Contextual font magic

This OpenType stuff is often pretty fun. Some of the most fun and the flashiest demos (though not necessarily the most typographical utility) comes from fonts that make heavy use of contextual substitutions or sometimes ligatures that imitate contextual substitutions.

What are contextual substitutions? Basically, a case where what glyphs get substituted depends on what other glyphs are around them. Originally, the primary purpose of this was to do better connecting script fonts. These are typographical flash for English and western languages, but some of the contextual functionality is necessary just to do basic good typography for Arabic, or the Indic languages.

Of course, as is the way with such things, in the past couple of years type designers have taken the technology and put it to uses which its inventors never dreamed of. So, today’s blog entry will look at contextual typefaces, from fancy scripts to improbably weird effects in experimental fonts.

Thomas Phinney

Adobe type alumnus (1997–2008), now VP at FontLab, also helped create WebINK at Extensis. Lives in Portland (OR), enjoys board games, movies, and loves spicy food.

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