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07 May 2012

A Typographic Digression

Reading Between, Among, and About the Lines

The Non-Designer's Design BookAfter being lambasted for using Comic Sans in a menu texture that I created for a Morrowind mod, I developed an interest in typography, so decided to read up a bit on the subject. The first book I read was The Non-Designer's Design Book by Robin Williams, since my husband happened to have a copy of it. This book explains several simple concepts and gives plenty of examples. The first half of the book is about four design principles: contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. The rest of the book talks about designing with type. There are little quizzes throughout, with answers at the end of the book, plus a two-page bibliography, a list of all typefaces used in the book, and an index. (My favorite index entry is "crap, 14".)

This excellent introductory book inspired me to do some more reading, so I acquired two more books: Thinking with Type and Typography Essentials.

Thinking with Type
Thinking with Type, by Ellen Lupton, is divided into three main sections — Letter, Text, and Grid — plus an appendix. The Letter section gives some history about the evolution of typefaces, then discusses various aspects of letters, such as parts, size, and scale. The Text section discusses various concepts such as spacing, linearity, kerning, and alignment. The Grid section discusses page layout. There are many illustrations and examples throughout. I found this book to be very interesting and have many pages marked with sticky tabs.

Typography Essentials
Typography Essentials, by Ina Saltz, is divided into four sections: The Letter, The Word, The Paragraph, and The Page. Each section consists of numbered principles, each principle taking two pages. Each set of two pages contains a short description of the principle and two or more illustrated examples. Each example is attributed and has a short explanation of why it illustrates the associated principle. I think the structure of this book is very effective for getting across all of the concepts.

computer arts magazine
Another resource I found for occasional information about typography is computer arts, a magazine that contains all kinds of useful information about digital design and lots of step-by-step guides on how to accomplish various tasks in software like Photoshop, Illustrator, and others. The October 2011 issue had a section on "The Secrets of Great Typography" and a pull-out booklet called "The Fonts You Can't Live Without". It also included a DVD with some free Camphor fonts.

HOW magazine - Type MattersThere's also HOW magazine, which normally has articles about design and running a design business, but sometimes has special issues like the one from July 2011, which contained several articles about typography. One discussed sans serif typefaces such as FF Basic Gothic, Camphor, Carter Sans, Condor, and others. Another was all about what not to do with type and had a picture of a 34 Typographic Sins poster. A third was about type as art and contained many wonderful type art pictures. (I love the cover of this issue.)

And, just recently, I bought Typoholic, a new book by numerous contributors and edited by viction:ary (viction:workshop ltd.). This book is in two parts and is chock-full of wonderful illustrations. Hold it facing one way to read about "Font to Form", 207 pages of illustrations of type as art. Flip it over to read about "A to Z", 73 pages of type art by various artists, with type names such as "Animal Fonts", "Dirt Type", "Coral", and "Mekkanika". This book is a celebration of type and great fun for anyone who has any interest in typography.

Typoholic front cover Typoholic back cover

In closing, for your amusement, here's a little typography humor.

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