Typographic Turn-ons: Contextual Alternate Lifestyles

Happy Valentine’s Week! Today we start our Typographic Turn-ons series for those who really love type and/or want to take their relationship with fonts to the next level. Check back here daily for tips and tricks to make your page sizzle.


Dear FontShop:

My partner and I are experiencing an awkward problem lately. Whenever we try to get cozy on the page, it seems our letterforms keep crashing into each other in a very unsexy way. The bigger we get, the more apparent this becomes. I’ve heard that contexual alternates may help, but it sounds a little scary. Any advice?

– Patty

Dear Patty,

It sounds as if you may be taking the wrong attitude toward contextual alternates. In fact, attitude is a perfect example of where this typographic feature will help. Don’t be shy, are your “tt”s jamming together? Turning on this feature (already built into your font) in your design program will make those letters better – and not look forced and awkward. If you’re a script face, you’ll really notice a difference and be as beautiful as you were designed to be.


Also, if you’re open to experimentation, may I recommend playing around with stylistic alternates as well? They just give you so many more options – you’ll never get bored. For example, if you have a lowercase a that defaults to a single-story “a” (in Apertura for example), but like a lot of people prefer a double-story, stylistic alternates will swap all those out. Same with hitting the right spot with a monocular or binocular “g”. Your font will have a default, which you’re probably using now. But to expand your options go to the OpenType menu within the Character palette in InDesign or Illustrator and start to play around in stylistic sets. Your world will never be the same.

Best of luck!

DIY: Spice up your week by trying Contextual Alternates in P22 Cezanne

One Comment

  1. Posted February 11, 2013 at 1:03 PM | Permalink

    Another title for the post could have been “Consensual Alternates” …

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