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.
July 4th, 2016 by Extensis
Happy July, everyone! Today, in honor of the end of June, we’re featuring five fonts that take their names from the first official month of summer.
1. You may think this month is going to be just like it was a year ago, but you’d better wipe away that June Gloom…
2. Because, as NewJune will assure you…
3. Summer’s the best time for barbecues, rooftop parties, weddings, and more. Say, what are you doing June 15?
4. For our parts, when we think about days at the beach, we get as excited as Junegull:
5. One pro tip for all that summer fun, though, from Junebug:
Enjoy the July 4th, everyone. And if you use any of these fonts, let us know.
What does font weight mean, exactly?
The weight of a particular typeface is the thickness of the character outlines relative to its height. A typeface typically comes in a variety of weights from ultra-light to extra-bold, with as many as a dozen options.
Here’s an example of the Helvetica Neue typeface with numbers that indicate weight:
You might ask yourself, “How did those numbers become the standard measurement of font weight?”
In 1954, Adrian Frutiger was the first to introduce a range of weights using numerical classification. His groundbreaking Univers typeface featured a “two-digit numeration system where the first digit (3-8) indicated weight and the second indicated face-width and either roman or oblique.” Univers was the first “font family” designed as a complete collection of coordinated weights and widths, with the normal weight of 55 being the starting point.
Pictured: a “periodic table” he created for the Univers family
In Frutiger’s system, 35 was Extra Light, 45 was Light, 55 Medium or Regular, 65 Bold, 75 Extra Bold, 85 Extra Bold, and 95 was Ultra Bold or Black. He also included alternate numbers for Italics (“6 series”) and Condensed (“7 series”).
The popularity of Univers led to Frutiger being commissioned by Monotype to create Apollo, their first typeface designed specifically for phototypesetting. He was also hired to design the Roissy typeface for signage at Charles De Gaulle Airport (below).
He became immensely popular and his work quickly spread around the globe—his typefaces appeared on London’s iconic street signs…
…San Francisco’s BART trains, and even early Apple keyboards.
In 1997, Frutiger revised the Univers typeface and created Linotype Univers, a family that consisted of 63 fonts, including weight options like Ultra Light or Extended Heavy. The new numbering system was extended to three digits to reflect the expanded number of variations.
*When Web Fonts were introduced, the numbering system was borrowed from this Linotype model.*
For 60 years, Frutiger’s “clean” and “legible” designs were the toast of the typography industry. But perhaps his biggest contribution to design was the introduction of the weight system.
Award-winning typeface designer Erik Spiekermann called Frutiger “the best type designer of the 20th century.” He also paid him a huge compliment when he said “I know of no other typeface designer who can put so much feeling into a systematic approach. Frutiger’s typefaces are always carefully planned, but they never look like it.”
The next great type designer in our Font Founders series: William Addison Dwiggins, who designed the fonts Electra and Caledonia, among others. Dwiggins coined the term ‘graphic designer’ in 1922 to describe what he did, which included book design, typography, lettering, and calligraphy.
June 10th, 2016 by Extensis
Summertime means romance. Long walks on the beach, rooftop parties under the stars, outdoor concerts, hot days and warm nights. But when you’re just a lonely single font, all that can seem like more torture than treasure. That’s why we are introducing Fonter, the world’s first dating app for fonts. Let’s see who’s signed up so far.
Papyrus is an earnest, fun-loving gal with a big heart and a penchant for vegan cupcakes. Swipe right if you’re looking for a woman who will greet each day like a new beginning. Swipe left if you don’t have patience for people who are always running late.
Futura is kind of a bad-ass. He lives his own life and makes his own rules. Swipe right for late night bike rides and absinthe cocktails. Swipe left if you’re looking of a guy with a great sense of humor.
Stencil is a lovable bro. If you’re looking for someone to bring you to the next Rocky movie, go rock-climbing, or just chill and play video games, swipe right. If you’re more into museums, art films, and fine wines, swipe left.
Helvetica came to the States looking to launch a career in design. She wasn’t expecting to get so popular! Now her social life is so crazy, she can hardly keep track of all her invitations. Swipe right if you’re into glitz and business. Swipe left if you’re looking for a more intimate relationship.
If you’re a designer you know there are thousands of fonts out there to choose from. Whatever type you’re looking for, you’re sure to find one that meets your needs. Which way would you swipe on Papyrus, Futura, Stencil, and Helvetica? Tell us in the comments. And stay tuned for more profiles, coming soon.
Say you’ve got a project that calls for a font that’s elegant and fancy (wedding invitation, perhaps) but you can’t find any exciting, new options in your Microsoft Word library (apologies to overused workhorses like Brush Script and Monotype Corsiva).
No need to panic—as Agent Mulder might say, “The truth is out there.”
Pictured: Helvetica Neue Condensed Light, definitely NOT a cursive typeface. But I digress…
Cursive fonts (also known as script, calligraphy, or handwritten fonts) are readily available online for download. Here are some useful resources to help you find the right font for your design (and bolster your tired collection of Word options):
Kerry Hughes at Creative Bloq lists the 20 Best Free Cursive Fonts that are “free to use commercially, not just on personal projects.”
Pictured: Debby typeface, “works well for greeting cards” according to Hughes
Font Squirrel provides some Help Installing Fonts for Windows and Mac with instructions and video tutorials for desktop and web fonts.
Microsoft has some tips on how to Troubleshoot Font Problems in Microsoft Word and also created a quick and easy way to find out which fonts come installed with various Windows products that lets you sort by product or font name.
Nicole Martinez of eHow presents Common Cursive Fonts for Mac and PC.
Pictured: Edwardian Script, available on every version of Word
You might be interested in a previous blog post we did about how to choose the right cursive font that discusses the history of cursive fonts and why they’re so effective as a storytelling device.
Creative Bloq also did a comprehensive list of best places to find open source fonts that’s pretty useful but not specifically for Word so you might need to do some parsing.
Hopefully this helps you discover some exciting new typeface options for your special event. Or at the very least, gives you some alternatives to the ubiquitous options you see every day.
Happy hunting, type nerds! Enjoy your tour of the world’s finest pangrams, including my personal favorite, “Turgid saxophones blew over Mick’s jazzy quaff.”
May 9th, 2016 by Joe Spencer
Ever see a font you like and wonder what it is? Or need to find a font that’s similar to one you have already? Great news! Font identification apps, software, games, and videos are available to relieve your fontstipation (yeah, I said it).
Got a picture or image you want to match?
Here are a few easy-to-use online resources if you already have a scanned image or a photo of the font you’d like to identify:
Simply upload your image and the Matcherator will tell you what font it is and find others that match. It even allows you to match Open Type features.
This search tool by MyFont also finds and identifies fonts based on an uploaded image. WhatTheFont offers helpful advice, like “use characters that have a distinct shape” and “make sure letters aren’t touching.” If WhatTheFont’s tool can’t identify it, you can post your font to the forum and interact with other humans.
This desktop app features a handy tool for capturing images from sites and documents. Unlike free online services that only identify fonts sold on THEIR sites, FontGenius is a universal source that directs you to any site where the font you seek is available.
No picture/image? No problem.
IdentifontIdentifont helps you identify a typeface by answering questions about key appearance features. For instance, “Do the characters have serifs?” You can also search by font name, similarity, picture/symbol, and designer. Identifont claims to be the “largest independent directory of digital fonts on the internet.”
Rather watch a video than read more articles?
Some dude named Typography Guru made a video tutorial called 5 Best Tricks to Find a Font that’s clear, concise, and easy-to-follow.
Streamline your workflow
Font Sense™ is an innovative font identification technology that ensures a smooth workflow by identifying, locating, and activating the exact fonts used in documents.
Font Sense works by building a complete font specification that contains information such as the name, type, foundry, and version number.
Fun and (font) games!
Happy hunting, type nerds!
Choosing the right font style can be a time-consuming and difficult challenge. Typography experts estimate that there are over 30,000 font families to choose from. Yikes!
So…how do you find the RIGHT font/typeface in an endless sea of options? Some basic guidelines might help.
April 29th, 2016 by Joe Spencer
Handwriting fonts are everywhere these days. Designers love the organic aesthetic they convey and consumers respond to them on a personal level because of their handmade, human quality.
Examples of handwriting (also known as handwritten, cursive, or script) fonts
But did you know that modern handwriting evolved because of the Fall of the Roman Empire? When the Romans succumbed to invading barbarian hordes, widespread plague, and political corruption, the educated world experienced a major lull in literary and cultural works.
An Italian poet and writer named Petrarch labeled this period “The Dark Ages” and began to campaign for a form of writing that was infinitely more “simple” and “clear” than the ornate Gothic lettering which was popular with the ruling class at the time.
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.