As the world of technology and user interface rapidly advances across the internet, so too does the landscape of fonts. Variable Fonts are gaining more and more traction, and Kilotype is a young independent type foundry that focused on the format early on, from 2017 when the foundry was established. In addition to regular “static” fonts, the foundry’s catalogue is also available as variable fonts.
Flexibility and control over the font is at the core of what William and co-founder Selma Losch set out to achieve with the development of variable fonts at the foundry. “With variable fonts, it becomes possible to adjust the typography to the needs of individual readers instead of readers having to adapt to a one size fits all approach,” Selma explains. As variable fonts are a type of font format that allows for multiple variations of a font to be contained within a single file, there is a much more ergonomic approach to the handling of type built with the font.
“Think of visually impaired people for instance,” Selma says. “We can not only adjust the type size, but also the style, weight and contrast to make a text more legible.” That’s not all, however, as Kilotype’s variable font selection stresses the importance of efficiency and broader possibilities; they’re equal parts playful and useful. “Like .mp3, variable fonts can compress information while offering access to a broader spectrum simultaneously,” William explains. “Some believe that variable fonts might not stand the test of time,” William adds. “But, we have successfully developed variable font projects for several clients and are seeing an increase in requests.”
One of the foundry's many stylistically beautiful variable fonts is Oldschool Grotesk, which inherits “some of the distinct aspects of early British Grotesques and lettering from that period [and] peels away the top layers of apparent quirkiness and eccentric detail”, as says Kilotype's website. This kind of innovative and refreshing take on fonts has proven to be largely successful for Kilotype, but that hasn’t been without the occasional experimental failure here and there. “Most of our experiments result in failures,” Selma says. “By definition experiments are only experiments, if you don’t know the outcome in advance. We make it a point to allocate time in between client and catalogue work to create with an uncertain outcome.” Such uncertainty in terms of aesthetic or technical aspects helps Selma and William challenge themselves in the context of what has and hasn’t been done before.
While being innovators in the field of variable fonts, Kilotype’s remit goes beyond that. One of the foundry's most admirable aspects is its extensive support of over 400 languages and user-friendly licensing structure. “When we set up Kilotype, a broad language support was something that we considered very important,” says Selma. “It has always struck us as peculiar that the type market focused on a very narrow slice of the western world.” While defining their standard character set, the Kilotype duo found that by including a few more characters allowed the fonts to become usable by so many more people. “It’s not hard to support Pan-African Latin languages, but it definitely takes a few more hours of drawing,” William tells us. “If we want better typography for the world and to make typography more accessible, we should try to raise the bar wherever possible and disregard commercial interests to some extent.”
As for the licensing types, Kilotype starts with free and accessible trial fonts. Then comes the Student licence at an accessible €60. Most notable is the foundry's ‘Concepts licence’, a free licence of their 'work in progress fonts' for any individual or company with a net annual revenue below €100,000. “All of these are rooted in the belief that those who don’t have a lot of money shouldn’t have to pay a lot for a licence and vice versa,” William says. “Since we’re independent we have some flexibility when it comes to licensing and pricing and we love to interact with our clients which range from independent artists to big corporations,” Selma adds. “The latter sometimes have licensing needs that are more complex and involve tailored options for logo usage, broadcasting, digital media, products, apps or usage that simply exceeds our standard tiers.”
Overall, it seems the world of variable fonts is having an exciting moment – and Kilotype is pushing for its further development. “Variable fonts are not going to reinvent the wheel, instead they will dynamically adjust the wheel to different screen sizes, devices and user preferences, thus making the ride smoother for a larger group of people,” says Selma.