Introducing OpenType Variable Fonts
John Hudson
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In the mid 1990s Multiple Master Fonts by Adobe were a big thing that blew over as fast as it appeared. Besides the limited availability of typefaces it was just too elaborate to use for most of the work at hand. The extra time required to use MM fonts properly was not paid for.

When the Mac had conquered every graphic studio around the world it did not allow its professional users for more time to spend on better design, layout and final artwork, it simply made deadlines much tighter. MM fonts did not fit in with that newly acquired mentality of last minute revisions and getting the work out to the printer or newspapers in no time.

MM fonts were the answer to the horrifying mistreatment of fonts that was quite common at the time: squeezing and stretching. Typefaces were quite expensive, so why not buy just one font and simply apply horizontal scaling to create a Condensed or Extended version, add an outline for a Bold version, and apply shear for an Italic. Illustrator and Freehand would allow you to create the most monstrous headlines and logos, so why not? Cheap and fast.

Where I see OTV play a possible big part is in Responsive web design and development. Headlines often have awkward breakpoints when the browser size is being adjusted. Having type that can stretch along while resizing the browser could be a thing. Downside is that it can look gimmicky if not done sparsely and correctly.

The technology and its possibilities are great. It’s just a case of been there, done that, and not convinced that this time it will actually conquer the world.

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