Ampersand

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If you’ve never heard of the Ampersand conference then let me introduce you: it’s the best typography conference you could possibly ever visit. It’s held in the UK, in the sea-side town of Brighton to be more specific, and it’s organised by Richard Rutter and the rest of the team at Clearleft. Peculiarly enough though, this is not an annual conference with the same faces on the same stage like many web design conferences.

This is an entirely different affair.

I’ve been to every Ampersand event in the UK and each time I’m astounded by the quality of the talks and the diversity of topics on stage. In 2015 the event introduced me to the work of Lu Yu, Jen Simmons’ experimental layouts and Marcin’s completely mind-boggling and hand-made presentation software. Every talk is buoyant and I’d recommend you go even if you don’t care about font rendering or the intricacies of CSS Grid.

For this year’s event though Richard wrote a super interesting piece about the development of the new Ampersand website that happens to look like this:

This is a nifty project because it uses a number of variable fonts to showcase the title and body copy but the most interesting part is where Richard argues that this technology is no longer that experimental any more:

A variable font is a single font file which behaves like multiple styles. (I wrote more about them here in an extract from my Web Typography book). There are plenty of sites out there demoing the possibilities of variable fonts and the font variation technology within, but for the new Ampersand conference website I wanted to show variable fonts being using in a real, production context. It might well be the first commercial site ever to do so.

Two months ago browser support for variable fonts was only 7%, but as of this morning support was at over 60%. This means font variations is a usable technology right now.

This is fantastic news! The new font format will open up a range of weird possibilities for design on the web, as Mandy Michael has been showcasing on her Codepen profile. In one of my favorite demos, Mandy shows how Decovar can be animated:

Anyway, I hope you get an opportunity to visit Ampersand as soon as possible because it really is quite outstanding.