Type and Typography - Baines and Haslam

This is an introductory-level book on typography, pretty much the same level as Spiekermann's Stop Stealing Sheep, and I think it's interesting to look at the differences. Whereas Sheep is a small-format book, in limited colour, designed to be an introduction for the non-specialist, this one's seems to be intended as a full-colour introductory text for designers. It talks around the subject more (including more history and technical background), provides more references, and generally tries to take a more technical and objective approach to things. It has more depth, although not much beyond an introductory level, and in some ways it actually lacks a certain solidity that Sheep has.

It's vaguely let down by a looseness around the edges. For example, Shannon's communications theory is reworked from an interesting, powerful and useful mathematical model into a piece of woolly social science, and then discounted for missing out the elements carefully left out in order to construct an effective mathematical model! Towards the end of the book, it is pointed out that modern communcations media allow type to be freed from 2D into a fully-moving 3D world, in video, on the web and in user interfaces. However, it then fleshes this out by spending half a dozen pages classifying types of movie shots, on the pretext that this can then be applied to characters. Remarkably ineffective.

However, I think these are mostly marks of trying a bit too hard, in an otherwise very competent introduction to typography. The book very effectively covers the relationship between type and graphic design, and it does practise what it preaches. In summary, despite slight delusions of grandeur, it's a pretty solid introduction, and better suited to those who'll want to read further than Spikermann's book is.

Posted 2009-01-01.