114: Font Futures: Variable Font Technology with Charles Nix of Monotype

Updated: Aug 21


I was first introduced to the work of Charles Nix, Type Director at Monotype, years ago through a LinkedIn Learning course he created about Learning Type Design. This series of videos has become an incredible resource that I’ve leaned on when teaching my typography classes. Charles has been a co-instructor of sorts in my Advanced Typography class this semester, as I’ve handled the high-level, big picture ideas moving the type industry forward, while I’ve invited students to watch Charles’ video series to learn the nitty-gritty details to design their own original typefaces.


I recently attended a webinar hosted by the Association of Registered Graphic Designers featuring Charles Nix chatting all about the possibilities of variable type and why it has the potential to change how we interact with and design fonts. I was thoroughly captivated and I reached out to Charles after to see if he would speak to our class. I was delighted when he enthusiastically agreed and in early April 2022, he imparted his variable type wisdom in our class.


Typography student, Nate Evangelista, expressed interest in co-hosting our guest and he did an incredible job helping to ask insightful questions after Charles’ talk.


Nate, why don’t you introduce yourself. :)



Hey everybody! My name’s Nate, I’m a Graphic Layout Artist at TC Transcontinental and a proud GCM alumnus. I went from leaving Nursing because of human anatomy to being completely obsessed with type anatomy. I had the utmost pleasure of being a student in Diana’s Advanced Typography class in my final semester and found myself enjoying the experience of creating my own typeface from scratch. I owe it both to Diana and the tutelage of one Charles Nix. His LinkedIn Learning Course on Type Design gave me the proper insight and knowledge on how to complete this project and allowed me to create a typeface I am truly proud of.


Aside from that, Nix shared invaluable knowledge about the world of type, particularly his point that type designers and graphic designers as a whole are the intersection between art and engineering. What we do isn’t only about making something that’s trendy or attention grabbing, we are also advocates of accessibility, ensuring the work we create isn’t only enjoyed by many, but also helps to improve user experience and interaction. This is where emerging trends such as Variable Font Technology have become so prevalent in today’s modern world as it gives us designers the opportunity to create content that is accessible and inclusive alongside being artistic and visually stimulating.



In the following talk, you’ll hear some incredible examples of variable type that exists in the world. You’ll hear about the possibilities for both the digital and physical world and the creative solutions possible when designers can really play and experiment with type as a medium. Variable font technology allows us to move beyond the binary to space that’s fluid and dimensional and allows us to explore a spectrum of type. There are some visuals of concepts discussed, provided in the show notes at www.talkpaperscissors.info.


Charles, over to you!




Notable Links:


Charles Nix, Type Director, Monotype


https://www.myfonts.com/WhatTheFont/


Jam by Eric van Blokland - 1993 variable, custom variable for bang (pressure applied), axis for crumble, axis for spatter, axis for punch (filling in of counters)


Axis-Praxis


Toshi Omagari’s variable font = moving images






















About Our Guest:

Charles Nix is a Creative Type Director, designer, typographer and educator. He designed a number of popular typefaces in the Monotype Library, including Walbaum and Hope Sans, which received a Certificate of Typographic Excellence in the 22nd Annual Type Directors Club Typeface Design Competition. He’s also designed custom typefaces for Google Noto, Progressive Insurance and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.






Music: Drop by Ketsa, licensed with permission from the Independent Music Licensing Collective - imlcollective.uk


Talk Paper Scissors Theme Music: Retro Quirky Upbeat Funk by Lewis Sound Production via Audio Jungle


Boat Origami Photo: Boat Origami Photo by Alex on Unsplash

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