9 Helpful Books For Budding Typographers

Helpful resources for budding typographers

Last week I was asked by a friend at work if I could recommend any good books on type. I don’t tend to read a lot about design so I took to Twitter to see what you the readers would suggest. I’ve compiled the suggestions into one larger list along with links in case you wanted to purchase a copy for yourself. I’ve personally only read Jan Tischold’s The New Typography which I would definitely suggest checking out. I hope you find this list helpful.

Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield

Beginning in the early days of Gutenberg and ending with the most adventurous digital fonts, Simon Garfield explores the rich history and subtle powers of type. He goes on to investigate a range of modern mysteries, including how Helvetica took over the world, what inspires the seeming ubiquitous use of Trajan on bad movie posters, and exactly why the all-type cover of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus was so effective. It also examines why the “T” in the Beatles logo is longer than the other letters and how Gotham helped Barack Obama into the White House.

Detail in Typography by Jost Hochuli

How is it that text can be set perfectly and yet look insufferably dull? How do you achieve perfect congruence between the type itself and its meaning? In Detail in Typography Jost Hochuli, master book designer and author of the seminal Designing Books, addresses the finer points of setting text. Hochuli begins with a consideration of how human beings read, moving on incrementally to considerations of letter, word, and line as well as word-space and line-space. Hochuli concludes by examining whole paragraphs and how they carry meaning. Produced in Switzerland to the highest standards, Detail in Typography embodies critical thinking and articulate design in its own physical form.

The New Typography by Jan Tschichold

First published in 1928 in Germany and out of print for many years, this text has been recognized as one of the most important statements of modern typographical design. This curious and fascinating work ranges through theories of social criticism, art history, architecture, and the emerging importance of photography as it sets forth very definite guidelines regarding the design of printed materials. The final sections are indeed practical guidelines, down to sheet sizes and appropriate mixes of type, for the day-to-day use of working designers and printers.

Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton

Thinking with Type is divided into three sections: letter, text, and grid. Each section begins with an easy-to-grasp essay that reviews historical, technological, and theoretical concepts, and is then followed by a set of practical exercises that bring the material covered to life. Sections conclude with examples of work by leading practitioners that demonstrate creative possibilities (along with some classic no-no’s to avoid).

A Type Primer by John Kane

Practical and hands-on in approach, this book/exercise manual speaks clearly to beginning graphic designers and others involved with type about the complex meeting of message, image, and history surrounding typography. Focused on intent and content, not affect or style, it makes informed distinctions between what is appropriate and what is merely show (especially in terms of the “junk” often generated unenlightened by computer users). Filled with examples, exercises, and background information–and designed itself to reflect good typographic design–it guides readers systematically to the point where they can not only understand but demonstrate basic principles of typography, and thereby strengthen their own typographic instincts.

Typographie: A Manual of Design by Emil Ruder

Emil Ruder’s Typographie is the timeless textbook from which generations of typographer and graphic designers have learned their fundamentals. Ruder, one of the great twentieth-century typographers was a pioneer who abandoned the conventional rules of his discipline and replaced them with new rules that satisfied the requirements of his new typography. Now in its sixth printing, this book has a hallowed place on the bookshelves of both students and accomplished designers.

The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst

Renowned typographer and poet Robert Bringhurst brings clarity to the art of typography with this masterful style guide. Combining the practical, theoretical, and historical, this edition is completely updated, with a thorough exploration of the newest innovations in intelligent font technology, and is a must-have for graphic artists, editors, or anyone working with the printed page using digital or traditional methods.

Basics Design: Typography by Paul Harris and Gavin Ambrose

Effective use of typography can produce a neutral effect or rouse the passions, symbolise artistic, political or philosophical movements, or express the personality of a person or organisation. Typefaces vary from clear and distinguishable letterforms that are suitable for extended blocks of text, to more dramatic and eye-catching typefaces that grab attention and are used in newspaper headlines and advertisements. Basics Design: Typography aims to impart a comprehensive understanding of typography, to explore its history, theory and practice. Aimed at both students and practising designers, it provides a thorough examination of how typography informs other aspects of creative design.

Bobby Solomon

August 3, 2012 / By

Koji Suzuki’s ‘Edge’, cover designed by Peter Mendelsund

Koji Suzuki's 'Edge', cover designed by Peter Mendelsund

Book designer Peter Mendelsund had one of his cover designs released recently and it’s quite the beauty. The design was created for a book by The Ring author Koji Suzuki called Edge, a story about how “the world is falling apart because things are out of joint at the quantum level.” I think Mendelsund’s cover does a remarkable job of not only making it feel like the world is slipping away, but that it’s slipping away in a mathematical/scientific sense. Really nice work on this one.

Bobby Solomon

July 18, 2012 / By

Q & A with Nate Utesch: The making of Ferocious Quarterly No.3

Q & A with Nate Utesch: The making of Ferocious Quarterly No.3

Nate Utesch is not only talented, but busy. Based out of Indiana he’s an art director, an illustrator, he plays in bands and he’s a self-publisher. He recently released the newest edition of Ferocious Quarterly who’s theme this time around is based around the term, “Survival.”

I follow Nate on Twitter and I know he’s been working really hard on this project for a while now, so I thought it would be interesting to hear about the issue itself as well as the process he went through to have it made. What he learned could certainly be helpful to anyone out there who’s interested in self-publishing.

Q & A with Nate Utesch: The making of Ferocious Quarterly No.3

Hey Nate. So the new issue of Ferocious Quarterly was just released, tell us what this issue is about.

Issue no.3 is called, “Be Prepared.” The theme for “Be Prepared” was simply one word: survival. And to make the artist/writer collaborations a little more difficult this time around, we had the artists illustrate their pieces first…then give the contributions to the writers. So all the written word in “Be Prepared” is based on the illustration rather than the other way around.

Q & A with Nate Utesch: The making of Ferocious Quarterly No.3

There’s a good group of people involved with this issue, what are some highlights we can look forward to?

Ah! That’s so hard. Like choosing a favorite child. I think the thing we were most blown away with in “Be Prepared” was how well the writers worked with the illustrators. Switching things up this time around was an exciting element. The writers blew our expectations out of the water. We’re so proud of the folks involved. After all, we’re asking incredible people to donate so many hours to this silly thing. When the contributions came back with as much heart and soul as these did it was truly incredible.

Q & A with Nate Utesch: The making of Ferocious Quarterly No.3

Following you on Twitter it seems like you’ve definitely put a lot of hard work into this issue, how was the process for you? Any interesting challenges you can share?

To back up about a year ago from this time—we were trying to raise money on Kickstarter for our 3rd issue. And it failed! A huge kick in all the soft places. Pretty discouraging. A little embarrassing. We learned some important lessons, but we kept moving forward.

We concepted an online division of Ferocious called “Short Works” headed up by FQ editor, Jason Roemer. It will debut this year with a series of one-off short stories created just for our online readers. Jason put together a little teaser with writer, Joseph Mau, and illustrator, Ward Jenkis, last December. It’s AMAZING!! I can’t wait to see the rest of these stories unfold this year.

We also started more heavily pursuing the physical stocking of our books. Myself and FQ editor/co-officer of distribution, Scott Kirkpatrick, and I are each in bands that tour on and off throughout the year. We let a couple tours last year double as a scouting adventure to find shops who would take a risk and carry these ugly mugs. The result is now nine local bookstores and comic shops that carry FQ on their shelves.

Ok, 2012. This year has been an absolute madhouse. These contributors are hard-working men and women with careers and lives and a slew of extracurricular projects. If somebody needs to drop-out or needs an extension, we have to be ok with it. The least we can do is be accommodating considering what we’re asking of them. And then there’s our own schedules. I am almost inclined to say that I’ve regretfully let the production of issue 3 overlap with a half a dozen other side projects. But damn… we’re all a bunch of workaholic nightmares of a human being right? I live for those seasons of 95 hour work-weeks and consecutive all-nighters. Wherever your studio is, if you don’t find yourself sleeping there at least twice a week, you’re doing something wrong, right? I’m being a little facetious, but seriously, even though it’s been a blur it’s been fruitful. This is one of the most rewarding pieces of junk in my life!

Q & A with Nate Utesch: The making of Ferocious Quarterly No.3

Why does Ferocious mean to you? Is there a particular reason you choose to publish your own magazine still, in a time of digital products?

This whole mess started out as an idea at the design boutique I call home (One Lucky Guitar, Inc.). Amidst the side projects we fill our evenings with, I thought we’d create a blog and spend the summer populating it with interviews and short stories. I finished the design flats, got about two-thirds of the way through the front-end programming…and then we tossed it. Something got in the way (except for the fact that this blog would’ve been a drop in the bucket).


I’d like to believe that even though we are truly in an age where print is diminishing and reading a book has nothing to do with turning a page…by jove, if you create something that is meant to be touched — folks wanna touch it! AdHouse Books, Sing Statistics, Nobrow, Koyama Press—those peeps are my heroes! I want to see Ferocious move beyond its quarterly issues and start publishing the “Short Works” stories on paper, put a comic in print, publish a work of poetry, publish a work from our friends and collaborators… I want to go broke and I want to be surrounded by the smell of offset ink and uncoated paper. I believe in it.

Q & A with Nate Utesch: The making of Ferocious Quarterly No.3

When do you think we’ll see the next issue? Any idea what it might be about?

My FQ partner in crime and co-manager of operations, Matt Beers (No, I’m not making these titles up as I go… sheesh. FQ is legit, man), came up with a theme I’m so stoked on. Issue No.4 is called “Deep.” In “Deep,” we decided to experiment with the way our contributors worked together. Half of our contributors illustrated only one half of an image. Their piece was themed after deep sea. Then the rest of our contributors were given those illustrations and were charged with illustrating the remaining half of the image in their own style. Except their theme was not deep sea. It was deep space. I say all this in past tense, but this is actually happening as we speak. All the deep sea illustrations were handed over to the deep space artists last week. Our goal is to have “Deep” in our hands this August.

Q & A with Nate Utesch: The making of Ferocious Quarterly No.3

Something to look forward to in this issue that we haven’t done before are a couple limited edition goodies. We are going to package them with each issue until they run out. The goodies include a folded “Scout Laws” poster illustrated by Dan Cassaro, Dan Christofferson and myself, and an embroidered merit badge.

Purchase yourself a copy of Ferocious Quarterly No.3 by clicking here.

Bobby Solomon

May 21, 2012 / By

R.I.P. Maurice Sendak

Where The Wild Things Are

So sad to hear that Maurice Sendak passed away. Seems like we keep losing creative individuals. Death is a part of life though, so we can only honor those who touched and inspired us in our time in this world. The New York Times has a nice piece on Maurice, his life, and his work, here’s an excerpt illustrating why he was so great.

In book after book, Mr. Sendak upended the staid, centuries-old tradition of American children’s literature, in which young heroes and heroines were typically well scrubbed and even better behaved; nothing really bad ever happened for very long; and everything was tied up at the end in a neat, moralistic bow.

Mr. Sendak’s characters, by contrast, are headstrong, bossy, even obnoxious. (In “Pierre,” “I don’t care!” is the response of the small eponymous hero to absolutely everything.) His pictures are often unsettling. His plots are fraught with rupture: children are kidnapped, parents disappear, a dog lights out from her comfortable home.

Bobby Solomon

May 8, 2012 / By

Kingsley Amis Book Covers by Jonathan Burton

Jonathan Burton - Kingsley Amis Book Covers

Jonathan Burton - Kingsley Amis Book Covers

Last year, Penguin asked illustrator Jonathan Burton to create a series of book covers for their Modern Classics series of Kingsley Amis novels. I think the resulting work look amazing, and I was shocked, surprised and impressed to read that Burton had a really short deadline to produce these covers. On his blog Burton wrote that he got into a rhythm of illustrating one cover a day and he did so over the period of just one week. The resulting finished work is pretty unbelievable!

It’s also great to see an illustrator who writes about the process of how their illustrations comes about. Burton’s blog The Unreachable Itch is a fantastic archive for any illustrator who wishes to peer into someone else’s working process. It’s filled with insight, understanding and beautiful images that show how his work evolves. It’s something that I highly recommend you check out!

Philip Kennedy

April 5, 2012 / By

‘Baby’s In Black’ – An Interview with Author Arne Bellstorf

Baby's In Black by Arne Bellstorf

Baby’s in Black is a stunning graphic-novel written by the German author and graphic artist Arne Bellstorf. Set against the backdrop of The Beatles early gigs in Hamburg, it tells the tragic true-life story of the romance between the young photographer Astrid Kirchherr and the artist and musician Stuart Sutcliffe. Bellstorf’s book is based on a series of conversations he had with Kirchherr, and the story perfectly captures Kirchherr’s blossoming romance amid the exciting subculture of early 1960′s Hamburg.

It is a story which is told with beautiful restraint and tenderness, and it is easily one of the best graphic-novels that I’ve read in a very long time. I was fascinated to learn more about the book and so I asked Bellstorf a few questions.

Astrid and Stuart from Arne Bellstorf's Baby's in Black

What are some of the challenges in telling somebody else’s story – particularly one as sensitive as Astrid Kirchherr’s?

Well, it’s a very tragic story, of course, and I normally wouldn’t have wanted to tell a biographical story like that. But after having met Astrid, I recognized that we actually shared a lot and that my approach to tell the story would correspond with her attitude. I was interested in the time, the youth culture in Hamburg and what it was like being young in the early Sixties. Astrid went to the same art school as I did, and I could relate to her life in many ways, despite all the things that were different back then. We both tend to think in pictures, she’s a very visual person, and she basically liked the idea of telling her story in little black and white panels. It was a kind of mutual confidence, I guess. I mean, the character in the book may be still something I invented, and in the end it’s a fictional work. I could only try to capture something of the real Astrid. We talked about what was important to her, aesthetically, and what influenced her – French existentialism, Jean Cocteau, Oscar Wilde, Cool Jazz – and what happened when Rock’n’Roll merged with all these things.

We also spoke about the time she spent with Stuart, the two years until his tragic death, this short but intense relationship, but I wanted to focus on the beginning of it all: Their first encounter, the whole love at first sight thing, the magic physical attraction going on between them. They got engaged after only a month without speaking the same language, and Stuart actually began a new life when he left the Beatles and his family in Liverpool to stay with Astrid in Hamburg. The end of the story is a delicate matter, and we never spoke too much about the time after Stuart’s death. That’s what makes it such an existential tale, it’s absurd ending. You can’t really speak about something that doesn’t make sense. I had to find a way to depict that, and I’m glad that Astrid liked the solution I came up with.

Picture of houses in Hamburg from Arne Bellstorf's Baby's in Black

How difficult was it to research? Was it a challenge to recreate 1960′s Hamburg?

Not really. I mean, I wanted to do a book about the Sixties anyway. I live in Hamburg, near Reeperbahn, and most of the places are just right outside my door and I know the area quite well. As far as clothing is concerned, I got a lot of help from Astrid. I also bought a few books with old photographs at second hand bookshops and flea markets, and I got the impression that the Sixties are quite well documented – except for the filthy underground clubs, of course. As for the Kaiserkeller for example I could only rely on what Astrid had told me and the reports that I found in numerous Beatles books.

Panel from Arne Bellstorf's Baby's in Black

What inspires you?

When I was drawing I’d often listen to early sixties music, girl groups, R’n’B and all those North-American artists that inspired the Beatles. I find almost everything from the Sixties very inspiring, the music, the design, the movies – and I think that’s why I wanted to do this book, it’s the birthplace (and heyday) of pop culture, and you can’t understand youth culture in Europe without going back to the Fifties and Sixties – be it mass phenomenons or small subcultures. When you look at Astrid, the “exis” and their androgynous look, the black clothes, and their romantic, cool attitude, they seem closely related to movements like new romanticism and goth. So when it comes to inspiration, I like to look back at past decades, there’s so much to explore.

Panel from Arne Bellstorf's Baby's in Black

What are you working on at the moment?

I did a lot of commissions recently, working for magazines and newspapers. Then I’m still traveling with Baby’s In Black, the book’s been published in several countries since it’s release in Germany. I do have a few ideas for another book, but the next thing I’ll release is a small collection of one-page comics, hopefully coming out this summer.

Many thanks to Arne for taking the time to answer our questions. Details on where to buy your copy of Baby’s In Black can be found on his website here.

Philip Kennedy

March 20, 2012 / By

Jillian Tamaki illustrates Goblin Market, a selection of poems by Christina Rossetti

Jillian Tamaki illustrates Goblin Market, a selection of poems by Christina Rossetti

Jillian Tamaki illustrates Goblin Market, a selection of poems by Christina Rossetti

Jillian Tamaki illustrates Goblin Market, a selection of poems by Christina Rossetti

Jillian Tamaki illustrates Goblin Market, a selection of poems by Christina Rossetti

Over the weekend I was browsing through Jillian Tamaki’s work and came across these illustrations she did for Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market and Selected Poems. I’m not personally familiar with the story, but it sounds like something I’d love. Here’s an overview from Folio Society:

First published in 1862, ‘Goblin Market’ is an extended poem about two young sisters who hear goblin merchants hawking their wares. Lizzie urges caution (‘Their offers should not charm us,/Their evil gifts would harm us’) but Laura eats the forbidden fruit and falls into a frenzy, then a decline from which her sister must save her. Considered shocking in its day, it is one of the most beguiling ‘fairy tales’ in the language.

I love how Jillian is able to capture this feminine idea of magic. There’s this strong sense of femininity in her work but it’s not girly, and most of the time she does some really beautiful experimentation that takes her work to a whole new level. For example the second piece from the top is an illustration for the poem Passing and Glassing. It seems like a rather straightforward image but it’s rather abstract if you only pay attention to their dresses and ignore their hands and heads. Their dresses are inky swathes of color that have been intricately be-speckled.

You can grab yourself a copy of the book by clicking here.

Bobby Solomon

March 12, 2012 / By

Five Questions with Hugh Howey

Five Questions with Hugh Howey

Five Questions with Hugh Howey

Several weeks ago we posted about Wool, a short story by Hugh Howey. Since the posting – and hopefully due to some of you awesome guys and gals – Wool and its Omnibus edition, containing all five Wool stories, have elevated the formerly proclaimed “cult following” into a bonafide hit. One of Hugh’s favorite novels is Ender’s Game, a novel that, when I read at some tender age, changed my life as well. The intricacy of Ender’s Game is not in its brutal military critique and self-reflective xenophobia, but the turmoil of a boy at war with himself and his gifts. In it, a man/woman’s worst enemy is him/herself and their untapped potential.

In many (sometimes similar) ways, Wool turns on introspection rather than a deus ex machina or the Law of Conservation of Detail. Wool refuses to turn on minutiae. The writing is lean yet expansive. The world is huge in Wool yet it is restrained by its tendrils. Maybe this is a beauty in the renaissance of self publishing. Instead of publishers forcing a novel down your throat, brought together to fit the 40k / 80k / 100k word expectations, short stories and novellas can propagate in this new free market. Hugh Howey seems to have benefitted from this growing marketplace.

Readers worldwide are the real beneficiary. All of a sudden they can choose what stories are worth reading, sharing, or worshipping. The modern book critic can’t keep up with our demands. When Wool gained 200 new reviews in under two months and shot into Amazon top 200 in the Kindle store, I can’t say much more than it’s for the people and by the people.

So I asked Hugh five questions.

Alec: Were you born to write or was it a craft you learned? In that regard, what event made you decide to write for a living?

Hugh Howey: I’ve had some people close to me say that I was born to write. I suspect they mean that I’ve been making things up in my head for way too long, or that it’s healthier if I put my imaginary friends on paper rather than talking to them on the street. I remember writing letters to family members when I was younger and having them say that I should write for a living. But it was a true story of a yacht I was captaining that really sparked the urge. I posted this story on SciForums, a site for people to discuss trends in various fields, and the members went nuts. It was the first hint that I might be able to entertain people with my words.

As for when I decided to write for a living, I didn’t really have the luxury to choose when I would do that. I struggled for years, working second jobs, until I was finally making enough to dare go for it as a solitary profession.

A: When and why did you decide to publish independently?

H: I didn’t. Not at first. My debut novel was published by a small house called NorLights Press. When I saw what was involved with promoting and pushing a few books here and there, I decided to give it a try on my own. Nothing against NorLights, they were awesome, and I still consider one of the founders a dear friend. But so much of book promotion relies on the author, so I thought I would see if I could wear all the hats at once.

I’ve loved the experience. Learning to paginate books, to create cover art, to market and publish everything. It suits my workaholic nature. Plus, I get to set the price, give books away, and see all of my sales data. There are a ton of advantages to publishing independently. I’ve also made a lot more money that I probably could have with a traditional press.

A: Wool is more of a novella than a novel. Which form do you prefer and why?

H: I love them both, but I’m starting to lean toward novellas. 30,000 words feels about right to me. That’s a 120 page book, or thereabouts. With that length, I can get rid of the boring middle bits of a book that often keeps readers from finishing a story. I can manage numerous revisions, cut down on errors, and keep the plots nice and tight. And with e-readers, there’s no need to pad a book to justify print costs. I can charge anywhere from a buck to three for a story, and everyone makes out. I love it.

A: 20 years ago, people were predicting flying cars, hoverboards, and stun guns. What is sci fi in the post millenium? Does it even exist?

H: I think science fiction will show up in the post millenium less in the form of gadgets and more in the guise of philosophical leaps. Both have always existed in science fiction. There has been more ethical explorations in the genre than most readers appreciate. Aliens were just as often treated as equals or superiors as the enemy, often providing lessons about human rights. Women have been given stronger roles in some tellings of the future. Star Trek showed an interracial relationship that was far ahead of its time.

Now that we all have smart phones that are more advanced than Captain Kirk’s communicator, the areas of progress that I see will be more along these lines. And there will be steps toward grand issues like immortality that I believe will take people by surprise. It might not be in our lifetimes, but I think within the next 1,000 years, we will see the aging process solved, or perhaps the digitalization of our memories and thought processes. I wish I could live to see some of the great leaps forward that await us.

A: Do you enjoy reading your own work? Or are you of the mindset that “nothing is ever finished?”

H: Nothing is ever finished. I wish I had the time to go back and revise everything I’ve ever written, because it all becomes rubbish with the passing of time. On the other hand, I do find that I enjoy what I’m writing while I’m writing it. As I make my six or seven passes through a work, I start to think that it isn’t all that horrid. And by the last pass, I find myself impressed that this came out of my noggin. That’s the beauty of the writing and revising process: You end up with a product that’s smarter and better than you are. There’s no way you could produce it in a single sitting, but over a bunch of laborious weeks, you craft a bit of drivel you aren’t upset to call your own.

Alec Rojas

March 5, 2012 / By