Behind the Typeface: Using Variable Avenir Next for Ascenders Competition Debut

In May 2018, Monotype provided The Type Directors Club with an advance copy of Avenir Next Variable for use in promotional materials for the Club’s inaugural Ascenders 2018 competition.

Marianna Paszkowska at Monotype Studios led the development team for Avenir Next Variable, which showcases new variable font technology by giving the typeface three axes: weight, width, and italics. Avenir Next Variable has 40 named instances, thus effectively replacing over 40 font files with one variable font file.

Team leader Marianna Paszkowska at work in Monotype Studios. Photo: Monotype.

Avenir Next Variable builds on the typeface Avenir Next, which Akira Kobayashi originally began developing in 2004 in collaboration with the creator of Avenir, celebrated designer Adrian Frutiger. Avenir Next was an original blend of craft and technology that updated and expanded Avenir, making it more useful for new media. Kobayashi applied his ideas for the typeface expansion while remaining true to Frutiger’s original intent, and went on to collaborate with Frutiger on Univers Next and Neue Frutiger.

Akira Kobayashi collaborates with Adrian Frutiger (left). Adrian Frutiger’s 1987 study for Avenir (right). Photos: Monotype.

The animations created by Pure+Applied for TDC’s Ascenders 2018 branding take advantage of the new technology in Avenir Next Variable. Using the typeface’s two axes (font width and font weight), the letterforms seamlessly transition from one form to another through the use of Keyframe Animation Syntax. The animation is adaptable to multiple screen dimensions and resolutions.

Ascenders call for entries designed by Pure+Applied, featuring Avenir Next Variable.

The forms were generated in Adobe Illustrator, animated in Adobe After Effects, and then deployed on the website using the “bodymovin” plugin for After Effects. Animations are then exported as .json files that use the bodymovin.js player that comes along with the CSS plugin, and can then be rendered on desktop browsers and iOS and Android devices. The GIFs are generated via Adobe Photoshop using the After Effects video output as the input source.

Monotype is determining the release schedule of Avenir Next Variable. The Type Directors Club’s Ascenders 2018 Competition deadline was originally June 25, but has been extended until July 9, 2018.

— Paul Carlos, Pure+Applied