Bethany Schilling

The Significance Of Numbers.

5th October.

Our first brief is called ‘The Significance Of Numbers’ and we have been asked to design a piece of work that demonstrates this, using any media we wish.

I had a few initial thoughts but came up with 3 main ideas. The first is looking at the inter-relationship of numbers and orthography; in particular script languages such as Arabic and Hebrew. There are a number of alphabets, such as Spanish and French, which are based on the Latin alphabet, but contain additional characters. For example, the Spanish language is based on the Latin alphabet (26 characters), but it contains one additional letter: ‘eñe’ (ñ). The French language is also based on the Latin alphabet and it contains 5 diacritics and 2 orthographic ligatures. Unlike Spanish, these are not considered as separate letters. I thought about creating an info-graphic illustrating different alphabets within languages, and the additional characters they have. 

The second idea I had was to create something based on numeric glyphs. These are either proportional uppercase & lowercase, and monospaced uppercase & lowercase. Monospaced numbers have a uniform width, making them useful for displaying numbers in columns. Proportional numbers, on the other hand, have individual widths and are preferred for sentences. Number case features specify a choice for the appearance of digits, and are independent of letter case. Lowercase numbers are digits whose optical height is the same as that of the lower case letters and can have both ascenders and descenders. Upper case numbers on the other hand have neither ascenders or descenders, meaning that all digits are usually the same height as the capital letters. My idea for this was to illustrate these numbers somehow; showing the contrast between proportional & monospaced and lowercase & uppercase numbers. 

I then thought about the anatomy of typography and how each character must have dimensions somehow. My first thought was of an ampersand and I tried to visualise in my head how it is constructed mathematically. When I had my tutorial with Sally, she mentioned something called ‘Unicode’, which basically means that every letter, every number, every glyph and so on has a digital code which enables technology to read it. 

“Consistent encoding representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world’s writing systems…The Unicode Standard: 110,000 characters covering 100 scripts…Unicode [is] implemented by different character encodings…[its] explicit aim of transcending limitations of traditional character encodings, such as those defined by the ISO 8859 standard”.


I thought that this was the idea I should take forward and I have begun my research into Unicode.

8th October.

I started looking into Unicode and found it really interesting how there are so many codes for each character/glyph; such as various HTML ‘entities’ and binary and so on. My ultimate favourite glyph of all time is the ampersand, so I looked into codes unique to that.

I then came across something called ‘The Mathematics of Golden Ratio Typography’ and found this very interesting too. It took me a while to get my head around it before I started playing around with visuals. These are based on several equations; beginning with font size (f) and line height (l) being proportionally related through a ratio (h): l=fh. It continues with how typographic dimensions correspond to each other…

(My brain is only slightly frazzled from information overload, so I’m not explaining this as well as I usually would. Do excuse me for a minute).

After I had accumulated all this knowledge I was still struggling to find a way to visualise something. I was doodling in my notebook until I had somewhat of an epiphany - maybe I was trying too hard? I drew an ampersand with one of my brush pens and listed some codes next to it. I looked at it and realised what a lovely visual it was. (I’m taking ‘good’ and ‘nice’ out of my blogging vocabulary, by the way). I fired up Illustrator and transferred this sketch digitally. I wanted to create a strong visual contrast between the image and the codes; so naturally a large, ornamental ampersand next to some Monaco is fitting. 

9th October.

After I presented my idea to Sally, she gave me a piece of advice whereby you do the same thing six different ways. She liked my idea, but suggested I make the coding text in script, and the ampersand in a coding font. I’ve had a play around with it and have made three posters so far, using Monaco, Courier New and Chopin Script. 

Rationale behind my idea:

My poster looks at the interrelationship between typography and numbers; in particular coding. During my research I learnt about something called Unicode which is consistent encoding representation of text in most of the world’s writing systems. I then started experimenting with visuals and I came up with my final idea whilst doodling in my notebook. I drew an ampersand and listed some code next to it, and realised that this could potentially work for my poster, as it illustrates both a visual representation and a ‘behind the scenes’ one. I wanted to demonstrate how numbers are so important even when we can’t see them. I decided to go for my original idea as I didn’t want to over-complicate things.

Visuals to follow soon.