Attention to typography can be as important as anything when it comes to design. And with the web’s limited typeface choices, it’s only natural to gain as much knowledge as possible on the subject — getting creative with the little we have to work with. In additon, it’s amazing how the visual quality of something can be drastically increased by choosing the right typeface as well as understanding creative ways to control and present it.
So I ask for your recommendations: what books or online resources provide the best, most helpful information regarding typography — identifying typefaces, how to best utilize type, etc.? I know there is most likely an endless amount of information out there, but knowing where to start is essential.
Robert Bringhurt’s “The Elements Of Typographic Style” is an absolute must-have book on good tyopgraphy. Veer’s monthly catalogs can also be useful for seeing a wide variety of display faces in use as well.
Script fonts apparently sell the best at Veer so often there’s more script fonts than anything else, but they have some great designers on staff so they’re always good for inspiration.
I will second Scott’s vote for Bringhurst’s book. A must have.
Stop Stealing Sheep and Learn How Type Works
Bringhurst’s book (now in its 3rd edition) is assuredly the best current book on typography. Both the writing and the design of the book itself is a work of art.
Ellen Lupton’s new book ‘Thinking with Type’ is a nicely-designed, illustrated, compact-format book – a great one for beginners, I think. And a nice reference in general.
There are the works by the greats themselves:
Jan Tschichold — his The Form of the Book is opinionated and very very smart and repays a lot of attention. His earlier books The New Typography and Asymmetrical Typography are more dated but thought-provoking in their own right. His Treasury of Alphabets and Lettering is a gorgeous collection of beautifully composed letterforms spanning two millennia.
Bruce Rogers’s Paragraphs on Printing is worth it just for its examples of Rogers’s work. He’s without equal as a master of the printer’s ornament, and one of the true giants of book design.
Eric Gill’s Essay on Typography is justly well known: quirky and enlightening.
I’m geek turned ‘designer’ so this whole typography thing is quite new to me.
The best web resourse I’ve found is Mark Boulton’s Five simple steps to better typography articles.
Yum – kerning!
A quick google leads to this this page at type culture, http://www.typeculture.com/academic_resource/ there are a whole load of articles on typefaces there.
Sorry I’m a moron and forgot to link that properly Type culture here so you dont have to copy and paste.
I don’t know why I became anonymous in that last post.
Anyway, as far as more general books are concerned, Walter Tracy’s Letters of Credit: A View of Type Design is half principles and half examples, and a pleasure to read, while Alexander Lawson’s Anatomy of a Typeface, though less engrossing, is a very thorough overview of the great typefaces.
D.B. Updike’s Printing Types: Their History, Forms, and Use is the classic, though I’ve never read it.
#7 Darren: that series of articles is great! Thanks!
Identifying typefaces is largely a matter of pattern recognition: being aware of different styles of serifs, the axis of round letters, x-heights, etc. Knowing the basic classification of types (Old Style, Transitional, Modern, etc.) narrows it down, and then with practice you learn to recognize the characteristic features of a particular face, and then to recognize the gestalt of a page composed in it. You can probably already distinguish very quickly between a web page in Times and a web page in Georgia, by dint of sheer exposure.
Rookledge’s Typefinder is a great resource both for learning the lay of the land and for grabbing a book off the shelf and deducing what face it’s set in.
And finally, Betty Binns’s Better Type (which sounds like a nursery rhyme) is 200 pages of compare-and-contrast: the same passage set in different fonts, in different weights, different line spacings, different word spacings, different trackings, different justifications. It’s fascinating, really, and a great way to understand the interactions among all these choices.
Sorry to hog these comments. I hope this is helpful.
I recomend Ellen Lupton’s Thinking with Type. It is by far one of the best books in recent memory on typography. It’s the kind of book I wish was available when I was in school.
I found that for a good overview (with lots of interesting design cases and examples) the Rockport book “Typography Workshop” is really nice.
Arriving students at the MA Typeface Design programme are sent this booklist, which has a small “starter” set of items highlighted. Some have been covered above.
The excellent (Yale) Web Style Guide contains a chapter on Typography. The book can be downloaded of the web; although, I purchased a dead tree edition since it is very good.
Thinking with Type, mentioned above, also has a great online edition.
Identifont can be pretty good for typeface recognition.
Nice tool to find out font name (pretty accurate too!)
* Sorry I dont know how to make that a link =p
I’d try the following:
- Robert Bringhurt’s ‘The Elements Of Typographic Style’
- ‘Typograpie: A Manual of Design’ Emil Ruder
- ‘Stop Stealing Sheep and Learn How Type Works’ Erik Spiekermann
- Any book by Müller-Brockmann, the man’s command of typography was bordering on genius.
I’d have to agree with most people here and say Bringhurst is fantastic, both Müller-Brockmann and Ruder are truly hardcore. They have that a wonderful puritanical approach that makes you feel that you have to work hard to be worthy. Not a bad thing when it comes to type.
Out of interest Bringhurst has just released the third edition of ‘Elements of Typographic Style’ with a significant new section that addresses making the most out of digital type.
Oh, and Darren, Thanks for the plug ;-)
Robin William’s Non-Designers Type Book is very good.
Great resource: Upper & lowercase Magazine
I’ve had a keen interest in typography for a while now. It is a fantastic skill to hold. I found this great resource a few years ago and it has helped me understand allot about typography. Before finding this site I don’t think I knew there were 3 kinds of dashes, or to speak in the correct lingo: a hyphen, a En-dash and a Em-dash. This site also explains the history of each letter in the English alphabet as well as cover issues like typographic colour, smart quotes and much more. It has a handy diagram of the anatomy of a character for those who don’t know their descender from their ascender, and no I don’t mean the thing between your legs :o)
On a side note:
Hey Dan I bought your book recently and am presently on Chap 8. It is such a fantastic read. It is simple, clear, concise and very helpful. Would I be asking too much if I asked you to re-write all the computer technical books to date? ;o)
Looking forward to seeing any future publication. Keep up the good work!
I’d like to suggest the following online resources:
Counterspace is a great site for picking up typography basics.
The Typophile Forums are considered a great place for discussion of all things typography. A great place to lurk and some high-profile people post there as well.
Stop by Typographica daily for the latest in the world of typography.
Finally, On Snot and Fonts is an almost endless list of online typography resources.
This may be nothing fresh or exciting, but here is a good article explaining just why Verdana, Georgia and Trebuchet are excellent readability choices for web use: In Search of the Best Online Reading Experience
If you’re a designer, chances are you’ve bumped into a client who insists on Arial, which is a) ugly and b) difficult to read. This article’s a nice piece of supporting evidence for arguing the case for a better screen font.
People who are REALLY serious about the history should consider taking the 5-day course Type, Lettering, & Calligraphy, 1450-1830 offered at Rare Book School at the University of Virginia.
It’s taught by James Mosley, the Visiting Professor in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication at the University of Reading.
He retired as Librarian of the St Bride Printing Library in London in 1999.
James really is one of the greats, and the preliminary reading list for his course may be found here.
I’ve take the course and it’s mind-blowingly superb.
Web Style Guide: Typography
For the coder:
Monospace/Fixed Width Programmer’s Fonts
Thank you thank you thank you for this post. I recently made the decision to focus more on type myself, but got wound up in the history of the fonts. If anyone else is interested:
Type: The Secret History of Letters by Simon Loxley is excellent. All about the development, how Goudy’s type shop burnt down before he made the famous Goudy Old Style.. great stuff. Very interesting.
I also plan on reading Alexander Lawson’s Anatomy of a Typeface. Couple others.. can’t remember offhand.
Carl Dair’s Design With Type. A must-have in any designer’s library.
It must mean something that most of the resources mentioned are books. In addition to the Bringhurst and Tschihold books, I’d add Dowding and Muller-Brockmann.
I’ll also be a bit cheeky and point to my typography posts which particularly relate to CSS techniques.
A fabulous book: Design With Type, by Carl Dair. It’s an excellent study of typography and the use of type in design; decades old, but definitely still relevant.
this is slightly off topic – but i must say – Feliciano Type Foundry is particularly wonderful and worth a visit.
Definitely Bringhurst’s book and the Typophile Forums. The forums have proven to be an excellent resource for anything typographic.
Um, Gerry, can you tell us why your reading list (a) is a PDF, (b) is an untagged PDF (when InDesign, the authoring application, can natively output a tagged PDF), and (c) is not nice tidy HTML? The file is simple text, you know.
Your document-design choices have relegated your reading list to Google-obscurity, among other flaws.
It’s a relatively new site, but Typomancy has some great articles regarding typography and the history/current state of fonts.
Bringhurst’s book is still one of the best type books out there. A little dense, but in a good way.
Here’s one that’s a little older, but easy to follow and full of valuable information:
Beyond the Mac Is Not a Typewriter by Robin Williams.
Typographically Speaking: The Art of Matthew Carter
I was fortunate enough to attend a recent lecture by Matthew Carter… awesome!
Excerpt from Amazon’s description:
In a career that has spanned more than forty years, Matthew Carter has designed many of the typefaces that we see every day in and on publications, books, signs, and screens. Carter’s celebrated typefaces include such stalwarts as Galliard, Mantinia, and Verdana.
Josef Muller-Brockmann is a god. My mate just introduced me to some of his work. I’m totally smitten!
/me buys from amazon.
Great ideas, thanks. I was familiar with a few of the popular titles mentioned, and the comments thus far have confirmed some of my choices. Good stuff.
Bringhurst is a good place to start.
I’d also like to add to the already great list compiled here the name of Willi Kunz: Typography: Macro- and Microaesthetics and Typography: Formation + Transformation.
And I second others’ recommendations of Ellen Lupton, Erik Spiekermann, typographica, and jared benson’s typophile. and keep prowling those specimen books!
The Willi Kunz books are beautiful if idiosyncratic, focusing with an almost alarming determination on designing posters for architectural events in a strongly grid-based (Swiss) idiom. That said, Formation + Transformation is an almost exhausting (and exhaustive) workshop in a book. You could easily center a good, challenging typography course around those two books alone. And then keep Bringhurst around for reference.
If you want to really get down into the nitty-gritty of typeface design, Doyald Young’s Fonts & Logos has a ton of useful analysis of classic typefaces, and Logotypes & Letterforms will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about how to design logotypes for the Los Angeles creative market (it’s a gorgeous, generous book, but Young is very rooted in his milieu).
I’d suggest that those looking at Ellen Lupton’s Thinking With Type and Spiekermann’s Stop Stealing Sheep choose one or the other, but not both. I prefer the Lupton, as I think it’s much better-designed. But then again, Lupton’s book is more oriented towards book designers and Spiekermann’s is more suited for magazine typographers (Spiekermann, after all, did make The Economist the most gorgeous newsmagazine on the stands, after a hundred years of it being one of the unloveliest).
As others have mentioned, the typophile forums are very useful, and the rapidly-growing typophile wiki is very rapidly turning into a useful resource in its own right. I’m having a hell of a lot of fun hacking on it in my spare time.
I’d also like to second the mention of Luc Devroye’s font pages. He’s cranky and opinionated, but just reading the link descriptions themselves has eaten up days of my time.
Finally, TYPO Magazine offers a PDF edition of their excellent, one-of-a-kind magazine for free online. It’s clearly in the mold of U&lc and Matrix before it.
The Designer & the Grid. A good foudation one, it does cover a little bit of typography but it has a rich content for better foundation and understanding grid systems in typography.
Some of my bookmarks:
You could try Leslie Carbaga’s “Logo Font & Lettering Bible”. It’s more concerned with making the actual letters and symbols, but it’s a must if you really want to know what it is you’re dealing with when you set type.
not sure if typographica is on the list, but this a great online resource for all things typography related. also, if you haven’t already seen it, peep these 300 free truetype fonts.
Robin William’s The Mac/PC is not a Typewriter is a great, quick must-read for content publishers.
I picked up Leslie Cabarga’s Logo, Font, & Lettering Bible (ISBN: 1581804369) some time ago. It is ideal for any font enthusiast — hard-cover, full-color and heavily illustrated with tons of examples.
I also have and find Typography 22 great for inspiration and full of variety. The Type Directors’ Club produces them annually (#25 currently available). Those are my picks.
Yet another vote for the Bringhurt book and “Stop Stealing Sheep” (written by Erik Spinkerman – spell check that)
Cameron Moll’s The Non-designer’s Guide to Practical Typeface Selection is also a nice quick read.
One of my favorite designers is well known for his exploration with typography. David Carson is well known for Ray Gun magazine or the number of design publications he’s been mentioned in. His use of typography is absolutely amazing.
* Notice *
You’ll have to click through several screens to get to the main content of his site where you can see examples of how typography can be used.
sIFR 2.0 is quite handy too. Rich Accessible Typography for the Masses
Mark Simonson’s blog.
Thanks, Mark. Great stuff.
Although the Bringhurst, Lipton and Tschichold books are good foundations, I seem to learn a lot more by viewing practical examples of designers’ work.
The newest Type Directors’ Club Annual 25, is worth every dollar. Also, STEP Design’s latest issue is devoted solely to typography. Lastly, PRINT magazine’s latest issue has some great typographic work to drool over. Hope this helps.
“wordplay” by john langdon. Its being republished soon. John is know for his work in ambigrams. He really is incerdible! He taught me everything I know about type.
I second the recommendation of Simon Loxley’s Type: The Secret History of Letters. Opens with a great page: “The naked letter: the anatomy of type,” showing x-height, baseline, ascender, descender, cap height, counter, bowl, finial, arm, let, stem or stroke, apex, crossbar, bracket, ear, link and loop. Then moves through a lot of fascinating history. Good bibliography too.
I just purchased this book yesterday, 9 dollars at an outlet in Seaside Oregon. I’ve read enough in it to know it’s a decent book. Large pages, good thick paper, historical information etc.
Designing with Type: A Basic Course in Typography
For type at its most creative (I walk the halls of design school with the latest issue under my arm at all times), the magazine (now online) is Upper & Lower Case from ITC (International Typeface Corp).
Originally published in a firehouse turned design studio in New York City by a group calling themselves Pushpin Studios (Milton Glaser, Tony DiSpigna, Jim Spanfeller, etc, etc) it’s priceless. Interviews with type designers, breakdowns of fonts, and history of Typography in a readable way. Nice looking web site from a typographer’s standpoint. Tons of archives, too.
And so we have the link
Robert Bringhurst’s “The Elements of Typographic Style”. Definitely.
There are also some good books of Hans Peter Willberg and Friedrich Forssman – a friend of mine just recommended them to me.
ParaType Multilingual Fonts and some articles
In my insomnia over the last week, I’ve started reading all the books my typography teacher assigned last semester but never assigned reading from. Ellen Lupton’s thinking with type goes into some rich detail about the history and philosophy of typography, and shows a nice, modern emphasis with mention of typography for the web, and a surprising nod to standards-based HTML and CSS.
I’m currently immersed in (an autographed copy of) Willi Kuntz’s Formation + Transformation. Willi does a wonderful job of breaking down the elements of typography, on both micro and macroaesthetic levels, with a plethora of examples from his own portfolio.
While Lupton’s book seemed to provide a solid overview, I felt it sometimes lacked a desired depth. Kuntz’s book is rich with this depth, pointing out nuances that make it feel more than worth the time it’s taking to get through.
I like Wendy Peck’s Great Web Typography.
It has great suggestions on how to use type for the web. The book has tips for preparing images with type, and she gives examples of CSS styles that work work well in browsers. There are illustrations with examples of why styles that do and don’t work, and the book has tips to improve readability and good design.
David Carson should NOT be used as an example for good typography. He did some radical and amazing things in the early 90s, but the only reason he made a name for himself is because his style reflected the ideas and overall style of his audience.
I can’t believe that with 61 comments, nobody has mentioned Daniel Will-Harris yet.
Check out Typofile and Esperfonto, a system for choosing the right fonts based on the message you want to convey to your readers.
The site is a little dated, but the amount of knowledge contained in one place is huge. Plus one the whopping two occasions I’ve emailed him, he’s always been quick to respond.
There are too many comments for me to read all of them, so I am sure I am repeating some recommendations:
The Elements of Typographic Style By Bringhurst is a must read.
Anything by Jan Tschichold. He is/was a god: The New Typography (interesting parallells to digital media). A Treasury of Alphabets and Lettering (quick but informative read). The Form of the Book
Fred Smeijers’ Counterpunch explains well the relationship between design methods and form.
Ilene Strizver of The Type Studio has posted some great PDF articles about typography, too.
Triple the recs for the bringhurst, spiekermann, and kunz books. Amazed that no one posted the books carried by you work for them
(well the kunz is there). Look under typography and graphic design. Recommend work by Müller-Brockmann, Bill, Weingart, Hofmann, Ruder, etc. The Swiss pretty much defined our understanding of typography post-Tschichold, etc.
Eric Spiekermann said of David Carson. “Learn the rules before you break them.”
Could someone please tell me the original context in which this quote appeared?
Robert Bringhurst’s book is the best I’ve read on typography.