Figures (aka numbers or numerals) are a common element in text of all kinds. They appear anywhere from dates, measurements and quantities to addresses, phone numbers, and a lot more.
When typesetting numerals, it’s important to understand the different styles available in some fonts, and when to use which. Prior to current font formats, there was only ‘room’ for one style of numeral in a font, but due to OpenType’s capacity to include thousands of characters, many fonts now contain four ﬁgure styles.
Lining vs. Oldstyle Figures
The four kinds of figures consist of two design styles and two spacing styles: Lining and oldstyle are the design styles, while tabular and proportional relate to the spacing.
Lining ﬁgures, also called aligning or cap figures, are of uniform height and align on the baseline and the cap height (thus the term aligning). These are a good choice when you want the numerals to really stand out.
Oldstyle ﬁgures, on the other hand, are numerals that approximate the shape and form of lowercase letters in that they have an x-height, as well as ascenders and descenders in a set pattern. These ﬁgures can be quite beautiful, and look best in running text where you don’t necessarily want the ﬁgures to stand out from the surrounding text. They can be very elegant, and occasionally have slight design variations from the companion lining ﬁgures.
Tabular vs. Proportional Spacing
Tabular figures all have the same total width, which consists of the actual glyph plus the spaces added to the right and left, called sidebearings in the type design world. Tabular spacing is necessary to align vertical columns of numbers, such as those found in tables, thus the turn tabular. They’re also used for prices, invoices, financial charts, and any instance where ﬁgures have to align vertically.
Proportional ﬁgures, on the other hand, are those that are individually spaced so that they blend in with the overall color, texture, and spacing of the upper and lowercase characters. Have you ever seen a numeral ‘1’ in running text with disproportionate large spaces around it? That is a tabular figure, which unfortunately is often used when proportionally spaced ﬁgures are the preferred figure style. This is a common occurrence because many type users are not aware of the available ﬁgure styles in a font, and thus ‘settle’ for a font’s default figures, which is frequently tabular lining ﬁgures.
How to access ﬁgure styles
The task of determining which ﬁgure styles are available in any given font is an important first step in selecting an appropriate font for projects that includes figures. (I will discuss the process in Adobe InDesign, so if you are using other design software, it will most likely be a something similar.)
The first step is to activate the font, making sure it is an OpenType font. This is indicated in the font menu with a black and turquoise ‘O’ symbol. Next, open the OpenType panel located off of the Character panel. You will notice, five figure settings on the very bottom of that panel:
Default Figure Style
If a font contains any of the top four styles, they will be unbracketed. Any figure style that is bracketed is not available in that particular font, even if it is OpenType. The problem with this method is that it is not always 100% reliable: some OpenType fonts have both lining and oldstyle figures, but do not have them in both tabular and proportional spacing, yet they might still all be unbracketed.
For this reason, the very best way to determine the available figure styles is to typeset the figures in each available style, and then check them carefully to determining if they are what they are supposed to be.
At the bottom of the list you will see Default Figure Style, which usually has a check mark unless it has been changed. The default style in most fonts is Tabular Lining. Therefore, unless you change the default or manually change the figure style in any given document, this is what you will get. This is unfortunate because Tabular Lining Figures are only appropriate for vertical lists of numerals, which is a small percentage of typeset numbers. So be sure to explore the available figures in any font you are considering, and check that it has the one(s) you need.
If you frequently use a figure style other than the typical Proportional Lining default, consider changing the default to the style you most frequently use (which in my case is Proportional Oldstyle).
In order to change this or any other default in most Adobe applications, open the app but with no documents open; then change the setting as desired, and quit the app. This will change the default for any new documents, but will not change anything in existing documents, which you would have to change manually.
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Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer, writer and educator specializing in all aspects of visual communication, from the aesthetic to the technical. Her book, Type Rules! The designer’s guide to professional typography, 4th edition, has received numerous accolades from the type and design community. She conducts her widely acclaimed Gourmet Typography Workshops internationally. Sign up for her free enewsletter, All Things Typographic, at www.thetypestudio.com.
Sons and daughters of Extensis let their creative juices flow with Fontspiration in honor of National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. With the school year ending, we knew it would be a hard time to bring kids to us, so we brought our work to them! Parents sat down with their kids to engage them in one of our biggest passions: fonts.
Kids ages 9-13 created custom typographic masterpieces using our Fontspiration app. We thought this would allow us to inspire our children. We were pleasantly wrong. They inspired us!
“Show us your girl power!” Kaia, age 10.
“The future…”Alex, age 12.
“Graphic Designer in the making.” Jarod, age 13.
“Don’t forget to rise to the stars.” Sam, age 10.
“Caught in a web?” Edward, age 9.
“Selfies are important.” Vincent, age 10.
“Positivity.” Ryann, age 11.
We’re impressed! Thanks to all the kids who participated and helped us get inspired.</>
Make your masterpiece!
Learn more about Extensis’s free Fontspiration app and start creating using all kinds of fonts, colors, animation and more. Share your creations with us on Instagram or Twitter using #fontspiration.
June 23rd, 2015 by Richard Turgeon
Wired recently ran a piece entitled Typography is Why Jeb’s Logo is Worse Than a Piece of Crap. I say this in a non-partisan way, but it’s one of those headlines that kind of says it all.
Even though Bush has been using a variation on this logo since 1993, the recently unveiled 2015 version unleashed a new barrage of snark from the design community, with pundits criticizing everything from the typeface (Baskerville) to the exclamation point (“I don’t want to be told to get excited”) to the baseline of the exclamation point. AdWeek fed the flames of the controversy by reposting a bunch of mostly negatively “humorous” takes from the twittersphere.
Art and music are so intertwined that sometimes it’s hard to find the end of one and the beginning of the other. Music inspires creativity, and as it’s almost impossible to imagine peanut butter without jelly, so is it hard to hear Pink Floyd over the speakers without seeing visions of prisms and scrawled, splattered typography. We know that when we get into a groove, we find creative fuel and soul-soaring inspiration folded into the guitar riffs of our favorite tunes. Whatever arduous task, given a soundtrack, feels less like a chore and more like a boogie. We could go on and on and on, but the point is: we’re dedicating this month to our love of typographic design in the music world. And we’ve crafted a contest so that you can play along with us.
Do you have a favorite LP cover? Think The Ramones have the best band logo? Are you a next-level groupie? Prove it. Shout out to your favorite musicians and designers and enter to win a sweet prize all the while. We want to fill the internet with one big ode to musical design inspiration using our own #AudibleInspiration. Here’s how to enter to win a jazzy pair of Beats By Dre headphones:
- Find your favorite music-inspired typographic design and share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram, or create a piece yourself. Serious brownie points will be awarded to those who design their own entries—we love designed lyrics and redesigned band logos or album art! (Hint: check out our Fontspiration App).
- Tag us @extensis and #AudibleInspiration
Whether it’s Typography Tuesday or Favorite Font Friday, we’re with you on the constant hunt for typographic inspiration. That’s why we keep a constant flow of stand out examples streaming through our professional font manager, Suitcase Fusion (and Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter).
We released Suitcase Fusion™ 6 in the autumn to help you make the most of precious creative time and explore and organize your entire font collection in a single, searchable location.
We created Fontspiration over a year ago as your crystal ball to look into the font future, past and present:
- Locate new and interesting fonts for your creative work
- See what other creative pros are using in real-world projects
- Explore the boundaries of lettering, typography and fonts in design
- Dig into what professionals from bygone eras have learned about type
Foundry: Mahti Type Studio
Typeface: Delisia Regular
Artist: Blue Collar Agency, designed by Jaime Singer.
Inspiration: Vivid colors from the morning sunrise combined with your AM routine of grinding beans and drinking joe.
Laura Worthington is a calligrapher and typeface designer in the Pacific Northwest. She crafts original, lovingly handmade letters which form the base of her typeface designs, primarily for use in titling and display. Since we last spoke with her in April of 2014, she’s been busy. She’s taught hand lettering workshops at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, created a smooth version of the Charcuterie collection called Boucherie, and published the Adorn family of fonts—her largest typeface collection yet. An experience she calls, “an insightful and inspiring journey into the world of contemporary calligraphy.” Laura also explored new ground, designing the masculine-inclined script face Voltage, and publishing her first ever free font, Milkshake—available at Fairgoods.com.
One sunny summer afternoon, a group of hungry type enthusiasts at Extensis set out to survey cart pods across our home city of Portland, Oregon. We wondered, how does the P-town food truck scene reflect in their signage and typography? The PDX Food Cart Font-Off was born.
We Challenge You to Show Us Your City’s Best with the Food Cart Font-Off Contest
It’s time to represent your neck of the woods—with prizes up for grabs. The food cart and truck culture is big in places like Austin, Boston, LA and NY—now it’s your turn to show off the best cart typography your turf has to offer.
To enter, submit a photo of the best food cart typography in your city—then rally votes. Two winners (clinched by most votes, and our top favorite) will receive an awesome foodie prize pack. Enter to win one of two fabulous goodie boxes. Check out the sweet prizes shown below.
Foodie Prize Packs (2) include:
- Oversized Pretzel Pool Float—Tasty, twisty fun
- Sriracha Water Bottle
- Hedgehog Toothpick Holder—for serving cocktails or hors d’oeuvres
- Retro Pop-Up Hot Dog Toaster (awesome grill marks included)
- Ninjabread Men Cookie Cutters (3 different warriors)
- Peanut Butter & Jelly Best Friend Rings (share with your bestie)
- Stainless Steel Bicycle Handlebar Cup Holder
- Sunnyside Egg Shaper—The forecast for breakfast is yolky with some light cloud cover
- Presto PopLite Hot Air Popcorn Popper (#1 best seller)
Extra credit for elegant use of fonts generally despised by graphic designers (Papyrus, Comic Sans, Hobo, Curlz). We’re not saying it’s even possible, but…WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! We just gave you a reason to eat and browse for the best fonts you can find.
February 19th, 2014 by Jim Kidwell
This update includes a brand new “Fontspiration” panel that periodically update with new and interesting uses of typography, font specimens and other creative ideas. Linking off to detailed images on Pinterest, items included are part of a massive treasure trove of creative inspiration, curated by the font nerds at Extensis.
When you need to quickly see how fonts look in-action, side by side with other font selections, QuickComp is the tool to use. In seconds you can have a mockup of a sample project that allows you to select just the right fonts for the project. This release doubles the number of QuickComp templates to 26, making it easier to find find the right template that suits your needs.
Did you watch The Pitch?
In August and September 2013, AMC aired season 2 of The Pitch. For those of you who haven’t seen the show, each episode pits competing agencies against one another and follows their teams as they prepare to battle for a piece of new business—with only seven days to perfect their pitch. It’s a real competition shot documentary-style, featuring brands like Little Caesars Pizza and 1-800-Flowers.com.
Some folks in marketing might consider hiring an agency a necessary evil. An outside team can be a great well of creative strategy, but may carry the risk of being expensive and “excitable.” And there’s always the mysterious “creative process” that often produces the great work, but can’t be defined or revealed. The Pitch aims to the expose the “secret sauce,” which (at times) can appear a little unsettling or flat-out grueling.
Secret Sauce in the Spotlight
It looks as though it might be both excruciating and, at brief moments exhilarating to come up with a provocative idea that resonates— if the documentary is true to life. Some of the agencies sharing their esoteric ingredients on national TV include MC2, Pasadena Advertising, Neuron Syndicate and The Monogram Group. (These four agencies just happen to be customers of Extensis.)
Love or hate the show, it can’t be easy to place yourself in the spotlight while you’re trying to work. We’d like to congratulate these teams for putting themselves under the microscope and on the chopping block—at least they’re all winning publicity!
Sometimes Clients Choose People Over Ideas
“I think what’s important when you’re going to work with an agency is that you share a lot of the same personality traits, because a brand is really a reflection of our personality,” explains Goldberg. “So in this case, we actually liked the agency more than the idea they came up with…”
So what did you think?
The show averaged 330,000 viewers during the first season, according to Nielsen. Ratings have declined in the second season, to about 167,000 viewers per show.
Do you think we’ll see a season three and do you think the series poses an accurate representation of the agency pitch process? Tell us in the comments below and we’ll send you some swag.
Suitcase Fusion 5 brings new font management tools to your desktop. Watch this short video to see how a font manager can help your creative workflow.