Reminga Bold old style zero, e.g. in 2009

Nick Shinn's picture

Given that the "circular" form of zero is appropriate for old-style faces--such as this week's Featured Face, FF Reminga Pro, and of course the Typophile text face, Georgia, e.g. 2009--what is your opinion on:

  1. Suitability of old style figures for headlines
  2. Suitability of circular old style zero for bold weights
  3. Appropriate thickness of circular old style zero in bold weights
dezcom's picture

The truth is, it bothers me and just looks wrong in modern usage. I personally never liked it in even the traditional historic use.


blank's picture

1. It really depends. In a beautiful display face old style figures can really add to a headline, assuming the head isn’t set in caps. Of course, Typefaces I can think of where this wouldn’t work are faces that probably shouldn’t have old-style figures to begin with.
2. I generally find the circular zero to be silly and pedantic. How often is someone likely to confuse a zero with an o? I’m sure it made working with metal type easy, but I just don’t see why the circle zero hangs on in modern use.
3. See answer no. 2.

dezcom's picture

1. yes, fine if they look good in the context--not required or mandated though.

2. No, don't like it in any weight but others may do what they like.

3. If you must use the dang thing, then match the weight of the font.


eliason's picture

I’m sure it made working with metal type easy

Hmm, I've always thought of this kind of distinction to be aimed at making things easier for the reader, but it makes sense that the letterpress compositor and distributor are the ones whose tasks were eased the most.

nina's picture

I've personally never understood why the OSF zero must be that circular and unstressed.* The contrast to the other letters/numerals often seems overly emphasized, and I must admit it really bothers me in FF Reminga too. I'm with James on this: How often is the reader really prone to confuse 0 and o – and does this justify the huge contrast that sets the zero apart from the entire rest of a typeface like this one? (I feel it makes the zero look like a very special symbol; not like a numeral.)

That said, considering your point #1, Nick, I'd probably use lining figures for headlines anyway. It depends on the face, though, and of course on the application. I also like those 'hybrid' numerals that are kind of halfway OSFs. (Is there a more sensical name for those?)

* In fact, this was among my first big typographic enigmas in my childhood reading days, along with the "ft" ligature in some text faces that looks like a wonky A, and the bicameral g's that I thought were dingbats for glasses.

Stephen Coles's picture

As much as I love the new FF Reminga, i am not a contrastless zero fan. Fortunately it comes with lining proportional figs which have a contrast zero.

kentlew's picture

> (I feel it makes the zero look like a very special symbol; not like a numeral.)

Incidentally, I believe that in the beginning, it was. That's why the earliest forms of typographic zero are the contrastless circle. The advent of the concept of zero was a remarkable development in mathematics. Zero is magical, and in fact not like other numerals.

That said, I'm certainly not a fan of the OSF zero in Reminga Bold.

-- K.

Florian Hardwig's picture

There’s nothing old-style to boldface anyway, is there?

I’d probably use lining figures for headlines anyway
You could always use a ‘MMIX’ in petite caps. ;-)

speter's picture

Interesting to note in this connection is Zapf's egg-shaped 0 in AMS Euler.

Florian Hardwig's picture

Interesting indeed, Steve. In FE aka ‘Fälschungserschwert’ [‘made difficult to forge’], the German carplate typeface – notorious for the strange aim of not looking too homogeneous; all its letters are designed to have as little in common as possible – it is the other way round: The O is egg-shaped.

eliason's picture

I recall seeing a reverse-contrast zero to distinguish it, but I can't remember where - did I dream that?

piccic's picture

My Neoritmo design is based entirely on this idea of having some key letters unstressed, others modulated, and a few a combination of the two. Inspiration came in part from the lighter weights of the typeface Stempel Schneidler (where the [O] and [Q] are almost monotonal).

To obtain a satisfacory balance in such a design idea has been very difficult, since the number of monotonal letters needs to be limited, and well-balanced, and of course in some languages this may prove more or less 'disturbing'.

I recall the monotonal zero in text types used to puzzle me, but then I came to really enjoy it, since I put a lot of importance on numerals, and I am fascinated by them, and most of those things, if well done, go completely unnoticed by the average reader.

EDIT: An "alpha" of Neoritmo (including a preliminary Greek version) can be seen in the Benaki Museum website's headings (click on any section to see).

speter's picture

I recall that Sabon Next has a reverse-contrast zero, which I believe goes back to Stempel Garamond.

nithrandur's picture

And I think that a reverse-contrast zero, rather than a silly, open manhole, is a better zero, albeit would look equally silly as well if not subtle. Or just make it like an 'o'. Lowercase 'o's and zeroes don't get confused when used in book faces; they're confused in monospaced typefaces built for programming.

Nick Shinn's picture

In a face with optical sizing, would it be appropriate to have lining figures as the default for display fonts, and old style figures as the default for text fonts?

dan_reynolds's picture

No, I don't think so. Customers should expect consistency across the family. They can switch the figure styles on their own.

kentlew's picture

Nick, this is what FB and Cyrus have done with the Zócalo family. Text has OsF standard, but Banner and Display have LF (no OsF available). I took the same approach with Whitman.

Granted, these are not Pro OT releases. I think the FB standard for full-featured OT will have the same set of figures as default across all family members (LF, I believe -- I think it's still being hashed out).

William Berkson's picture

The Reminga Bold old style zero is just a blunder, in my opinion. It can be designed heavier and more oval, and still both look like a circle and fit in. You still might not like it, but it wouldn't look like a "wrong font" character stuck in, as it does now.

piccic's picture

William: besides taste (I like the solution) It's just too light. In Neoritmo I gave a median stroke value to the monotonal letters.
Lining figures for titling: I'd use them just in All-Caps settings, and it depends.
I am positively fixed with Numerals… :=)

Mark Simonson's picture

Here's one used incorrectly in one of the Elzevir type pages Eben photographed and just posted on Flickr:

I think the circular zero is okay in book-weight old style faces, but it doesn't really work once you add bolder weights.

jfp's picture

I fully agree with Mark, circular zero work better with std weights, in text uses. As oldstyle faces in OT generally features varous kind of figures, tab and prop, etc. its not a big deal to play with different zeros depend of the context.

As typeface designer, I don't like strict geometrical circular zeros, in my Sabon Next, the circualr zeros are not geometrical at all. I know also that its not easy to select the right ration of the weight of this bizarre zero, its perhaps why it never work at its best on Black weights.

Florian Hardwig's picture

Garamond Premier Pro Bold has a circular old-style zero.
The zero from the Bold Display optical size even exhibits a slightly reversed contrast.
The Bold Italic, though, has a stressed oval zero. That glyph is almost identical with the letter ‘o’.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I generally don't like them. I'd say especially in title settings. But, like others, the option to use them can be nice for very specific reasons. But, even then, I think most people using them now are doing so for pretense.

Nick Shinn's picture

Thanks for your comments everyone, it's helped clarify something I'm working on, an old-style face in which I've decided to have circular zeros in the text fonts, and "o" style zeros in the display fonts.

Although I think that lining figures are more appropriate for headlines, I am nonetheless keeping old-style figures as the default for all optical sizes, to avoid user-confusion.

piccic's picture

But, even then, I think most people using them now are doing so for pretense.

What do you mean Tiffany?
As Mark and Jean-François said, they work better in the book weight, since they were born in that form.
They also work best in text sizes.
Here's how the weight is distributed in Neoritmo Bold. Still to be a little fixed, since most of it dates back to 1996:

Sye's picture

wow. interesting. i've never looked so close at this.

Sye's picture

i just noticed that meta serif seems to use the lowercase o

yet i still read it fine

@Tiff - what do you mean by 'I think most people using them now are doing so for pretense'?

piccic's picture

But Meta Serif oldstyle figures are modulated, as the rest of the typeface… What do you mean?

dezcom's picture

The Os in Neoritmo Bold are similar to the round zero so yours works much better as a family than the typical oldstyle.


Sye's picture

@piccic - what i meant is that to my eye it seems the oldstyle 0 is the same as the lowercase o.

what do you mean?

Sye's picture

comparision with Arno and Neutra Text

piccic's picture

Ah, I understand what you mean…
Yes, using the same form for the oldstyle zero and the [o] may be problematic, but in general if you have to set numeric strings (codes, etc.), you set them in lining figures.

There is also to say we have alphabets (like Futura) which use almost the same form for [l], [I], or Gill Sans which uses similar forms for [l], [I], [1], and in Futura the repetitive sequence of "circles" produces way more problem than this “zero" ambiguity, to me, even on simple formal terms…

But Futura happened at the right time, so we got used to it, and forms and things gets adopted by our decisions…

@Chris: yes, in Neoritmo it was the basis of the design, so – particular as it may be – the overall consistency makes the [0] look less "chosen" just to differentiate.
An interesting example is Frank Heine's Tribute, where different modulation choices are made all over the letter range. If he avoided some excessive forms (like [g]) it would be great as a text face.

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