Designing Type - Karen Cheng

This week I've been ill - a nasty sore throat which has been circling our office for weeks. I've wanted to read, while not being able to process anything particularly challenging. Rather weirdly, this book came to my rescue.

Desigining Type is literally about just that. As in, its major sections are "Serif Capitals", "Serif Lower Case", "San Serif Capitals", "San Serif Lower Case", "Numbers", "Punctuations", "Diacritical Marks" and "Spacing"! Moreover, this isn't really aimed at display fonts, but at body fonts. So, There are literally pages devoted to the details of the commonest of individual letters. I imagine this book is some people's idea of a pedantic hell.

While a little, er, slow going and filing something of a niche market, I seriously enjoyed it (although I think this may have been partly due to my inability to absorb anything much pacier :). It discusses in depth basic characters which you really can take for granted over the course of your whole life. The discussion of the details brings out some recurring themes and nuances you'd otherwise never see. By discussing the historical evolution, conventions are brought into focus. It makes for fascinating, if overwhelming reading.

As you might expect, the book is well-laid out, with hundreds of highlighted examples. The amount of writing isn't huge - generally enough to convey the ideas, giving enough context to study the examples for the practical details. To really appreciate the book, I expect you'd want to design your own font as you work through, but if you don't, you can still learn a lot, even if you're ill in bed and unable to concentrate at the time!

Posted 2008-04-06.