We’ve seen more text figures (or lower case, “old style,” non-lining numerals) in graphic design in the past few years. Typesetters used text figures in the past, because they blend invisibly into text, but graphic designers have been largely ignorant of old style figures owing, in part, to the lack of affordable extended font families in the early years of desktop design. For decades now, most numerals in text have been “lining” or “modern” figures—essentially all caps, which look clumsy in text.
Matthew Carter designed Georgia in 1996 for Microsoft’s Web Core Fonts program, and it’s now everywhere online. Why? Because it was included (wisely) in the system software for both Macs and PCs. Web designers prefer system fonts for live type (type which is still editable—not a static graphic) so that common default fonts (think Times and Arial) will not be substituted.
Georgia, a lovely and highly readable typeface has handsome old style figures, and since Georgia is now ubiquitous, it has renewed interest in non-lining text numerals. Thank you Matthew Carter, and (dare we say it?) thank you Microsoft.