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Odd Visual Quirks with Variable Fonts


Bob Henderson

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I purchase a good amount of commercial type for sign design purposes. Lately I've been buying more type families that have variable fonts in the overall package. Heading Now by Zetafonts was one of my recent buys. Overall it is a very impressive type package (162 font files, 2 of them variable). I have no complaints about the standard OTF files. But the 2 variable fonts have some odd visual quirks with glyphs, ones that even vary between applications. And there are noticeable differences in kerning between the variable fonts and standard OTFs.

In Adobe Illustrator the glyphs in Heading Now for the most part look normal except for problems with some characters. Letters like "S" have various amounts of crooked anchor point trash in the middle diagonal cross bar. The upper and lowercase "O" letters can have issues at the top and bottoms of the counters. This anchor point "trash" varies depending on the variable weight and width instance being applied. When I pull up Heading Now Variable in CorelDRAW 2021 all sorts of additional problems crop up. A lot of the vertical and horizontal lines in the glyphs are thrown off kilter and made crooked. This is the first time I've seen anything like this with a OTF Variable font file. Is it a problem with the font files? Or a problem with the application? Or even an issue with minimum system requirements? Can an older computer system affect the interpolation of variable fonts?

I closely looked through some other Variable Font buys made recently. Proxima Vara appears to behave just fine in Illustrator, CorelDRAW and even Inkscape. No issues with the "S". The same goes for Coco Sharp (over 2000 glyphs per font file in that one). But I did find the anchor point trash issue in the middle of the "S" of Futura Now.

Anyway, I'm hoping Zetafonts might release an update for Heading Now to deal with some of the technical issues I'm seeing in the two variable fonts. The package is a heck of a versatile, work-horse type family even if one doesn't use the variable fonts. But I have been using the variable fonts to some degree and doing editing work to clean up the "dirt" where it occurs. It's a modest price to pay for something so handy.

  • very interesting! 1
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