Friday, October 17, 2014

Design notes: loopy numerals ( 6 9 and 8 )

The numbers ‘6’, ‘9’, and ‘8’ are certainly the hardest numerals to design. They contain no straight lines and no obvious guidelines to design from. These numerals largely have to be drawn by eye, though we can employ a circle-method similar to the one we used for the ‘s’ to make the ‘8’.

6 and 9

  • Perhaps the best guide we have for drawing the ‘6’ is the lowercase ‘b’, as the stress on the two glyphs’ bowls is similar. The ‘6’ is also about the same width as the ‘b’.
  • The joint between the tip of the bowl and the numeral’s arc (left side) is rarely smooth. Usually there is a vertex on the inside.
  • The terminal often extends almost all the way to the right extreme of the glyph.
  • The ‘9’ is a perfect 180 degree rotation of the ‘6’. There are very few adjustments that should be made to it (though some designers like to shrink the bowl of the ‘9’ slightly). That means that if your ‘9’ looks funny, then it’s probably indicative of a poorly drawn curve in your ‘6’. In this way, the ‘6’ and the ‘9’ are, in a way, designed simultaneously, as each can help you improve the other.


  •  The ‘8’ can be outlined roughly by four circles, similar to those used to construct the ‘s’. The diagonal stroke goes ‘downhill’; the thinner finials that merge into it are oriented ‘uphill’.
  • The typical rules of stress (so often ignored in the Arabic numerals) apply to the ‘8’. The upper right and lower left portions of the numeral’s bowls are stressed along with the diagonal.