Good Books on Typography a Wish List, one

Good Books on Typography a Wish List, one

Good Books on Typography a Wish List, one

What are some good books on typography?

This is a question I get asked surprisingly frequently. Or not so surprising really. I get asked this because I used to be a lecturer in design—and I like teaching typography heavy subjects. I also get asked this because the magazine we publish, Ligature Journal, is run as a learning experience in editorial design for a team of design students and recent graduates. As part of that experience I am insistent, and vocal, on the importance of good typography. In the lead up to the festive season, a time when young designers might be putting together gift wish lists, I thought I would put together a selection of books that answer that question. These are books I think would be a useful foundation for (or addition to) any communication designer’s library. I have tried for a mix of classic books and more recent publications. Bear in mind that this is only eight titles out of the many, many books that have been, and continue to be, published—and of the many, many books I think are worthwhile. (Other designers may offer alternative lists, all which may be just as valuable.) So here goes, 

1) Elements of Typographic Style, Robert Bringhurst

I put this first because this must be my all-time favourite book on typography (forget saving the best ’til last). Of the many books on typography I own, this is the most dog-eared and the most frequently referred to. And I am not alone in my opinion. The late, and great, Hermann Zapf says about this book “All … typographers should study this book. It is not just one more publication on typography … It is, instead, a must for everybody in the graphic arts, and especially for our new friends entering the field.” What makes this book so good is that not only is Bringhurst a typographer and book designer, he is also a poet and novelist. So he knows the importance of typography from both sides, as it were, and knows how to write about it. The combination of his skills results in a book that is a pleasure to read, being a combination of personal experience and useful practical information. The book is a beautiful expression of its subject matter.


2) Detail in Typography, Jost Hochuli
As the title indicates this is a look at the details of typography. Basic things like letterspacing, wordspacing, linespacing and more. These may sound finicky, dull and unimportant, but they’re anything but. An eye-catching and interesting layout may attract and please a reader, but if the details are not right then reading is more difficult and any enjoyment is short-lived. Hochuli is a Swiss typographer with an international reputation for book design and once more this book is a good example of its subject and the designer’s skill. Note, this book may not be easy to obtain but is worthwhile tracking down.

3) Type and Typography, Phil Baines and Andrew Haslam

The first two books on my list were written by typographers with a strong leaning towards book design. Type and Typography, on the other hand, is by a pair of designers and teachers at Central St Martins in London so the book is broader in scope and tailored to the needs of less experienced designers. Beginning with an exploration of language as a spoken system and moving on from there, their book provides a good general introduction to typography in most, if not all, of its applications. It is richly illustrated, with a significant portion of the story told through extensive captions. This book makes an excellent foundation text for anyone starting out in typographic design.

4) Thinking with Type, Ellen Lupton

In some ways Thinking with Type covers similar territory to Type and Typography. However, it moves beyond that territory and into a discussion about the actual application of typography as the primary medium for expression, about not only the form of the words but the meaning as well. Lupton is a US designer and educator and this book is aimed squarely at the design student to extent that the book is supported by a website ( that includes design projects for readers to complete so they may apply the information that is presented. Part two of my list of good books on typography will follow shortly.

Felix is a designer with over 20 year’s experience, he has created and taught courses in typeface design, typography, typographic systems, identity development, brand management, data visualisation, wayfinding, design studio management, design research, and pre-press at a tertiary level. He is a co-author of a text book on Graphic Design in Australia. He is co-owner of Tiliqua Press and publisher and co-editor of Ligature Journal