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Just a teensy little bump to this thread… I'm guessing implementing the underlying frameworks needed for this format must be easier said than done, but it's something all kinds of users (be they designers/illustrators doing posters with loads of decoration who may wish to use some wild font like this: https://twitter.com/typotheque/status/933797656966717446 , or typesetters working on long, complex documents in the upcoming Publisher who may wish to have a finer control over their text styles) will have a use for, and… we mustn't forget this is a font file format we're talking about.

 

Serif devs pride themselves in the wide, industry-standard format support offered by Affinity apps (and I'd venture to say the advent of variable fonts is a tiny revolution in the making and they will become an industry-standard sooner rather than later), and this should come way ahead than other tools in your list of priorities. People can always get around the lack of a certain tool by, say, using an older version of a CS app for a specific workflow (personally, performing image tracing in CS5 and exporting them to Designer, or re-doing spot colour gradients before exporting stuff to press come to mind), or by devising some other convoluted workflow inside Affinity apps alone, but not being able to use a format outright can be a deal-breaker for many people. Thus, not supporting these may equate to handing down potential clients/users to Adobe on a platter, I'm afraid.

Then again, I'm extremely biased as I'm a Typography MFA student. But I'd still say typography and all things related rank (or at least they should rank) *extremely* high on most designers' priorities. On photographers' and illustrators', not so much, and we all know there's this weird oxymoronic dichotomy between Affinity Designer and Adobe Illustrator, wherein the former seems to be more geared towards illustrators (the strong emphasis you put on illustration in your choice of sample files is living proof of that – seriously, you only feature five files, “Edit '16”, “Artboards”, “Prison of Arts”, “Forma Playing Cards” and  “Orbit”, which include typed text at all, and it's not much for that matter and on the last one, which is probably the one which features the most text, and on at least the other two before that which weren't set in Helvetica/Arial, it's all converted into outlines –, and perhaps you've even entered a feedback loop where you can't really get neat demos of graphic examples with text anymore because users aren't just submitting them or, worse even, creating them at all in the first place… or is that all on you and your curation? If so, if you do really have a choice, I feel it's a bit misguided to feature illustrations disproportionately, IMHO, and I'd be more than happy to submit some examples of my own, even if they have to be converted to curves, or even design some examples from scratch with web- [and OS-] safe fonts) and the latter more geared towards designers (even though they do the same with their splash screens, their type tools are now, much to my chagrin, second to none) and even wannabe technical draughtsmen (guilty as charged!), but c'mon guys, please honour your app's name a bit more.

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The specs for variable fonts are not set in stone yet, in that there are still axis tags being registered or in some stage of discussion prior to becomming a registered axis. And for some/many tags, even what a default setting should be isn't written in concrete yet. 

 

There is limited desktop application, primarily being Adobe and browsers. Adobe's implementationt is a showcase of X number of axis in a variable font. It would be good for support in Affinity products, but one needs to recognize that over the course of a year or two (or more), the number of axis is going to grow and if rational issues are found, specs (mainly tables in the font I suspect) and or defaults for an axis may change/grow as well. 

 

I create fonts and work on other's fonts. I wanna redo some into variable fonts. It means I may be able to sell fonts that were "dead" to new sales growth. So of course I desire wide application support. But that support really isn't there and likely will take some time before there is a widespread support. But I wouldn't say for an immature application such as AD that such support is or should be placed ahead of fixing bugs, adding drawing features and improving overall usability.

 

Mike

 

 

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On 12/5/2017 at 2:15 AM, MikeW said:

The specs for variable fonts are not set in stone yet, in that there are still axis tags being registered or in some stage of discussion prior to becomming a registered axis. And for some/many tags, even what a default setting should be isn't written in concrete yet. 

 

There is limited desktop application, primarily being Adobe and browsers. Adobe's implementationt is a showcase of X number of axis in a variable font. It would be good for support in Affinity products, but one needs to recognize that over the course of a year or two (or more), the number of axis is going to grow and if rational issues are found, specs (mainly tables in the font I suspect) and or defaults for an axis may change/grow as well. 

 

I create fonts and work on other's fonts. I wanna redo some into variable fonts. It means I may be able to sell fonts that were "dead" to new sales growth. So of course I desire wide application support. But that support really isn't there and likely will take some time before there is a widespread support. But I wouldn't say for an immature application such as AD that such support is or should be placed ahead of fixing bugs, adding drawing features and improving overall usability.

 

Mike

 

 

 

You know what, Mike, I completely understand where you're coming from. I do some type design myself (mostly modular geometric fonts, but I make a point of making complete character sets including advanced OpenType features like discretionary ligatures and contextual alternates) and I'm now starting to give type design workshops to college students, first to my MA colleagues and, come next month, commercial ones to MA and BA students on the other school from my joint-MA programme… And it seems to be a wildly complex issue with many ramifications. We must get it right ASAP, lest we develop fonts into yet some new dead-ends (the old multiple-master fonts come to mind), or into potentially proprietary and/or undocumented formats (can you say “.PDF”? To this day, even though the format spec has been freely available since '93, there are still some compatibility issues; once again said spot-colour gradient turned into CMYK issue comes to mind).

I'm mostly focusing on Glyphs both on my personal projects (hey, it's super cheap, much like Affinity apps, and I'll soldier on using Macs for the foreseeable future) and on said workshops (though I did give the FontLab VI beta a good look, as it's the only decent cross-platform offering right now, but I've since figured they are similar enough that PC-using folks can just follow the workshop on FontLab VI provided I explain them the [small] naming convention differences between them) and am currently in direct contact with Rainer Erich Scheichelbauer (who I've met last month on our annual national [Portuguese] typography meeting), one of its lead developers (the other being Georg Seifert, which I don't know personally but could easily get in contact with if I so wished).

As for Adam Twardoch, from FontLab, I unfortunately never had the chance to talk with him, though my teacher, who I'm collaborating with on said workshops, did, and he was mightily impressed with the way they finally got out of their recent, protracted rut (mostly thanks to the Glyphs team giving them a swift and well-deserved kick in the nuts, I'm guessing).

And you know what? I'd be willing to bet that if these guys, along with Frederik Berlaen from RoboFont, could cooperate amongst them and with Serif, Corel, Pixelmator, Sketch et al. to standardise on *something* and send Adobe and their TypeKit nonsense (I mean, it's not that big of a nonsense, it's actually a decent – or even cool – idea, but since it's tied to that CC albatross and will probably end up becoming yet another near-monopoly, I and many designers *and type designers* – and I happen to have a foot in both camps – won't touch it with a 10-foot pole) a big F. U., they probably and gladly would. All it takes is *some* goodwill from one or a few of these design app developers to tell the others, “you know what, guys, we'd like a typography framework for variable fonts – if you ask me, it could work a bit like Glyphs internal variable component feature, and also like its multiple-master interpolation feature, in addition or to or in combination with the multiple axes you've mentioned – as cool as or even cooler than Adobe's, can you come up with one for us? And make it open and well-documented, while you're at it”…

That's how I think it should be done, in a concerted effort to move the market as a whole forward. Heck, throw in the big heavyweights like Monotype while you're at it: they would have a blast competing against TypeKit and pushing their FontExplorer X Pro font manager and integrated font shop… And I'd love to see Serif, the new guys in town going against the 800lb gorilla (hey, they remind me a lot of the Glyphs team going against FontLab, now that I think of it), be the ones to kickstart the whole thing. One can dream… but guys, seriously, please surprise us. I for one, am more than willing to do my part and bridge that gap.

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For your reading enjoyment...

 

http://typedrawers.com/discussions/tagged/otvar

 

That tag (otvar) is being used for all the variable font threads and that link will provide the threads thus far. Some people you will know (Georg Seifert, Thomas Phinney, et al), but also includes Peter Constable from Microsoft.

 

I would think that getting application developers together to discuss GUI implementation (one of the worse aspects about Adobe's implementation is the crazy and inconsistent GUI support) would be like herding cats. And they are all so closed-lipped about their respective applications that I am uncertain they would be productive even if they got together. They all (including representatives from Adobe, MS and others) should be talking much like the participants in the GHENT Workshop (PDF stuff) and the OpenType groups. They don't need to discuss application specifics (wit the exception of the OS people like Peter), but they should discuss this issue (and other variable font issues) for the betterment and consistency across applications as a whole.

 

I am not holding my breath.

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Thanks for the reference, Mike! I probably won't be reading those threads thoroughly, but I'll be sure to start at least looking at them regularly (and I'll read them in earnest probably as soon as I turn in my thesis in April, ha! ;) ).

Yes, I totally get the “herding cats” thing. And the whole being tight-lipped stuff, yep. Serif is, too, with their own tools, and it can only keep them safe for that long (just look at how Adobe has been blatantly ripping them off lately… Even the rounded corners functionality – but hey, at least I HATE those in Ai with a passion, as I can no longer select nodes on small zoom factors without accidentally selecting the corner-rounding handles instead more often than I'm willing to accept…).

But surely you must agree that these guys could develop some of this stuff as proof-of-concept, to give their own clients some head-start on the type design process, with incomplete or semi-proprietary implementations on platforms like Adobe TypeKit, and we could, on our side, have at least the OS and non-Adobe design app guys (which aren't really competing on the type design tools arena) having a look at what's already available on most type design apps and standardising it afterwards and ASAP, no? And when I say “standardising”, I *really* mean standardising, not proprietary, OS-specific stuff like the AAT format (and I have much more faith in Microsoft, Apple and Google engineers sitting at a table to discuss typography than any of the other type design software guys, of course…).

As for the GUI implementation being consistent or not, I mean… who gives a damn, really? Sad as it may be, I know I don't. I say, let them come up with solutions, and may the best become the standard. The money is really on getting variable fonts to *work* consistently across different apps and OSes, and I'd say that at least the rest of the OT features are a bit of a success in that regard… amirite?

I'm not holding my breath either, but I'd be super sad if the guys at Serif, after all the accolades they've got recently, let themselves be left in the dust on this tiny (but hugely important) revolution. If anything, they should be at its forefront, even considering the commendable history Adobe has on typography…

Actually, I'm wondering whether Serif shouldn't be teaming with some indie font developers to distribute their fonts permanently bundled with Affinity apps, and not just the temporary offerings they've made. Those would be a good differentiator, add more value to the apps and allow them to include samples typeset with said fonts, to safely showcase Affinity's (hopefully ever-improving) type tools across OSes. The only condition would be that those fonts would have to support the entire character set for the current localisations (except perhaps for Japanese, which would probably mean exceptionally higher bundling costs because of the thousands upon thousands of kanji it would have to include – fellow users from Japan: sorry! :( ) and a few OpenType features, to make them usable to most users and better than most of the free fonts you can find around the web. I'm not saying they'd have to include a metric ton of fonts like Adobe does, but throwing in a few cool ones just to get novice users started would be nice, yes. And having at least one variable font in the mix, if and when said features are implemented, would also be a no-brainer.

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As for the GUI consistency, I just really meant that they should all be using consistent labels, perhaps organization where it makes sense and not the look/feel of the GUI. They could all learn from each other. They all are their own closed-loop developmentally and that can lead to awkward, incomplete or missing implementations and work-flows. Sitting around a table and expressing thoughts/ideas could lead to better implementation for us all.

 

AD and CD already have the best in class OT feature support. Corel moves at a snail's pace as regards development. Even if I did know what their take is on variable font support, I couldn't say...

 

I think that Adobe is more implementing stuff that Astute Graphics had done long ago for Illy than grabbing ideas from Serif. Which may be behind Astute Graphic's opening up their API for developers to implement themselves. And I think Serif ought to take a look at the licensing costs as their stuff is top-notch and it would get Serif from point A to point B more quickly. Serif needs to also expose their API for plug-in makers.

 

I have mixed feelings about OT 1.8 spec as regards variable fonts. It's been done before and flopped (twice if I recall). This time around it has wide support among browser developers. And that is all the difference in the world. But whether this translates to desktop application makers and designers is hard to tell yet. If applications add solid support, designers would likely utilize the feature. That is where both Multiple Masters fell apart and GTX as well. Designers just didn't make the transition and even if they clamored for it, application support was spotty at best. Adobe tried to stop gap the lack of support with ATM but making instances in it (and other type applications) was seen somewhere between a hassle and a novelty. I am uncertain whether "build it and they will come" applies. 

 

I mostly do layout work. I have tens of thousands of fonts going back to Type 1 fonts from the late 1980s. The investment is crazy bad if I think about it. I don't think I am much different than others doing layout work. Much of my font decisions are tied to publishers, some to agencies and other designers. If they don't spec these fonts I myself won't purchase them with the exception of work where I get to recommend fonts. With that type of work where is the compelling reason to use a variable Myriad Pro font versus the current instances that exist? Or a whatever font design that is variable versus a family that isn't variable? With such a stockpile of fonts, what would be my reason for buying yet more? That's a rhetorical question, btw.

 

But the question is there to show the hurdle I and other designers will have to face one day. Just because an application or ten applications have such support, unless publishing houses, agencies, etc., spec a variable font I myself won't be spending my money on them. I will spend money on upgrades that make the rest of my designing swifter and more assured.

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4 hours ago, JGD said:

As for Adam Twardoch, from FontLab, I unfortunately never had the chance to talk with him, though my teacher, who I'm collaborating with on said workshops, did, and he was mightily impressed with the way they finally got out of their recent, protracted rut (mostly thanks to the Glyphs team giving them a swift and well-deserved kick in the nuts, I'm guessing).

 

Adam Twardoch posted here a few times in the early days of Designer Beta on Mac, but he doesn’t seem to have been around since this time last year.


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On 12/5/2017 at 3:48 AM, MikeW said:

I have mixed feelings about OT 1.8 spec as regards variable fonts. It's been done before and flopped (twice if I recall). This time around it has wide support among browser developers. And that is all the difference in the world. But whether this translates to desktop application makers and designers is hard to tell yet. If applications add solid support, designers would likely utilize the feature. That is where both Multiple Masters fell apart and GTX as well. Designers just didn't make the transition and even if they clamored for it, application support was spotty at best. Adobe tried to stop gap the lack of support with ATM but making instances in it (and other type applications) was seen somewhere between a hassle and a novelty. I am uncertain whether "build it and they will come" applies. 

Ahh, you see, this is where I believe Apple, Google and Microsoft may play a hand… All three offer the main operating systems (and, hence, the APIs) currently in use today, all three have decent typography departments (though I still have some doubts about Google Fonts and Google's commitment to typography and type design… Actually, I have serious doubts about their commitment to anything, as besides being positively evil sometimes – unlike their stupid and telling motto professes –, they are the masters of vapourware and killing off popular products at their prime – *cough* Google [RSS] Reader *cough* – just because they can't extract enough money from them), and at least two of them (Microsoft and Apple) partnered in the past to create an interoperable format (TrueType) which basically finished off what Bitstream started (by reverse-engineering the very Type 1 format you've mentioned) and definitely robbed Adobe out of its monopoly on decent, easy-to-use digital typefaces (Kinross, R. – 2004 – Modern typography: an essay on critical history, pp. 170-2).

If these three heavyweights end up throwing their support behind a decent format (would that be OT 1.8, then?), and if you get proper variable font support on the new 800lb gorilla in town (iOS App Store+Mobile Safari), well… it may very well turn out differently than QuickDraw GX (a nice format on a niche OS) and Multiple Masters (a nice, but utterly proprietary format). One can hope!

[Yep, I know it's been over a year since the last reply in this thread, but I've been reading a lot about this subject recently for my MA research… Back then I didn't know precisely how things went “back in the day”, but now I get it: Adobe has been trying in earnest to advance digital typography since its inception, yes, but always in an extremely closed and self-serving fashion. Some things never change, I guess…]

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And in the meantime, there is variable type support in two Adobe desktop applications creeping in. AI's implementation is an "experiment" of sorts and pretty much isn't done well. And of course browser support is getting better, Adobe has entered the fray of producing some and MS has one they included with an update to Windows. Quark will in all likelihood get in on the act before Adobe gets variable fonts in ID (well, they did with color fonts anyway, which ID cannot deal with).

But the spec is still evolving and work today in a desktop application may well be for naught down the road until the spec is set in stone. The main battle really is the UI for manipulating the axes. And because of the shear number of axes, the UI really should respond like AD does with OT Features--that is, some of the possible axes should be font context aware and not present options not available in a given font.

Oh, yeah, the Google thing. Google via (at least) a small team headed by Dave Crossland are advancing font technologies, including the latest endeavor, font validation. It's a big deal at least for foundries if not smaller shops. Consistency not only across font families but a whole foundy of fonts, one of the functions it does, has always been a bugaboo. "Static" fonts are one thing to check and ensure a consistency and proper functioning (fonts are run-time applications after all), but variable fonts are likely to exponentially increase the possibility of fonts bringing down an application or even an OS as is possible now with static fonts.

It will be interesting to watch how it all shakes out.

Mike

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