Variable Monospace

For the past few months I have been working on converting my typeface League Mono from eight weights (up from 5 when it launched) to a variable weight and variable width font. A few days after the official Glyphs tutorial was published I had a rough working version:

I had been using multiple masters that were compatible with one another so the transition to variable weight was a quick and easy task. But I really wanted to make the width variable, and League Mono only had one width. So that involved making the most condensed style and the most extended style, which took a while.

I didn’t work on it continuously – more in spurts, really – but that second tweet was a month later than the first tweet. The process involved a lot of exporting work-in-progress versions to my Adobe fonts folder and adjusting the width and weight sliders. It was a fun new challenge, but not without some frustration, mostly because I was working with a monospace font. So that condensed extrabold “m”? Tricky, but worth it. I eventually pulled open Photoshop to make a gif, experimenting with different weight/width combinations.

The nature of League Mono Variable means that you can create a hundred (or more) slightly different styles. You can have something between the normal and wide widths, that is slightly between medium and semibold weights. Do those names even matter anymore? Well, as of this post, yes, because outside of Adobe products and select internet browsers, it’s almost too early to roll with a strictly variable file. So I made what I think are pretty consistent, incremental styles. 40, actually (5 widths x 8 weights).

I’m at a comfortable stopping point, for now. League Mono Variable is up on v-fonts.com. I also talked about this process briefly with Thomas Jockin at Type Thursday. I’ve already converted the progress I had made on the new multi-weight League Spartan to a variable font:

And I’m in the process of doing the same to one of my favorites, Grandstander! I see variable fonts working side-by-side with static weights and styles, so I’m happy to be able to create both using the same workflow (thanks again, Glyphs). With Grandstander, and other commercial fonts I’ve made, I’m probably going to include the variable font with the full font package. So if you buy all weights/styles you’ll automatically get the variable font. I will not be licensing that for webfont usage though, just desktops workstations. It’s all new territory, which is simultaneously exciting and daunting.