The terms ‘number’ and ‘numeral’ are often confused: One is a number, but 1 is a numeral. Added to this, numerals in typography are referred to as ‘figures’. (No one said this would be easy!)
We frequently encounter figures when wrestling with typography: telephone numbers, dates of birth, financial data, fractions… the list goes on. Well designed typefaces include ‘old style’ figures (1234567890) in addition to ‘lining’ figures (1234567890). Lining figures were originally designed to be used in conjunction with capitals; old style (or ‘lowercase’) figures blend in better with text settings given their ascenders (6, 8) and descenders (3, 4, 5, 7, 9).
In addition to old style and lining figures, a thoughtfully designed typeface will include ‘proportional’ and ‘tabular’ figures. Proportional figures, as the name implies, have differing widths (a 1 is narrower than a 9), and are designed to fit together like letters. Tabular figures, on the other hand, are designed for tabular data and designed to be mono-widt