New numbers please!

Here in the USA streets can be quite long, and housenumbers often run into five digits. The choice of numbers for this purpose, however, is pretty limited. What you see attached to most walls would not pass for professionally designed figures. This is how Rob Forbes, the founder of Design within Reach, also saw it. So he asked me whether I could do anything about that and design numbers that would work in three dimensions. An interview between Rob and myself is at

DWR have been listing the first four different housenumbers in their catalogue since the end of 2006 now. They are named for popular appeal, not necessarily after proper historical or typographical conventions.
Classic is my own adaption of Bodoni; for Contemporary I somewhat rearranged Meta Bold, Industrial is a generic industrial typeface as negative stencils, and Tech is my attempt at designing numbers without any diagonal strokes. The materials are laser-cut, enamelled steel, extruded and anodized aluminium, laser-cut, painted steel and water-cut, polished stainless steel.

The Tech numbers have no diagonal shapes. This could eventually turn into a complete typeface.

Even an accomplished face like Meta needs to be adapted to the production process. The routing tool for the aluminium extrusion can never achieve a finely pointed inner corner. Rather than leave the shape of these details to mechanical coincidence, I drew radii that would not present any problems in the tooling process. They do look somewhat exaggerated in the drawings, but work well in metal. The slighly bolder housenumbers are shown on top, with figures from FF Meta Bold below.


You need no typographic training to fix these housenumbers to the wall. The drilling templates are printed in yellow on clear acetate in order to be visible against any background, and they also provide proper spacing for the numbers.


    1. erik

      So einfach ist das nicht. Ich kann gerne ein a zeichnen (oder ein A?), aber dann muss es jemand in Stahl schneiden. Eine richtige Produktion lohnt nicht für das eine Zeichen.

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