I’m not the first one to say this, and I definitely won’t be the last, but the statement is worth repeating. Thinking With Type is a book that should be in the collection of every designer, writer, editor, publisher and typographer. Ellen Lupton’s excellent analysis of thinking with typography is perfect for everyone from the first-year student to the seasoned professional. The book covers an expansive amount of typographic information including application, theory, and practice and manages to keep everything lighthearted and fun so that the pages just keep on turning.
The book is broken down into three neatly organized sections; Letter, Text, and Grid. Each section takes a broad look at the subject matter it focuses on and how it intertwines with the practice of typography. As should be expected there are many overlapping pieces of information, but the context each one is presented in offers new insight every time it comes up. The writing is paced well for quick consumption and always poignant.
Design is as much an act of spacing as an act of marking. The typographer’s art concerns not only the positive grain of letterforms, but the negative gaps between and around them.
The book is packed full of footnotes, side notes, marginal notes, pull quotes, and extra fun tidbits that engage the reader as much as the main text. Much of the actual content of the book comes from the examples, samples, exercises, and the always fun “type crimes” contained on many of the books 220 pages. Also included are tons of tips about how to apply the practices through modern computer software. Some of the software tips are general statements, but a lot of them are focused directly at Adobe InDesign. I found this slightly disheartening, shouldn’t people know how to set text in Photoshop, Illustrator and other software as well?
The book covers an extensive amount of information on a wide array of topics, but it would be best put to use as a primer or a reference guide rather than a manual for the hardened typophile. Lupton seems to realize the needs of her audience and presents the information quickly and simply, giving the reader a lot to absorb in a short frame of time. The range of reference images in the books is thoroughly impressive including everyone from Gutenberg to Paula Scher. All of the extra information and examples are organized into a nice hierarchy and complemented well by text set in Scala (by Martin Majoor).
The book is in its 2nd edition and includes a host of new information on topics like optical sizes, mixing typefaces, hand lettering, and non-lining numerals. While it seemed to be edited well I did catch a typo and several stray widows lingering around. A small price to pay for the quality of information presented.
About the Reviewer Dominic Flask is a designer by nature, a teacher by application and a thoughtful companion by friendship. You can find his work here, his thoughts here, and his passion on Design is History.