Do discretionary ligatures hold any other purpose than visual?

Discretionary ligatures are non-standard ligatures such as:
Atlantica LF: st ct
st and ct in Atlantica LF font

Are they purely visual or is there any other reasoning to back it up? Psychological? Letter-press related? (Did they even exist in times of letterpress printing?)

Related article on Upper & Lower Case Magazine say these are “… more decorative in nature than standard ligature[s] …” But is that all?

Personally, I find them a bit distracting, especially if they’re used in long body types. Also it’s hard to imagine they would have any practical value in handwriting — at least I draw the letters from top to bottom, and extra ties between letters would disrupt the flow.


Standard ligatures and discretionary ligatures are features of a particular font, and the notion of discretionary ligatures only dates back to the introduction of OpenType fonts around ten years ago.

The font designer determines that “standard” ligatures should be used to replace certain letter pairs/triples, whereas “discretionary” ones may be used. The automatic application of either can be specified by the end designer in software.

Yes, there are very common ligatures, e.g. fi, but no real standard across typefaces.

The reasons why ligatures exist or are used at all is probably better handled as a separate question.

Source : Link , Question Author : Jari Keinänen , Answer Author : e100

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