# Big (and small) NumbersMay 14, 2012 11:09 AM   Subscribe

FatFonts creates numerical fonts where the amount of ink/pixels for each number is in direct proportion to its value.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (23 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

Um... thank you?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 11:12 AM on May 14, 2012

Interesting. I put together an R script that makes a heatmap with numbers printed over colored cells, which seems to have the same goal. I use this for pairwise comparisons, for example. I'll have to try this out to see if this makes that kind of figure any more legible, taking away the color dimension but adding back a variable-density font. My guess is that this would make heatmaps more difficult to read, but I won't know until I try it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:15 AM on May 14, 2012

This is like an ugly heatmap with an extra digit of precision (if you can read it).
posted by demiurge at 11:15 AM on May 14, 2012

Weird. All these years I thought 7 was less than 8 but this font has opened my eyes.
posted by DU at 11:16 AM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wow, they un-invented zero! Creating a marker for the empty column was a major step forward in mathematics, and these typographers just undid it ...

So: How are you supposed to tell 8000 from 800 (or 8, or 80?)
posted by crazy_yeti at 11:19 AM on May 14, 2012

How are you supposed to tell 8000 from 800 (or 8, or 80?)

Normalize.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:20 AM on May 14, 2012

It does seem like a really labor-intensive way of just using a heatmap. Especially as in cases of numbers greater than 4 digits you can't see anything smaller than the 4th digit, and even with 4 digits you can't read the numbers in the ten or one spaces unless the text size is set to huge to begin with.

A table of numbers may not be the easiest to parse visually, but I can copy-paste it into a stats or graphing program in seconds and visualize it any way I want. This must be rendered as an image to display in most places, won't work well with OCR, and may be theoretically interesting but just isn't very practical.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:21 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I thought this was going to be a font where 1 was very thin and 9 was drawn very heavily, with the other digits falling in a spectrum between them. 0 would be tricky; maybe it could be only a single pixel thick, or perhaps drawn using only subpixels.
posted by jedicus at 11:26 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

How are you supposed to tell 8000 from 800 (or 8, or 80?)

Normalize.

And when you have all 4 values on the same graph? How do you tell 1 from from .1 from .01 from .001?
posted by DU at 11:33 AM on May 14, 2012

I thought this was going to be a font where 1 was very thin and 9 was drawn very heavily, with the other digits falling in a spectrum between them. 0 would be tricky; maybe it could be only a single pixel thick, or perhaps drawn using only subpixels.

And negative numbers could take away density from other numbers nearby!
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:33 AM on May 14, 2012

Oh, I guess you could normalize the logs.
posted by DU at 11:39 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

And imaginary numbers don't need any (real) ink at all ... you just imagine them!
posted by crazy_yeti at 11:51 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

And imaginary numbers don't need any (real) ink at all ... you just imagine them!

If you manage to print an imaginary number, you summon Nyarlathotep.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:08 PM on May 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

> I thought this was going to be a font where 1 was very thin and 9 was drawn very heavily, with the other digits falling in a spectrum between them.

...that is what this is.
posted by blue t-shirt at 12:19 PM on May 14, 2012

...that is what this is.

No, not really. I'm talking about a font where numbers look something like this:

`3`5195.
posted by jedicus at 12:24 PM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

these typographers just undid it ...

I wouldn't call these people typographers.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 1:02 PM on May 14, 2012

Normalize.

Normalize, normalize, normalize.
Only be sure always to call it please "research".
posted by stebulus at 1:15 PM on May 14, 2012

0 is an unnumber.

And we have always typeset for Eastasia.
posted by Samizdata at 2:03 PM on May 14, 2012

Again, jedicus, that is what this is. What do *you* think it is?

(It's always so weird when reality stops being consensus-based)
posted by Scientist at 2:36 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not really a font so much as a technique for making a heatmap with numbers instead of colors.
posted by straight at 2:39 PM on May 14, 2012

Well I always set numbers in tables in BellBottom Laser so I feel somewhat vindicated.
posted by mazola at 2:42 PM on May 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Again, jedicus, that is what this is. What do *you* think it is?

One of the links I looked at it described it this way: "The 8 is biggest (8 thousands), the 2 is nested inside it (2 hundreds), then the 4 (4 tens) and finally the last 2 (2 units) is too small to see." The other ones I looked at showed the same weird heatmap thing, not numbers written out the normal way.
posted by jedicus at 7:04 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's missing bleen.
posted by not_on_display at 7:35 PM on May 14, 2012

« Older I'm king of the world!   |   I cant promise you that I wonâ€™t be a dick. Newer »