Website Redesign Part VIII - Adding some style

The last part focussed on setting up a basic typographic system using margins and heading styles. In this part, I’m going to make a bunch of little tweaks to the typography of these essays. Over the next few months I’ll probably make a whole host of little incremental changes like this.

Old-style Figures & Fractions

Most good typefaces contain two sorts of figures. Lining figures are designed to sit on the baseline and are generally all the same height. They’re great for headings, tables and UI. Old-style figures overhang the baseline and often vary in height. These are great for setting numbers in body copy.


I’m using the default lining figures in most places, but I want to use old-style figures in paragraphs, lists and blockquotes (eg. 1957). I also want to use proper fractions like this → 3/4.

.essay > p,
.essay > ol,
.essay > ul,
.essay > blockquote {
  font-variant-numeric: oldstyle-nums diagonal-fractions;


Where variable fonts are supported, I’m making strong tags a little bolder than normal.

strong {
  font-weight: 600;
  @supports (font-variation-settings: normal) {
    font-weight: 625;


Abbreviations like HTML nearly always look best rendered in small caps with a little space between the letters, so I’m doing that for any <abbr> elements:

.essay abbr {
  text-transform: lowercase;
  font-variant: small-caps;
  letter-spacing: 0.05ch;

  font-family: 'Literata Caption', Georgia, 'Times New Roman', serif;
  font-weight: 400;
  font-size: 0.85em;
  @supports (font-variation-settings: normal) {
    font-family: 'Literata Variable', Georgia, 'Times New Roman', serif;
    font-variation-settings: 'opsz' 10;
    font-weight: 410;

  text-decoration-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.15);
  text-underline-position: under;

  &[title] {
    cursor: help;

First line & Drop Caps

I’m experimenting with adding drop-cap and small caps for the first line. I’m not yet sure whether I really like this, so will probably revisit later on. I’ve also added hanging punctuation for paragraphs (only supported by Safari at the moment)

Example: Drop Caps

.essay > p {
  &:first-of-type::first-line {
    text-transform: lowercase;
    font-variant-caps: small-caps;
    font-weight: 500;
    @supports (font-variation-settings: normal) {
      font-weight: 525;

  &:first-of-type::first-letter {
    text-transform: uppercase;
    float: left;
    font-size: 4em;
    line-height: 1;
    padding-right: 0.5ch;

That’s it for now. I’ll cover lists, code blocks and links in future articles.