Book: Lettering & Type: creating letters & designing typefaces

Lettering & Type: creating letters & designing typefaces
My edition says, “A guide to letterforms” along the bottom, which is an accurate description, rather than “A design handbook”, an erroneous description, which is written along the bottom of this edition.

This is what I was looking for when I picked Color Management.
130 pages, ★★★★

Steve Jobs studied calligraphy, which inspired the beautifully-designed fonts on the Lisa computer. In fact, his fascination with finessing fine details was manifested in all the Apple products he helped to design—including the famous “we spent six weeks deciding how round the corners should be [on the Apple IIe]” and “we spent months finding the right friction coefficient [for the MacBook Pro trackpad]”. I admire his perfectionist streak, and wanted to learn something about lettering myself.

Color Management focussed solely on color, layout and design—and was badly written. Lettering & Type, however, gets the balance of text and examples just right: on each double-spread, one page is filled with prose, while each opposing page is dedicated to graphic examples. (I even suggested this balance in my review of Color Management).

I learned that typeface design is a very fine art. Within the confines of dozens of rules of typeface aesthetics, we have to craft the individual letters, ensuring unity of stroke width and spacing throughout the typeset. We then have to adjust the kerning (spacing) of character each combination and design ligatures (conjoined letters like ӕ, fi and ij) when necessary. We have to examine the font in paragraph form, and ensure there’s an average ‘colour’ throughout the text, making final adjustments as necessary. For the most professional effects, we have to re-jiggle all the parameters in the first step whenever we make the font larger or smaller (you can see this by examining the fonts in Newsweek magazine very closely). Many large fonts look awful small, and vice versa.

Design buffs should read this, as should anyone who appreciates, or aspires to appreciate, the sheer beauty in life’s tiny, tiny details. ★★★★

2 thoughts on “Book: Lettering & Type: creating letters & designing typefaces

    1. It is. There are some gorgeous examples in the back of this book of how tweaking just a few parameters of a font (e.g. stroke width, angle, contrast ratio) can turn it from ugly to gorgeous—or the other way around!


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