reccomend “Communicating or Just Making Pretty Shapes?” by Colin Wheildon for those interested in typography.
Alan Nankivell Brooks

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Ouch !

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Typography is a rather extensive subject, and discipline, which most people have little knowledge of. I would venture to say that many people don’t even know how important this body of knowledge is to crafting the most successful graphic designs which use type. Like graphic design, typography consists of a long list of subjects which a knowledgeable person can use to make type more psychologically effective and pleasing, and to make it better communicate the feeling which you are trying to create in a printed piece.

One place to see reasonably good typography is in packaging, because the big food and cosmetic companies spend a lot of money to make the package appeal to the consumer. Go into the grocery store, and really look at the way the type is used, regarding letter spacing, line spacing, grouping of blocks of type, use of certain fonts, use of variations of fonts, how the type reinforces the psychological effect the design creates, etc., etc., and try to figure out why certain combinations were used and why they are effective. There is a lot more to it than what you can pick up by looking at a package, but hopefully it will get you interested enough to find out more.

I highly recommend learning more about typography. Just because you can set type, either in hot metal or by computer, does not make you as effective a user of type as you could be. Go for more knowledge…..you won’t be sorry you did!

This might be a good text on the topic.
Too bad the cover doesn’t leave ya with that impression.

Yes, I shouldn’t judge it by the cover, but…..


The only intent of book covers and cereal boxes it to get your attention among all the other units, and make you buy. Text typography should aim at ease of reading and comprehension. Covers and texts aren’t usually designed by the same people in commercial publishing and can be completely unrelated.
Unfortunately some book interiors are now being designed by cereal-box designers. Or worse, web designers.

Thanks for the recommendation, Alan, and thanks, Geoffrey, for the good advice. As a complete typography ignoramus, I am often ashamed to find myself with a composing stick in my hand. Typography is a vast subject — one, I think, that takes a lifetime to master, especially if you’re working within the limitations of metal type. As letterpress printers, we owe it to our forebears to do right by their legacy.


there is a very informative book, published by faber and faber in 1968, by John R Biggs titled Basic Typography, It contains bits about type itself the form of and uses of type ,notes on spacing letters to word and using mixed fonts in a line etc.To the slightly knowing student as many of those on briar seem to have some idea this can be of interest .
Another (no date ) Introduction to typography, by Oliver Simon .
Finally Introduction to printing byHerbert Simon (no date ) though all three books are faber publication .
If you cant find a copy I will see if i can locate it in the vast heap or consider the loan of my copy (basic Typography),
On the understanding of course you ship it back at some not too distant future date , Being uk based i am not on your doorstep but should the need arise the offer is there .

i think we all must keep in our minds that tastes change , I am freaky about 1930s poster design and the curly forms of the era ,as well as the mixture of differing sizes and types of fonts on a single job , I have a weakness for shadow types and using strong perspective views in a line so the left of the page is big and the header gets smaller as you read along a line . look at a 30s steam ship image on a pacific and orient line poster or the start of the tv programme poirot the 30s eccentric sleuth and you will see what i mean. today it would be difficult to sell that design to the public !! look at old bible layouts of the 18th cent and look at our king james bible the subject is the same but technology and fashions forced change to layout .
A computor cant produce anything artistic in my opinion as the formats are more rigid and the images and texts lack life. no humanity can be seen in things that come from electronic monstrocity .

There are many good books
dealing w/both text and display typography
and more than a few clinkers out there, too.

These recommendables come to mind.

—The Elements of Typographic Style: Robert Bringhurst
—Hermann Zapf (Anything by HZ. Manuale Typographicum is a good place to start but it’s good to know that RIT has just published a book by Rick Cusick on HZ’s years consulting at Hallmark.)
—New Typography: Jan Tschichold
—Old issues of U&lc & Visual Language
—Letter Arts Review: John Neal publisher (XLNT!)
—The Design of Books: Adrian Wilson

If you find anything by Edward Tuffe check it out.
I have Envisioning Information (XLNT!).
I think he’s published three books altogether.


Unfortunately the typography of today is less concerned with common sense and readability, and more concerned with shock and awe. I think every printer should have an extensive shelf of books related to typography and books illustrative of the kind of printing in which the printer might specialize. I have a shelf of books that show early printed pages; a shelf of thoughts about typography by typographers of the last century; a shelf of books about printed posters and showcard lettering, and a shelf of books showing the work of modern calligraphers. I draw inspiration from them all.

To recommend a few titles which haven’t yet been mentioned, the following is a good cross-section:

First Principles of Typography by Stanley Morison. I’ve set the goal to read all of Morison’s writings. His knowledge of historic typography and influence on typography of the 20th century was legendary.

Paragraphs on Printing by Bruce Rogers. Notes about printing an book production by the most important American book designer of the first half of the 20th century.

An Essay on Typography by Eric Gill ( I am lucky enough to have the first edition, which is one of the books I intend to take with me when my time comes).

J. H. Mason, 1875 - 1951, Scholar-Printer by L.T. Owens. A book about the life and work of the man who type-set the books of The Doves Press and while teaching at the Central School in London, where he influenced generations of printers and typographers.

Jan Tschichold: typographer, and Jan Tschichold a life in typography, both by Ruari McLean. About the life and work of the one of the first professional typographers in Europe, who will also be remembered for his beautiful type designs.

The Thames and Hudson Manual of Typography by Ruari McLean. An excellent book that covers the whole process with clarity and common-sense.

I’ve purposely listed books that are readily available for not too much money. I have others that are extremely hard to find because they were often issued in small editions. I was very lucky to have a high-school journalism teacher who opened my eyes to type and spacing and page layout, but my years as manager of Hatch Show Print, having the freedom to experiment as to how layout and type affect readability was the best experience I could have had. It is unfortunate that so many designers today break the rules without even knowing what the rules are.


To note:

I’m a Typographer, swiss trained, I’m not a Graphic Designer, but a Client would hire a Graphic Designer to create the design, not a Typographer to lay out the words.
The modern education focus is on graphic design, visuell typography , but none include a deeper understanding of typography

According to Webster:

typographer (from Greek typos impression, cast + -graphos writer) 1 : compostitor, typesetter 2 ; printer 3 ; a printing designer who specializes in the choice and arrangement of type matter

It seems that W. A. Dwiggins was the first person to use the term graphic designer in an essay in 1922. Unfortunately I think that today the terms have become interchangeable since graphic designers no longer have to rely on people who are type experts. I consider myself to be a typographer and printer because I typeset and print by hand, but I also wear the hat of a graphic designer when I include graphic designs (woodcuts, linocuts, or other artwork) into my printed work. I’m also the salesman, devil and janitor in my one-man shop.


In addition to Bringhurst’s book mentioned above, I would add the following excellent small book:

Detail in Typography, by Jost Hochuli

Beyond that:

Stop Stealing Sheep and Find Out How Type Works, by Erik Spiekermann

Thinking with Type, by Ellen Lupton

Letters of Credit, by Walter Tracy

Anatomy of a Typeface, by Alexander Lawson

These are all good useful books filled with insight. The book that kicked off this thread looks terrible, and yes, in this matter I do judge it by its cover.

Ogilvy says, “No guess work, only facts” on the cover. I’m a fan of Ogilvy — but with type there aren’t exactly facts: there’s some theory and a whole lot of practice.


Take this as you may. When I started printing I was in graduate school and I could not grasp typography. I spent hours in the library reading all the correct books with all the rules, etc. One day I picked up a book on Poe with typography by the Czech designer Vojtech Preissig. Suddenly my world changed. I understood in a flash. I don’t think typography can be taught, it has to be understood through epiphany. Interestingly, because he was East European, the Anglo-American sphere, including our beloved WAD, castigated Preissig for his work. He broke the rules. Thing is, he didn’t.


The cover of Wheildon’s book, as shown, was given strong criticism in Australia. I have not been able to contact Col, but perhaps he would agree? Alan.

Thanks so much for that story, Gerald. I think you are right.


Perhaps (repeat perhaps) cover of Wheildon’s book was done that way deliberately, perhaps by Ogilvy? We might regard it as being like black humour. I have book on typography (from memory, U.S.A.) which has the usual about choosing a typeface, but the text of the book is in an Olde English typeface!

“The Australian”, Australia’s national newspaper, has the minimum space between words in text set to a low width [of inter-word space] on the computer, so that tight justified lines are set with less space between words than I like. When I was on keyboards on a newspaper using computer controlled typesetting, i sometimes reduced the minimum space between words in order to fit the text into the size of the advertisement; i always keyboarded in the instruction to revert to standard BEFORE keyboarding the instruction to reduce, both instructions being at the appropriate places in the file. Also several other means of fitting in text into space permitted. We could also alter (usually narrower) the set-width of characters, which I understand Caxton did; I read that Caxton made extra dies (narrower) for some of the characters; look at reproductions of his 42-line Bible, note regular (unvarying) spaces, but also note hyphenation?
At a weekly where I worked Intertype for a year, for use only on correction line if needed, we had a narrow hyphen to substitute for regular hyphen, allowed us (sometimes) to replace fewer lines to correct when omitted characters. Occasionally the journalist would re-write a few words in order to reduce the number of correction lines to minimum.

This comment has become somewhat long.

Hey Barbara

Thanks. Anytime. I’ve got lots of stories. :—)


Colin Wheildon you might have one greatest books on typography, however I would not purchase this book.

The art on the cover is a poor example for learning good typography.