We want fractions!

kristin's picture

Hello,

I need some advice about setting fractions in InDesign and Illustrator. This research is taking me in a couple directions.

Our packaging team needs to be able to easily create fractions in Illustrator. Their goal is to have the fractions easily accessible for themselves and their vendors in the type styles they've chosen for packaging projects. Because our packaging is created by our vendors and not our internal teams, we are dealing with various unkown skill levels for the creative process!

1. I tried to find plug-ins or scripts that can be used in Illustrator to create fractions. We could purchase this product and encourage our vendors to purchase it as well so we have consistency in usage and creation of fractions. I have not found anything for this as yet. We are still stuck in Illustrator CS2 because the corporation moves at a glacial pace when updating, so that may be part of the problem.

2. I did find a plug in for InDesign that looks quite good from http://www.danrodney.com/. I e-mailed Dan and learned that his plug in does not work in Illustrator and that he does not have the time nor the skills to script an equivalent product in Illustrator. So one option is to hire someone who can script a similar package in Illustrator. Any leads would be appreciated. We are likely to purchase this product for our InDesign users.

3. I know that OpenType fonts CAN have fractions included in their glyphs, but I'm finding very few fonts that have fractions included, even in the OpenType format. I'm wondering if there are standards in the industry in regards to when to make fractions a part of the OpenType fonts and what we users can do to encourage that fractions be included.

4. It has been suggested that I contact font manufacturers and ask for custom-made fraction fonts or fractions glyphs to be included in typefaces that we currently license. This seems bulky and expensive, but is also a possibility.

So ... if my goal is to be able to create beautiful fractions consistently in Illustrator, what kind of solutions do you suggest?

Thanks,

Kristin

Florian Hardwig's picture

Hi Kristin,

3. I know that OpenType fonts CAN have fractions included in their glyphs

Yes, that’s the easiest way; the way it should be: type the ‘plain’ fraction, select figures and separator and choose the OpenType option ‘Fractions’. That, of course, is only possible if the font features numerator and denominator forms for all figures.

We are still stuck in Illustrator CS2 […] so that may be part of the problem.

No, this is available in Illustrator (and InDesign) CS2, too.

but I’m finding very few fonts that have fractions included

You can check: Adobe has icons that indicate if a certain OpenType feature (like fractions) is available in the font in question:

FontShop offers a customizable view of the character set:

Other foundries/distributors have different approaches; but most of them mention the (un)availability of OpenType features in some way on their website. All will be happy to let you know if you ask them.

I’m wondering if there are standards in the industry in regards to when to make fractions a part of the OpenType fonts and what we users can do to encourage that fractions be included.

Not really. Check out FontFont’s OpenType User Guide [PDF, page 8]:
The number of fractions in a font may vary. OpenType Standard FontFonts include at least fractions for ¼, ½ and ¾.
F

Thomas Phinney's picture

All alphabetic fonts from Adobe have those same basic three fractions. Additional fractions are present in the fonts indicated by icons.

Cheers,

T

Nick Shinn's picture

The basic fractions that have their own Unicode number:

Half, quarters, fifths, eighths, and thirds.

My present practice is to include these as pre-composed characters in all my fonts, and I suspect that other foundries are doing the same with their OpenType faces. It's a step beyond the basic three of the original digital font formats.

So look for the latest OpenType fonts, check out their pdf samples, and I think you will find enough pre-composed fractions.

But do you need sixths or sixteenths? Hardly any fonts have those as pre-composed, but if an OpenType font has the "Fraction" feature, it will be able to make those properly, and all you have to do is type "number slash number" and apply the
"Fraction" feature in the OpenType palette, as Florian explained.

Do you like nuts, Kristin?

kristin's picture

I'll check out the OpenType info.

"But do you need sixths or sixteenths? Hardly any fonts have those as pre-composed, but if an OpenType font has the “Fraction” feature, it will be able to make those properly, and all you have to do is type “number slash number” and apply the
“Fraction” feature in the OpenType palette, as Florian explained."

Yes I need 16ths and No, these fractions are not available in the fonts we are using currently. So it sounds like I'm back to the idea of having a script written if we want consistency from our vendors.

"Do you like nuts, Kristin?"

I like you, Nick. Does that count? Actually, I do like nuts, but I think I'm missing the joke.

Florian Hardwig's picture

Yes I need 16ths

As I wrote before: If the font features numerator and denominator forms for all figures – and there are a lot of well-equipped OpenType fonts to do so –, you can have 1/16 and 38/217, if you like.

but I think I’m missing the joke

Check out this thread.

F

pvanderlaan's picture

The OpenType versions of TEFF Lexicon and TEFF Renard will convert any sequence of xx/xx into a fraction when the Fraction feature is applied. Florian's examples above can be made effortlessly. :)

pattyfab's picture

There are plenty of font sets that include expert collections which let you compose your own fractions, such as the FF Meta family or the Thesis fonts. These fonts contain complete sets of numerators and denominators, as Florian mentioned. I think it may be easier to switch fonts than to ask your vendors to customize their fonts for you.

There is no industry standard, unfortunately. I come across this problem a lot.

Alternately, in InDesign, you can create character style sheets for numerators (I usually make them 3 points smaller than the regular size shift them up 2 1/2 or 3 points. Sometimes I go up a weight if the family has enough subtlety) and denominators (also 3 points smaller but no baseline shift). Just remember to use the opt+shift+1 character for the slash.

dezcom's picture

Nut fractions are on a horizontal line instead of the typical slanted fractions.

ChrisL

kristin's picture

Thanks for your suggestions. We currently license very few OpenType fonts and the ones I've tried do not have full number sets for denominators and numerators. Darn it.

Lots of these suggestions make sense, including choosing a different font. However, I work in a huge corporation. Things don't work that way.

First, the fonts have been decided by some committee I haven't been invited to and can.not.change.

Second, the production work is not done in-house, but by vendors around the world.

Third, fractions are used very frequently.

Fourth, we are limited to the Illustrator application.

Given these conditions, we're working to improve the quality of the work we purchase. We have had some general success in reaching this goal by doing the following:

We produce extensive style guides
We provide color specifications
We provide templates
We demand our vendors license the same fonts we license.
We provide clean, print-ready digital art files for patterns, logos, illustrations, etc.
We provide direction for copy tone, photography and illustration styles.
We provide sample documents.

So now we are trying to find a solution for the extreme lack of quality in the fractions that appear in these documents.

This is beginning to sound like a challenge for "Project Runway". Welcome to my job!

Kristin

kristin's picture

Thanks for the link, Florian. I'm not as far out to sea as I was when I first read this. :)

dezcom's picture

"First, the fonts have been decided by some committee I haven’t been invited to and can.not.change."

The cost of doing all the workarounds is probably more than getting OpenType numerator and denominator glyphs and feature coding added to your accepted list of fonts. Perhaps the "committee" will agree to having their sacred approved type modified (even though it would be cheaper yet to just buy fonts that already have the {frac} feature)?

ChrisL

William Berkson's picture

I think Chris has it right: Target can certainly afford to pay the foundry that produced their type the small amount needed to add the features you need to the font.

Nick Shinn's picture

In the long run, it will be more productive to use OpenType fonts that have the Fraction feature.
That way you avoid faux fractions, and having to request foundries to add the feature specially for you--or to rumage through EULAs to find which foundries permit you, or a third party, to add the necessary glyphs and feature coding.

However, that will severely restrict your choice of fonts, as it is really only in the past three years that Mac-based type designers have been making OpenType fonts, and the Fraction feature is not a standard, so you really have no way of knowing whether any particular typeface has the feature unless you check.

MyFonts.com and FontShop.com are probably the best places to examine which OpenType features fonts have.

kristin's picture

The cost of doing all the workarounds is probably more than getting OpenType numerator and denominator glyphs and feature coding added to your accepted list of fonts.

I think Chris has it right: Target can certainly afford to pay the foundry that produced their type the small amount needed to add the features you need to the font.

-----

Yeah, the Corp has worked with foundries to add specific characters when we need them. Most recently we worked with FontShop to get some special characters from Type-O-Tones for the Club Wedd campaign. I do get a nice glow when I know I can send some extra corporate money to folks who make fonts!

But somehow I thought that would be asking too much: not in terms of cost, but in terms of time spent tracking down the right people at the foundry, getting the various versions of fractions we need, etc. OTOH, if our demands could help get foundries to create OpenType fonts with the faction function that's been mentioned here, that would be awesome and would definitely solve the problem.

Thanks for helping me think this through everyone! I'll let you know what we decide.

Kristin

And now that the Corporation has been mentioned, I need to disclaim everything I say here as not speaking for the corporation, etc, etc, etc. I am a mere peon here.

kristin's picture

Oops. I meant to say fraction function. Faction functions are something else: The Judean People's Front? Splitters!

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