The ribbon method: how Sawdust made these beautiful numerals

Developing the custom ribbon numerals for the Shanghai Ranking book was a major part of the project, as co-founder Jonathan Quainton explains Ribbon numerals.

Sawdust created a set of bespoke ribbon numerals as part of their design the for the Shanghai Ranking book - here they explain their process and some of the challenges they faced along the way.

Step 1

We wanted the ribbon style to reflect our graphic, systematic style rather than being too handmade or uneven. At the start, it was a case of experimenting to see if we could produce each number from one continuous strip of ribbon.

Step 2

We printed strips of paper with two line weights, positioned them and took photos to see how the light reacted. For example, we used see-through tape for the raised end of the ‘2’ and then referenced the way the shadows fell.

Step 3

The bottom of the ‘5’ proved particularly challenging because we didn’t want to simply use straight lines – the idea was to keep it true to a classic typeface, so we repeatedly printed the rounded part until we got it just right.

Step 4

We redrew the numerals in Photoshop and had several fully ready before we showed the client. They were predominately designed to be quite large, but they also needed to work at much smaller sizes so there was a lot of testing involved.

Words: Jonathan Quainton

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