Algorithmic Typesetting

Demo | PDF

Type designers and typographers are interested in the visual play between alternating letter forms. Based on the examples below, I decided to. I used lettering.js to create a page where every character of a set of 10 characters is typeset using a different sans serif font.

Unfortunately the rendering is a bit janky and the code is a bit ugly. If you see Times New Roman, then not all of the fonts have loaded. Try reloading the demo three times.


Nick Shinn’s Neology used opentype technology to alternate between different varieties of the same letter — with these letter forms often being the basis for identifying wholly different fonts. As he wrote in his rationale, “The idea that a character should always be represented by a single glyph (except for the occasional ligature) is an economy of the foundry type era,” one that he thought was lacking imagination today.

In a similar vein, the designers of the book How to Run a City Like Amazon, and Other Fables (Carlos Romo-Melgar) used six different neo-grotesques to “create an uncanny text rendering” and “an ominous aesthetic.” Since each glyph is consistently of one font, I speculate that achieved this typesetting at the level of the font file itself. This is reminds me of how Zone Books would make a hybrid of two fonts to meet their typographic needs.

Figure Nº.2020-1 Alternating font families allocated to a sequence of ten characters.