Book List: Typography
Portfolio Review
24/11/14
Check out a list of books recommended by RGD members for exploring different forms of type, understanding typefaces and following typographic best practices to achieve effective visual communication of the written word.  

 

Recommended by Jen Clark RGD, Niagara-on-the-Lake 

Playing with Type: 50 graphic experiments for exploring typographic design principles by Lara McCormick

Playing with Type covers the basics for students or non-designers learning about typography, and is a fantastic collection of typographic challenges for more experienced designers. Organized into 50 experiments, the book encourages readers to flip through for a jolt of inspiration or take on any of the experiments as a project. Each experiment includes project objectives, instructions and examples illustrating real-world design applications. Callouts throughout the book direct the reader to similar experiments or highlight relevant typographic principles.

The selection of typographic samples is excellent, ranging from found type to environmental installations. The wide variety of hand lettering and other non-digital experiments are great motivation to get off the computer and get playful. There’s even a section of challenges for playing with type with friends. Playing with Type has something for every designer.

 

Recommended by Joel Clements RGD, Richmond Hill: 

The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst

I have had my copy of this book at my desk for twenty-two years, ever since it was recommended to me by one of my design professors. It is a fantastic reference for typographic style and usage. This book belongs in the library of anyone involved in visual communication design.

 

In any profession the mastery of the fundamentals are the precursor to the freedom of “breaking the rules”. Bringhurst clearly lays down the working principles of typography from visual aspects such as rhythm and proportion, to the proper use of analphabetic symbols. He even throws in a chapter on the history of typography that places the origins of moveable type in eleventh century China (sure to ruffle the feathers of Gutenberg fans).

 

Recommended by Scott Ferguson RGD, Toronto

The Anatomy Of Type: A Graphic Guide To 100 Typefaces by Stephen Coles

This book breathes new life and meaning into the typefaces designers use everyday. The first thing that grabbed my attention when I flipped through this book was how accessible it was. Books on type can sometimes be dull to look at and even more tedious to read. Not so with The Anatomy of Type. Stephen has made a reference guide that can be read from start to finish or picked through randomly over a coffee.

 

I have found this book to be useful when I'm at the development stage of a project. When I am thinking about structuring motion design around a typeface, or crafting a logo, I find it helpful to see the typeface in print so that I can reflect on the intricacies of its design. Too often I find myself scrolling through the type menu of Illustrator looking for inspiration. For a reader new to the world of type design, the book quickly moves through type classification and terminology. Illustrations are clear, to the point and easy to grasp. A brief description outlines the history of every typeface in the book. In my opinion, a fun and informative book that deserves a place on your desk.

 

Recommended by Derwyn Goodall RGD, Toronto

Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students by Ellen Lupton

This is a rich typographic resource that I refer to on a regular basis as a graphic design practitioner and educator. The statement "Typography is what language looks like" appears on page one and sets the tone for the pages that follow. Firmly rooted in visual thinking, those six words eloquently capture the intellectual power of the written word when brought to life with the creative possibilities of typographic craft. Thinking with Type consists of three sections: Letter, Text and Grid. Each section begins with an essay about cultural and theoretical issues and all are punctuated with relevant and engaging visual support. Typographic best practices are presented throughout in a clear and accessible manner with humour employed regularly to great effect. Inspiring typographic examples and instructional exercises appear throughout.

 

I recommend this book without reservation. Ellen has given us an extremely well-designed and useful resource for anyone learning or wanting to broaden their approach to typographic craft and the visible word. 

 

Recommended by Wes Laing RGD, Toronto

Design with Type by Carl Dair

This Canadian classic was published in Toronto in 1967, although a version may have been around as early as 1952. In spite of its decidedly non-tech approach (almost all type was, of course, metal in those days), it has been reprinted many times—most recently in 2012. It continues to be relevant, providing a unique guide to thinking about type as a design element, not just a communication medium. I still go back to it to enjoy the profound simplicity of the design examples from a time before digital setting and computer-generated effects.

 

Click here to share your recommendations for typography books on RGD's LinkedIn group.

 

RGDs interested in sharing book recommendations in a future news item can email