The Importance of Variable Fonts in Improving Readability


In February 2022, Google joined The Readability Consortium (TRC), a collaborative research initiative with a mission to enhance digital readability for all. Dave Crossland and Dr. Hilary Palmén of Google Fonts joined TRC founding organizations, Adobe, Readability Matters, and the University of Central Florida. Google’s vast font catalog, customization approach to the material ( system, and commitment to research make them an excellent partner to join the research consortium.

Watch Dave and Hilary’s lightning talk from the Skoll World Forum as they discuss how variable fonts are changing the nature of design and the use of typography. Dave provides an overview of variable fonts and summarizes the three values of variable fonts: compress, finesse, and express. Hilary discusses the importance of research in making fonts more readable since individual variability is huge.

“One of the most striking things about the research from the readability consortium is the extent to which typography can impact readability for different people. And naturally there are individual differences.” – Hilary Palmén, PhD



Did You Know?

You can browse for variable fonts using the “Show only variable fonts” checkbox on Google Fonts.

The K-8 Readability Comprehension Research Study used the variable font, Roboto Flex. Read more about the research presented at the Scientific Study of Reading (SSSR) annual meeting.

Learn More

Tobias Kunish, Sehee Lee, and Michael Gilbert of Google discuss variable fonts, typography, and the research Google is doing to improve readability. Watch here.

Visit the Google Fonts Knowledge Library of original guides to the world of typography, which the Google Fonts team is producing in collaboration with typographic experts from around the world. Google Fonts Knowledge enables designers and developers of all skill sets to choose and use type with purpose.

Google added variable fonts to their font library, making it easier to personalize digital.


About Dave Crossland: Dave is lead operations manager for Google Fonts, and has commissioned thousands of fonts from hundreds of designers for dozens of writing systems, plus font editors, educational resources and live events. The way type design combines visual culture, language, technology, business, history – and its ubiquity – make this field something he finds endlessly fascinating.

About Hilary Palmén, PhD: Hilary is the Lead User Experience Researcher on the Google Fonts team. Hilary has worked at Google for 3 years and recently joined the Google Fonts team to help improve global literacy. Hilary’s previous roles have included Design Director for Honeywell’s Build Solutions, Lead Researcher in Microsoft, and Higher Scientist in the UK Ministry of Defence.

About Google Fonts: Google Fonts is making the web more beautiful, fast, and open through great typography and icons.

About Lightning Learning: These important presentations inspire and inform the readability community as we come together to build solutions that can improve readability for all.