design mind Has Got Erik Spiekermann’s Number(s)

spiekermann.jpgOur friends at frog design have unveiled a new website for their boundary-pushing publication, design mind, along with a new print edition of the magazine. The latest issue (the eighth so far) is entitled “numbers,” and so revolves loosely around digits. Especially noteworthy is this issue is Chelsea Holden Baker‘s chat with designer Erik Spiekermann (pictured at left), who discusses the three-dimensional typographic challenge he took on when commissioned to create sets of house numbers for Design within Reach. While numbers are tough, Spiekerman says that he can’t bear to delegate their design to others. “They’re just too pretty.”

But most people do not design numbers because numbers are hard. As you can see on the street, most numbers are standardized. They tend to be very generic because people are scared of numbers; redesigning numbers is like redesigning the Latin alphabet. The way we write our numbers comes from Arabic, although they’ve been abstracted. The three used to slant down, like a 2 or something. You see this angle in Arabic, with the stresses on the bottom. Our normal numbers—real, legible numbers—are a little bit clunky, because they’re tall but narrow. They have weird diagonals. It’s a nightmare.