Thinking with Type A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students

**** Nov282009

This book, while it does contain some practical dos and don’ts and explanations of terms, is more useful for: seeing good examples of interesting typography; learning a bit of history about typefaces, layout, and grid; learning about how typographical grids and other techniques apply to web design.

The design and layout of the book in places is a little overwrought, and distracts from the content. This is most evident in the first chapter, Letters, which I found difficult to get through — it may serve better as a reference than as something to read page-by-age. However, the second (Text) and third (Grid) chapters aren’t laid out so busily, and are much stronger.

Relevance to web design

This book specifically address the use of fonts and grids on the web, and illustrates points with several web-based examples. It also raised an interesting question for me about the relevance of designers on the web. On page 134, Lupton writes:

Universal design systems can no longer be dismissed as the irrelevant musings of a small, localized design community. A second modernism has emerged, reinvigorating the utopian search for universal forms that marked the birth of design as a discourse and discipline nearly a century earlier. Against the opacity and singularity of unique visual expressions—grounded in regional preferences and private obsessions—ideas of commonality, transparency, and openness are being reborn as information seeks to shed its physical body.

Indeed, the use of semantic markup, microformats, and the separation of style from content on the web allow information to be re-used, re-mixed, and essentially independent of its visual form. When information hierarchy is provided by underlying markup, has the typographer lost her seat at the table to information architect? Luckily (for me!) I’m confident the answer is no, but it’s something to consider.


I wouldn’t recommend this as a first or only book on typography, but is definitely worth reading after more complete, nuts-and-bolts volumes, such as The Elements of Typographic Style or The Complete Manual of Typography.

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Author(s)Ellen Lupton
PublisherPrinceton Architectural Press

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