Back Story: Mark Bloom launched CoType Foundry in October 2019, and though he’s been steadily expanding its library of typefaces, until now there was an empty spot in the geometric sans-serif category. “Adding a geometric sans was a logical next step—it’s something I’ve wanted to design for many years,” he says. “Our goal in creating Altform was to offer a functional and sturdy sans serif family that could adapt itself to multiple settings.” To distinguish Altform in a market jammed with sans-serif offerings, Bloom designed a slew of alternate characters and included a variable font version plus an italic variable axis, where a custom slant angle can be selected between 0 (upright) and 10 degrees (default italics).
Why’s it called Altform? The name comes from combining the words alternate and form, as a nod to the range of alternate character options available through its OpenType features. OpenType fonts may contain more than 65,000 glyphs, allowing a single font file to contain many nonstandard glyphs including old-style figures, true small capitals, fractions, swashes, superiors, inferiors, titling letters, contextual and stylistic alternates, and a full range of ligatures.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? The love child of a geometric sans and a grotesque, Altform has a deceptively neutral appeal at first glance, but its 11 stylistic sets lend a tailored look to every project. Upon close inspection, tiny exquisite curves in characters such as R, t, and k give the letterforms a subtle sophistication. Lower case a’s and g’s come in single and double-story versions, and there are three options for the lower case y, each with a very different personality.
Perhaps the most interesting stylistic alternates are what Bloom describes as the “wind-blown” d, i, j, l, u, and y, whose slight curvature in the stems infuses the characters with a gently dynamic quality.
What should I use it for? Altform moves seamlessly from print to digital projects; its hundreds of weight grades allow a wide range of flexibility and versatility. The Thin and Black weights can be used to make a statement at large sizes, while the in-between weights feature great legibility in running text.
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Bloom says, “Coming from a graphic design and branding background, l personally don’t like to pair typefaces. I find it much cleaner to work with one typeface and create hierarchy through size and weight.” But what if a designer wants to mix it up? Try Orbikular, a serif that dwells between a Transitional and a Scotch Roman, for a perfect pairing.