My Absolute Favorite Typography
& Graphic Design Books

The NY Public Library has a vast catalog. One can go to the midtown library i.e. and flip through a hand-printed original by Adrian Frutiger, or most of the books can be put on hold online and picked at our wonderful and convenient local branch at Tompkin’s Square Park. It’s a “I love NY” moment. I am a heavy user. I try to read a lot of fiction (inspired by the New Yorker magazine’s fiction section, my favorite), but I also order movies, and, of course, lots of typography and graphic design books. Here is a collection of my most beloved titles, which I actually ended up owning mostly and referencing often.

Typography Books

1. The Visual History of Type, Paul McNeil

I use this all the time to look up origins and history of the typefaces. No better argument to sell the idea to your client then a historic research.  The book is really thick. And it shows the original replicas in size with annotations on the sides. It’s in historical order, but flipping through the pages as if they were an original manuscript makes it a strong experience. It’s a good deal for such a  big book. In fact,  I build my bookshelf with this book as a master.


2. 20 years of Fuse, Fuse 1-20, Neville Brody

There is a lot of Neville Brody in this, and that’s good of course. To make a typography magazine asking your friends to design the typefaces for each issue sounds like something I would like to do too. So this whole project is so inspirational. During college times I remember that these typefaces started to come out on Fuse lab. They are still purely beautiful. Through computer software, anyone could publish a new typeface. Fuse is a good example of this. you don’t have to love them all, but experimenting with new type is always an honorary endeavor.


3. Just My Type: A Book About Fonts, Simon Garfield

Everyday typefaces and the anecdotes behind them. Simon Garfield embarks on a mission to answer all the questions we have about them. It reveals what may be the very best and worst fonts in the world. It’s written in a cheeky and entertaining style to fill you with tidbits to nerd out at the next typography meet-up.


4. The Field Guide to Typography

The format of this book threw me off at first. It’s very thick, and difficult to hold. Yet it’s not very large in size. Note to future book layouts: it’s clunky to hold because it’s thick and horizontal. I need to ask: “Why is there an illustration using type elements on the cover?” It threw me off. It’s unappealing and demeaning for such great content.
So, at first, I put it aside and only started reading once it almost expired from the library. However, I quickly went online to order my own copy because the content is awesome.
the type comparisons are a good tool to demonstrate differences in similar typefaces and the research on each spread is deep and almost too much information to digest with my short attention span. I think I will wrap the cover with extra type specimens swag from TypeThursday events.


Favorite Design Books

1. Robert Brownjohn – Sex and Typography

This guy makes me sick because everything I am trying to do he has already done (except the heroin part). He walked around the city taking pictures of letters, he was heavily into typography, made iconic record covers, good-looking, hung out with the avant-garde of musicians, models, high-society, and made a ton of money at the same time. Big bummer he couldn’t get enough just doing that and ended up a junkie with leukemia.



2. Chasing The Perfect: Thoughts On Modernist Design In Our Time, Natalia Iljin

She seems so nice I’d like to meet her. And she is such a hilarious writer making me chuckle on every page. Even though the topics can be deep and essential, like “where is home”, society, and why we are all doing this. In one chapter she questions why we are so stuck in the post-war Bauhaus grid, turned into post-war postmodernism. Helvetica still our main, most familiar typeface even though the times, tools, and lifestyles have changed. DIN  is more than 100 years old. We Are still “Chasing the Perfect”, in design and in the definition of a successful life. And because we are so focused on being perfect we can be blind to what we really need.
btw: her blog is also really good.


3. Ian Lynam: Writings on Graphic Design

I read Ian’s contributions to the neojaponisme.com blog for a while when we lived in Tokyo. I went to the release party for his book “Parting Out” and couldn’t afford a copy being so broke. But we found out that we lived only one train station apart. Sometimes we would meet at the local cafe. Later he gave me a copy of his book when he spoke at the Type Director’s club in NY. I am so happy to own a copy now.
He is the nicest and wittiest dude and smart and knowledgeable about graphic design. He is a little bit of a design star, rightfully, without being intimidating and stayed down to earth to anyone. Even better, Ian knows how to write and speak about design really well. And he teaches how to write. In his booklet “Start Somewhere: A handbook of dubious exercises, tips, and rants about becoming a designer who writes” he encourages steps to become a better writer. Yes, he is a good teacher too.

 


4. The Graphic Language of Neville Brody: 1&2

The first book inspired me to be a graphic designer. It became an indispensable resource when I did my first posters for the dance club “Agar” in Freiburg, Germany. I used stencils and spray paint (computer graphics weren’t yet available in the early 90’s). The letters of his font “Typeface Two” were easy to cut out of the cardboard with an exacto knife. (sorry, the pictures I have here are from slides without a scanner).
Also, of course, Brody’s layouts in “the Face” magazine and later the fonts on Fuse were influences during my student years.
The 2nd book is after the typeface “Blur”, which pretty much sums up the party nights in those days.


The height of the shelves I build is measured by

1. 12′ for the records
2. The Visual History of Type
3. Emigre’s Designer’s Republic Issue



some more:

Advertising Design and Typography, Alex White

A very comprehensive book for a student. It’s as compressed as a cheat sheet with almost too much information for one book. A great chapter is the “great idea, poor execution”, or “poor idea, great execution”. Toward the end, it even has a chapter on the history of type. Super brief, perfect for a novice, but I enjoyed it too.
available at the NYPlibrary


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