to the emoji horse character, with a little HTML and CSS animation, it runs smoothly on modern browsers. And it takes just 4,300 bytes in total. Check out the result on CodePen.

Please explain Axis-Praxis to us. What is it and why did you create it? Was there a specific event or impulse that made you start?

  • individual specimens for each typeface,
  • a magnifier to zoom into subtle adjustments,
  • a CSS inspector,
  • a font inspector to check axis ranges, resources and validation,
  • typographic controls (font-size, line-spacing, colour, alignment, OpenType features),
  • a share button to publish new specimens for drag-dropped fonts.

How would you define your role in the world of typography? Do you see yourself, for example, as a mediator between software developers, type designers and end users, or is it something else entirely?

Are there large qualitative differences among the existing Variable Fonts that can be seen and tried out via Axis-Praxis?

Is Axis-Praxis a way for type designers to exchange ideas and understand each others’ process?

What is your favorite typeface and if it is not variable, should there be a variable companion?

Would you say Variable Fonts are the future of typography?

Video recordings of Laurence’s talks about variable fonts




I’m a software developer specializing in font technology, CSS typography and maps, based in Bristol and Athens.

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Laurence Penney

Laurence Penney

I’m a software developer specializing in font technology, CSS typography and maps, based in Bristol and Athens.

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