Mixing oldstyle and lining figs

Thomas Phinney's picture

I've always been wary of mixing oldstyle and lining figures, except in very specific ways. For example, a number associated with a software version might use lining figs while the software itself has initial caps.

We're revising the company business cards with the new logo, and I'd love to see oldstyle figs there. But they look a little busy in multiple lines of phone and fax numbers. But they look great in the address. Would it be crazy to use OsF in the address and not in the phone numbers?

Nick Shinn's picture

Of course not, but it depends on:
- layout
- text (OSF vs lining: some numbers look better in one than the other)
- typeface


Here is an example. Not business stationery, but it’s apparent that there is a layout reason for using both:

charles ellertson's picture

Thomas, as Nick says, it depends, but as a generality, within the text of a book, we'll use old style generally, but with full caps, we'll use lining. It gets a little hincky when there is only one letter and it's a cap, like I-75 (for an interstate highway). My feeling it is still better to use the lining with the full cap. Holds true even if the sentence is "In 1975, I-95 was finished." Oldstyle for the date, lining for the interstate number. It's a matter of what gets a full cap & what doesn't -- just as with the alpha characters..


Thomas Phinney's picture

In this case, the functional issue is that with descenders and ascenders, the line spacing of the phone numbers starts looking a bit cramped.

Man, I don't know why I am sweating this call so much, but it is bugging me. At least the new company logo looks great (IMNSHO).

Well, off to make a call now. Thanks, Charles and Nick!


Thomas Phinney's picture

I ended up tweaking the leading up a point... except for our UK offices where they don't have room to do that. But overall I think it's for the best.

Luma Vine's picture

Oh come on! It's like a show-and-tell except you missed step 1.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Well, I'm not supposed to show the new company logo yet. But I will be blogging about it shortly, and able to show it then....

Florian Hardwig's picture

In addition to what Nick and Charles wrote:

In a recent catalogue design, I chose to use three different figure styles on one page:

  1. OSF were used as default, throughout the text.
  2. I resorted to lining figures for the sizes, as the OSF looked bumpy with the fractions.
  3. The archive numbers consisted of caps and figures. That looked best in small caps, hence small caps figures.
Joshua Langman's picture

The novel 1Q84 by Murakami, designed by Chip Kidd, uses OSF for the year 1984 and lining numbers for the fictional year 1Q84, which sometimes occur in the same sentence.

mars0i's picture

Maybe a rule of thumb is that OSF is potentially problematic when letters and numbers are part of the same word? A few of the examples above fit this rule. The letters can interfere with interpreting OSF's as numbers. Something I wrote had the gene name "IBD5" in a Adobe Garamond with OSF, and the 5 was hard to read as a 5. To me, in that context the 5 looked a bit like a Greek final sigma.

(Not a designer, just a fan. Feel free to tell me I have no idea what I'm talking about.)

Joshua Langman's picture

In this context, as with 1Q84, I would have made the letters small caps and kept the OSF.

Nick Shinn's picture

To me, in that context the 5 looked a bit like a Greek final sigma.

Would final sigma be a legitimate character in the context of a gene name?

Thomas Phinney's picture

BTW, the new Extensis logo is now public, so I could share the new biz card design... if we had some way of posting graphics or attachments here. But then again, I’m not sure how publicly I want to post my phone number. :)

My blog post on the development of the new logo, used on the new cards: http://blog.extensis.com/creative-fuel/brand-refresh-new-logo-decision-t...

brianskywalker's picture

"1Q84" probably also used lining figs. & a capital 'Q' so that the name of the book was emphasized. (haha)

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