Which Figures for default?

dezcom's picture

Generally, in the bad old days, the only figures were lining tabular. You needed an expert set for anything else. In today's OpenType world you have choices!
It seems to me that default figures should be the ones most people should use most of the time. Let's assume you have included in your soon-to-be-released Opentype face, Oldstyle, Proportional Lining, and Tabular lining figures. What would be your druthers for default and , most importantly, WHY?
Let's see a vote here, OK?

Sorry I can't do the cool form that tallies everything on the fly. Maybe if I were some cool COWBOY or Bezier Wrangler, I could do it but I am not so I just have to hope unnamed guys like that will take pity and set one of those puppies up here on Typophile instead of my lame straw poll :-) Hint?

ChrisL

speter's picture

Hmm, this is somewhat tough. I usually use hanging figures, since I mainly do straight-text book work, but for technical manuals and such, lining figures usually look better. Nevertheless, I think most of the time I prefer hanging as the default.

paul d hunt's picture

it seems you had some advice for me a couple months back. don't you remember what you said then? >^P

http://typophile.com/node/9784

dave bailey's picture

I just passed that point in Elements of Typographic Style and I'd have to say that OSF are the best bet for default!

Si_Daniels's picture

If you spec anything other than regular tabular lining figures as the default some of your customers will complain, and you'll have to make a special version for them.

Si

dan_reynolds's picture

In design work, OsF is probably the best "default," but when you are producing and distributing an OpenType font, you absolutely should have the default set to tabular lining figures. A font is a tool for people to use, as many people as possible. Customers* are used to standards. And although I think that OsF would make the best standard, it isn't the standard customers have been living with for 20 years.

All other type of numbers are features. These days, features are easy enough to come by, at least for designers. Even Quark's getting on board now, since they've just released their public beta of XPress 7.0.

*This may be controversial, and I don't have any evidence to back it up, but I think that graphic designers are not the majority of font buyers. They certainly aren't the majority of font users! Fonts are for everyone, designers and non-designers alike. We can agree on that, can't we?

dave bailey's picture

I agree with what Dan says, in an all designer world I'd have 0 qualms telling you to use OSF as default, concuring with what I stated above. There is the big picture though...us designers know how to access the OSF and change our preferences to use those but the average user most likely doesn't and will definitely get confused by them!

John Hudson's picture

When we came to make this decision for the Microsoft ClearType fonts, we decided to make proportional oldstyle figures the default since the fonts are intended to make on screen reading easier and we figured that what people would be reading most is continuous text. Later we revised this for a couple of the families, because Office wanted to give them a prominent place, meaning that they would be more likely to be used in business documents and places where people would expect tabular figures.

For a while, I was arguing in favour of tabular oldstyle figures as the default in all the fonts, but the MS ART people decided that we should go whole hog and make them proportional.

Dan, I hear what you are saying about user expectations and de facto standards based on longstanding convention. But when Microsoft are ships fonts with an operating system, that tends to have a pretty big impact on users' expectations.

k.l.'s picture

Proportional oldstyle.

"But when Microsoft are ships fonts with an operating system, that tends to have a pretty big impact on users’ expectations."
(J. Hudson)

This may be this single case where I appreciate the educational effect of Windows defaults! And wouldn't be surprised if, in ten years, every secretary would startle, shudder, and shake her head about such an ignorant or "antique" use of -- tabular lining numerals in text ...

I simply regard oldstyle numerals as "lowercase", and lining numerals as "uppercase." And all caps setting is kind of an exception itself, addressed by a feature like "case" which also switches to lining numerals.

Btw tabular numerals -- I can well imagine that an intelligent future Word would select tabular (oldstyle or lining) variants automatically if they precede or follow a tabulator, or that an Excel would, without further notice, use the tabular variants of either oldstyle or lining numerals.
And as regards oldstyle vs lining numerals in tables, Mr Noordzij's Letterletter nicely shows that oldstyle tabular numerals are quite readable. (Sorry for using this word.)

dan_reynolds's picture

Dan, I hear what you are saying about user expectations and de facto standards based on longstanding convention. But when Microsoft are ships fonts with an operating system, that tends to have a pretty big impact on users’ expectations.

I agree! Microsoft can change a standard. Maybe even Adobe could change a standard. I don't think that I can change a standard, even though I sincerely wish the standard would be changed.

an intelligent future Word

Oh, Karsten, this is just too much to pass up :-D
But do I really need to go there?

k.l.'s picture

Personally, I can manage my life without Word pretty well. At least, I'm still alive. I think. ;-)

.'s picture

I have published OT fonts with Tabular Lining as the default, which was also "correct" for the design, and those numerals look pretty good in running text. My next release will have Proportional Scotch-style - see "Georgia" - numerals, which are between x- and cap-height, and have half-descenders and full-ascenders. Again, these numerals look right in context. (The typeface in question does contain Proportional and Tabular Oldstyle, Lining, and x-height numerals too, along with numerators, denominators, and scientific inferiors. 10 number sets in total, but I really only had to design half of them, and can re-use the other half.)

I think that historical precedent can dictate the default as well: Garaldes should have Proportional Oldstyle, and modernist sanses should have Tabular Lining. These just look right, half of which is probably due to their looking "unsurprising".

Nick Shinn's picture

The default should be tabular lining.

Tabular, because proportional figures really screw up a tab setting, while tabular are OK (though not ideal) in a text setting -- and both situations are likely to occur for users who are not aware of the options.

Lining, for the same reason: old style figures are just too quaint for most tabular settings, especially when leading is tight.

Tabular settings are not confined to financial or mathematical pages, but occur in many commercial uses, such as price lists and phone numbers in business stationery and contact information.

***

Although I agree with chester over what looks "right", and recognize that sophisticated typographers (at a design studio, say) may prefer OSF in a pre-1800 type genre, the problem is that the typographer is often not the end user, as when a type is specified for a corporate identity and third parties such as sales promotion companies, or the client's in-house art department, assume that responsibility. They are less likely to be typographically astute enough to change proportional to lining when required, and may well be using software that doesn't even give them the option.

Miss Tiffany's picture

As an end-user, I have to say I appreciate this kind of conversation amongst type designers. Some designs, as Chester has mentioned, seem to make obvious what should be default. In OT, I don't care which is default as long as I have access to the others.

I can't think of the typefaces, but occasionally I am annoyed by the default. However, with OT I see no reason why I should be annoyed. As long as I'm given a choice. -- Or is that asking too much?

paul d hunt's picture

the polls are now open:
http://typophile.com/comment/reply/17238

sorry i didn't catch that earlier, dez. i musta been sleeping when i first read this post.

dezcom's picture

Paul,
You threw me for a loop as "Pablo" in that older thread! Until today, I did not know it was you!

BTW Cowboy, YOU ARE THE MAN!!! Thanks for making the tabulating form!

"sorry i didn’t catch that earlier, dez. i musta been sleeping when i first read this post."
I guess I was being too subtle in my original post :-)

ChrisL

hrant's picture

Chris, FYI, I just read this thread now. :-/

John, I'm glad to see that you're a fan of tabular OS as well.

> default figures should be the ones most people should use most of the time.

I object to that "should" (which is not to say that I think users don't
need education). This is in line with what Dan is saying I guess.

> customers will complain, and you’ll have
> to make a special version for them.

Well, you don't HAVE to.
You could in fact take such opportunities to educate.

> see “Georgia” - numerals, which are between x- and cap-
> height, and have half-descenders and full-ascenders.

That thems hybrids.
Note however that MS later changed the Georgia nums to regular OS. :-(

> old style figures are just too quaint for most tabular settings

Not if they're hybrid.

hhp

k.l.'s picture

Another thought:

Does it really matter which numerals are set as standard *in fonts*?
Adobe applications have default style as an option. Today I saw in OS 10.4 TextEdit that there is a default each for the oldstyle/lining and proportional/tabular too. But if I recall an earlier presentation of XPress 7 correctly, there was no default. And yet it is the question what Word/Vista will offer as options.
In the end it might turn out that defaults set in *applications* -- and not fonts' defaults -- will define which numeral style (by preselection) will be chosen by most users.

>> default figures should be the ones
>> most people should use most of the time.
>
> I object to that “should” (which is not to say
> that I think users don’t need education).

Some decision *will* be made on some level. And whatever decision it is, it may not please everybody. Poor Microsoft ...

Karsten

paul d hunt's picture

I guess I was being too subtle in my original post :-)

most likely so, as i only skim a lot of things (unfortunately). if you want to make sure i get 'er done, you need to either email me directly or use the IM feature and cross your fingers and hold your breath that my brain is working that day... >^P

pattyfab's picture

I love and use OSF but I'd say lining figures (proportional or tabular) should be the default in that they are the most versatile.

dberlow's picture

Okay, so what's the default between short and long descenders? Or should we not be forced to make that 16th century decision, Anymore? :) Another way of putting this, is who wouldn't rather have variable descenders?

paul d hunt's picture

who wouldn’t rather have variable descenders?

variable descenders are actually a feature of LTC Goudy Oldstyle Pro and LTC Caslon. To be truthful, i'm not sure many people even notice that there is this option with these fonts.

dezcom's picture

Now I will have to take another look at my LTC Caslon fonts Paul! I didn't know that tidbit of info or even how to go about selecting the option! Thanks Cowboy :-)

ChrisL

paul d hunt's picture

well, in the case of caslon, there are two separate font families: regular and long. in the case of goudy oldstyle, the long and short descenders are built into the OT font. kind of a testing of the waters to see how these types of things would be received.

hrant's picture

> who wouldn’t rather have variable descenders?

Modernists? :-/
KISS: Keep It Simple Stalin.

hhp

Syndicate content Syndicate content