Top 7 Books for Type Designers
Here’s a list of my personal favourite books that helped me get a better grasp on the world of type design.
Typography is one of the major bedrocks of our society and it has played a major role in allowing people to exchange ideas from one mind to another. To go a step further, everything you’re thinking at this moment is based off of a collection of words, symbols, and concepts that you’ve learned through out your life which have all come from these ancient and powerful symbols, letters.
Whether you’re a type designer, a font fanatic, a design hobbyist, wondering about type design software, looking for type inspiration, or just someone who’s strangely interested in letters, here are the top seven books that I would recommend for anyone interested in learning a little bit more about what fonts and type are composed of, where they come from, how to use them, how to make them, and a whole whack of other valuable information regarding the world of fonts, lettering, and type design (in no specific order).
‘Shady Characters’, by Keith Houston is a great reference book that focuses on obscure and lesser known glyphs, particularily punctuation marks, that have kind of fallen out of the limelight of typography (with the exception of the Ampersand). In this book you’ll find the history of where these unusual letters and glyphs come from, why they died out, and tons of other information.
Thinking With Type
‘Thinking With Type’, is a great book, written by Ellen Lupton. The book basically covers all fundamentals of typography in a fantasically concise manner. The book starts with the fundamentals and anatomy of letters/glyphs themselves, slowly moves into the principals behind handling type, and then finishes with how to succesfully incorporate type into design as a whole.
Jessica Hische has become a household name in the world of Typography, so to be able to gain a few insights into the process behind her work makes for an amazing book. As the title suggests, Hische shares a wealth of information with the reader by revealing shots of her most famous pieces while they were in progress. She also goes in depth into what her favourite tools are, how she takes her pieces from paper to digital, and lots more, all through a beautifully designed and tactile book.
Making and Breaking the Grid
You may not understand the importance of grids in relation to type design at first, however I’ve learned that grids & layout have a huge impact on all aspects of design, including the design of type. Timothy Samara’s book offers a great reference guide for understanding & implementing various types of grids, why we use them, as well as how to break the rules whenever necessary. A great resource for any type of visual designer.
The Elements of Typographic Style
‘The Elements of Typographic Style’, from Robert Bringhurst is a staple in the type industry. I was first handed a copy of this book in college, however never attained a copy of my own. The book acts as a bible for typography, and handling type. Being a poet as well as a designer, Bringhurst offers a unique perspective from most type books, and the main focus of this book seems to be all about finding the beauty in type, and having that beauty translate off of the page through the use of kerning, leading, margins, etc.
‘Designing Type’, by Karen Cheng is another book that I haven’t been fortunate enough to grab a copy of yet, however is a book that I’ve flipped through many times. It offers a great in-depth resource for everything that goes into the construction of type. The book is packed with essays, diagrams, preliminary sketches, and more, all based on what goes into creating the letterforms we all use and love as well as why these standards exist, where they come from, and much, much more.
Meggs’ History of Graphic Design
Unlike the other books on the list, this one is more of a textbook, and has undergone multiple updates and variations. It was written by Philip B. Meggs and covers the entire history of graphic design as far as we know, right from the first man-made markings found in Africa over 200,000 years ago, up to the development of OpenType software. A few of the other books on this list cover a bit of design history, however this one is by far the most in depth and definitely covers the most ground. Even if you’re not directly involved in the design or type industry, this book could prove an interesting read for any inquisitive mind.
There is of course a much wider variety of books dedicated to type design out there however out of the ones that I own, or have at least used a few times, these are the ones I’ve found most useful. If you’ve got any other suggestions for good typography books that you’ve read feel free to let me know in the comments below!