Font for hexadecimal numbers in small sizes

and's picture

Perhaps you could suggest a font for hexadecimal numbers in small sizes (5pt or smaller) in character charts:

The large glyph above each number will be typeset in Bodoni, so the font used for the numbers should match. The examples above show a version of Johnston's font for London Transport, but the narrow ones and wide letters make some numbers look rather strange, and the opening in the four is too small to work at 5pt or smaller. Carrosserie seems a bit more promising, but it is marketed as a display face, so it may not work well at small sizes. I was thinking of something vaguely Art Deco-like, but what really matters is that it is legible at small sizes and that the pairs 8/B and 0/D are clearly distinct.

The problem of finding a font for hexadecimal numbers is related to an old proposal of encoding the letters A–F separately for use as hexadecimal digits:

I do not see it as a requirement that the letters and the decimal digits all have the same width, though.

Wiewauters's picture

Why don't u use a font which has a regular and a (semi)condensed? You could interchange the caps for the condesed or semicondesed?

I don't know if there are any art-deco-ish superfamily sans serifs out there, but that could be your solution.


Wiewauters's picture

What about

Formata Condensed mixed up with the regular?

Or Vones(s) which has caps which are around the same width as the numerals.


Frode Bo Helland's picture

Sumner Stone’s ITC Bodoni have optical sizes.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Helvetica is the obvious sans serif partner for Bodoni, but something along the lines of Amplitude might preform better at smaller sizes.

lunde's picture

I had a similar need for typesetting "CJKV Information Processing," Second Edition a couple of years ago, and used a custom version of Minion Pro and Myriad Pro that included tabular versions of some characters, such as "A" through "F" (for hexadecimal digits), "U" and "+" (for Unicode Scalar Values, such as "U+4E00"), and lowercase "x" (for hexadecimal digits, when prefixed with "0x"). I needed this because I used hexadecimal digits and Unicode Scalar Values throughout the book, and for the first edition I settled for Courier to get the tabular effect. Note that making the uppercase letters tabular involved not only their shapes in terms of their widths, but also their heights, to match the height of the digits. My colleague, Miguel Sousa, performed the modification. The glyphs were accessed via the 'ss03' GSUB feature, and I set up InDesign tags that invoked it, along with the 'zero' GSUB feature.

Table 4-3 on Page 198 of the book is a good example of these glyphs in use.

Michel Boyer's picture

The best I could find for that purpose was Verdana (for on screen display).

The above sample is with Hoefler Text at 20pt and Verdana at 5pt.

If you find better, please tell us.


Frode Bo Helland's picture

How important is the tabular width? Customizing something to fit your bill is a quick job.

Another option is Franklin Gothic:

Michel Boyer's picture

Here is the same sample first with Verdana, then Franklin Gothic Book, and then Franklin Gothic Medium, with same sizes.

and's picture

Thanks for all your ideas and suggestions!

To answer some of the questions that have been raised either implicitly or explicitly, I am primarily looking for a font that works well in print at a small size, on-screen performance being less of a concern. Tabular width is not really important at all, but hexadecimal numbers tend to look funny if (some of) the letters are much wider than the digits (or, as Lunde pointed out, if they are of different height).

Some further thoughts:

Helvetica and more or less similar fonts have been suggested, but Helvetica has some characteristics which ITC Bodoni 72 does not share. In particular, the lower-left corner of the digit 2 in Helvetica has a characteristic shape quite unlike Bodoni’s angular shape. Univers, Monotype Grotesque (condensed) and Akzidenz Grotesk (not condensed) are better matches from that point of view, but all have quite closed 6s and 9s that could potentially look like 8s at small sizes.

Many sans serif fonts seem to have digits and capital letters of approximately the same width in their condensed versions, although this is often not the case for their regular versions, as is the case for Monotype Grotesque (whose condensed also equalises letter/digit heights):

A different sans-serif option is to use a variation on the DIN fonts:

The completely different idea of using ITC Bodoni 6 is intriguing, and one that I would like to try, but that would probably require some redesign given that the letters are rather wide compared to the decimal digits. The small capitals do not quite match the x-height of the old-style numerals either.

Serifs help to make the B and D distinctive, but a plain design is required if the numbers are to appear more or less as part of the grid, thus allowing the large glyphs to stand out, which leads one to think of Egyptians (perhaps better known as slab serifs in some parts of the world). As it turns out, there actually exists a Bodoni-based Egyptian called Bodoni Egyptian which looks like it might work:

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Nick’s, Bodoni Egyptian is a good idea. I’m suprised I didn’t think of it. It’s one of my favourites.

Syndicate content Syndicate content