All posts by Samuel John Klein

Review:The Elements Of Typographic Style, version 2.5

Eloquent and beautfully designed reference a must for the serious type student and designer

Elements of Typographic Style, by Bringhurst

Regardless of whatever other books on type, type history, and development there are, there are certain essentials that ought to be on any typeographer’s must-have shelf. One of these is The Elements of Typographic Style, version 2.5, by Robert Bringhurst.

Bringhurst, in his foreward, states:

There are many books about typography, and some of them are models of the art they teach. But when I set myself to compile a simple list of working principles, one of the benchmarks I first thought of was William Strunk and E.B. White’s small masterpiece, The Elements of Style.

But what a book to come from such a modest remit. It goes from basics to esoterics, speaks of layout and glyph design, and weaves history and tradition into the mix, all in a logical, progressive format, each subsequent point building on many of the last. There is a section on page layout that touches on the Golden Section and Fibbonacci sequences, and lyrically unites the subjects so that they all make sense together. The book is rounded out by font histories and the most extensive glossary ever provided for a type book that defines every figure worth knowing about.

To go into everything this book covers would overlengthen an already overlong report. Suffice it to say what Hermann Zapf said about the book:

All desktop typographers should study this book. It is not just one more publication on typography, like so many others on the market. It is, instead, a must for everybody in the graphics arts…Written by an expert, Robert Bringhurst’s book is particularly welcome in an age where typographic design is sometimes misconstrued as a form of private self-expression for designers…I wish to see this book become the Typographer’s Bible”.

And who are we to argue with Hermann Zapf? We wish to echo his words: if you are or fancy yourself a typographer, get this book.

The Elements of Typographic Style, version 2.5
by Robert Bringhurst
349 pp with index, Hartley & Marks, 2002
ISBN 0-88179-132-6 (pbk)
Buy This book from Amazon.com

Typography Links Are Live

Type links now available at Designorati:Typography

I have populated the Typography Links list (see below and to the left) with its initial content.

As editor of the Typography topic, I endeavored to include a list that included some known names as well as at least one or two of my personal favorites. It is my hope that my personal favorites are also of value to you, the reader.

A links category of which I am particularly proud is the inclusion of notable typographers–both of the past and the present.

I welcome suggestions from everyone for additions to this list. Please send me your suggestions, critiques, and thoughts at via the Tip form.

THE Book: A History of Graphic Design

Review: The definitive history, a must-have for any student of graphic arts

A History of Graphic Design, 3rd ed.

Philip B. Meggs (1942-2002) was an important figure in the world of design education. By the time of his death, he was a widely-regarded professor in Communication Arts and Design at Virginia Commonwealth University (chair of his department for 13 years) and part of the visiting faculty at Syracuse University and the National College of Art and Design in Dublin Ireland. The journal Graphis called him “as a pragmatist who believed that a solid foundation in the history of the field was necessary but lacking.” In filling that percieved need, he created a book that is regarded almost universally as the definitive published history of graphic design.

First published in 1983, A History of Graphic Design encompasses the development of the discipline, starting with the markings on the walls of the caves of Lascaux, moving through the first alphabets, into early typography and Gutenberg, touching landmarks of 20th Century design such as the Bauhaus, introducing the reader to Lumieré, the first photographs, and chromolithography, and bringing us up to the present day, with trends in digital design.

The book unfolds logically and thoughtfully, and the text is a roster of important names, form the Limbourg Bothers and Johann Fust through Dürer, Jenson, Saul Bass, Slimbach and Licko. No important stone is left unturned.

Straightforwardly designed in and of itself and well-illustrated, the book is a pleasure for the eye to behold as well. Set in 8.5/12 Neue Helvetica 55, the text does not tax the eye, allowing the information to flow. But aside from such austere concerns, the book itself is thorough enough that it is considered part of the standard curriculum in design programs nationwide–even my own humble Portland Community College used it (which is how I got my copy).

This is a book which I feel should be on the shelf of every person who considers themselves a student of the discipline. One comes away from it with a mindful, thoughtful appreciation of where design has been–and perhaps Meggs would have agreed if I say that, in a discipline such as ours, a knowledge of the past will inform and enhance the future.

A History of Graphic Deisgn, 3rd Ed.
By Philip B. Meggs
510pp with index, Wiley, 1998
ISBN 0-471-29198-6
Available from Amazon.com

Fontcraft Assists Hurricane Relief

Digital typefounder donates proceeeds of font sales to Red Cross, Baton Rouge Food Bank

Our offer to contribute all proceeds from the sales of Ironworks for the past two days to hurricane Katrina disaster relief was quite successful

Digital typefoundry Fontcraft, in the post in thier news site Scriptorium for 5 August 2005, “Fonts for Distater Relief #2″, details thier efforts to generate donations for disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina victims.

The first stage of the drive involved donating all proceed from the sale of thier font “Ironworks” over the period of 3-4 Sept to the Red Cross. “Our offer to contribute all proceeds from the sales of Ironworks for the past two days to hurricane Katrina disaster relief was quite successful, raising $522 which has been sent to the Red Cross”, stated Fontcraft’s Dave Nalle.

Though this stage of the fundraising has ended, another has begun, and the beneficiary of this round is to be the Baton Rouge Food Bank.

Starting today, 100% of all sales of the font “Guede” will be donated to the charity. Dave Nalle:

Guede is a display initials font based on the traditional Voodoo veve symbols transformed into letters. I know it’s a bit cliche to associate Voodoo with New Orleans, but it’s part of the romance and history of the city, so it seemed like an apropriate choice. We think Mme. Laveau would approve. It’s also a great font for the upcoming Halloween season.

To purchase Guede and participate in Fontcraft’s charity effort, go to Fontcraft’s Scriptorium website and follow the appropriate links. To minimize overhead and maximize donation, they ask that fonts be digitally delivered.

Welcome To Typography

The official inaugural post on Designorati:Typography

It doesn’t take long, once someone decides to study design, to start to be distracted by type. When the critical eye is developed, one suddenly becomes aware of what type is and truly aware of what it does.

American Typewriter has a sort of rough and ready feel to it.

Garamond and Palatino seem to be timeless classics.

Comic Sans is used way. Too. Much.

Type is more than merely marks on a page. Type carries weight, intent, and attitude. Take Comic Sans, for example. How seriously will you take a caution sign printed in that? Could you sign a contract printed in it without wondering about the professionalism of the person who printed it?

Type can be over used. Helvetica, when it debuted, with its clean simple lines and honest shapes, took the world by storm. It has been used so much since then, though, that it is associated with lazy design. All the character has been leached out of it, so much so, that Robin Williams once opined that, as with other trends, “Helvetica will be back in style–in about 200 years” (in Beyond The Mac Is Not A Typewriter, Peachpit Press, 1991)

The point of all this digression is to try and give a suggestion of the rich tapestry of typography, that these glyphs are so much more than little marks upon a screen or on paper. They generate passon. People love typefaces; I adore Gill Sans. Adobe typographer Robert Slimbach, for example, developed the new Adobe Garamond Premier Pro after 12 years of work.

The aim of this topic is, as in my other topic (cartography) to be an exploration of where it came from, where it is, with an eye on where it’s going and an awareness of how design happens. I plan on lingering in places and surveying others, but typography is a lifelong love. Sometimes you don’t know it until you are shown it.

Drawing the Line

Lively and well-written book tells story of how maps persuade and influence through history

Drawing The Line, by Mark Monmonier

Mark Monmonier is a distinguished professor of geography at Maxwell College of Syracuse University. He has spent years exploring maps and how they communicate, inform, and influence. Maps can be charged with many messages-hope, bias, menace, the list can be extended.

In Drawing the Line:Tales of Maps and Cartocontroversy, Monmonier takes on a variety of topics, throwing a bit of rational thought on some charged subjects.

A good example is the so-called “Peters Projection” world map. This was rolled out by Dr. Arno Peters in 1967 as a response to perceived weaknesses in the widely used Mercator map. One thing it purported to solve was a skewed view of the world brought on by the extreme distortion of the upper latitudes (Greenland appears many times larger than it ought, for instance). Another thing it aimed to correct was a “eurocentric” social bias: by enlarging the middle latitudes, it displayed many third-world countries in a more advantageous aspect than the Mercator did.

Monmonier logically and entertainingly explores the Peters imbroglio. The map, seen by many to counteract what is seen as an unjust dominance of the Third World by the First, is driven just as much by activism and personal politics of those who it appeals to just as much as any desire for flat-map accuracy. There are many dogs in this fight, detractors and advocates, and the argument continues to this day. Monmonier proves an able and illuminating guide.

The same critical light is thrown on such subjects as The Vinland Map (a map reputed to have been drawn about 1440, predating Columbus), cultural perceptions through place names on maps, the acceptance of plate tectonics, and political campaigns.

Monmonier is a great writer with an entertaining sense of style, who guides the reader through this Terra Incognita with wit and grace. Drawing the Line is a valuable book for anyone who is interested in critical thought, truth in communication, and, of course, maps.

Drawing the Line: Tales of Maps and Cartocontroversy
by Mark Monmonier
1995, Henry Holt, 368pp (with notes and index)
ISBN 0-8050-2581-2
Buy this book at Amazon.com

Welcome To Cartography

Announcing the debut of the Cartography Topic on Designorati

The Boss Cartography Logo

Hello all and welcome. I am pleased and proud to welcome any and all comers to what I think is a unique offering.

Designorati:Cartography aims to explore maps and mapmakers, past, present and future, with an eye toward design–the basic principles of color, hierarchy, scale, and symbolism, and how maps communicate.

Humans have always had the drive to understand and interpret the world that surrounds us. Maps abstract that in myriad interesting ways. They inform, propagandize, compel, decorate, and entertain. And, personally speaking, I find that just about everyone, even people who don’t have any specific interest in maps, become extremely interested when someone starts to talk about it.

This is sort of the happy and unexpected realization of a personal goal–a space where I can share what I know and what I can find for and about maps.

Welcome. This is Designorati:Cartography.

About: Designorati:Typography

Established September 2005

Words communicate. Before there were words, however, there had to be letters.

Type does more work than merely forming words. Every type face has weight, mood, import, and emotional impact. For centuries, since the time of Gutenberg and the monks who hand lettered before him, Type has changed and evolved, influenced by natural and artificial sources. Styles have ebbed and flowed.

The greatest type is seen as high art; the lowest is seen as avant-garde–or maybe just plain garbage.

Designorati:Typography aims to explore everything about type, from who made it and helped develop the styles to what it is now to design type and where technology takes us. Along the way, it hopes to throw an accessible light on the great typographers of the past and present, and to help the visitor appreciate the beauty in the published letter.

About: Designorati:Cartography

Established September 2005

Cartography is the art and science of map design.

Maps take many forms, many themes, and many expressions, ranging from the straightforward city street map to the specialized terrain and statistical displays used by scientists and sports affectionados to highly sophisticated cartograms used by researchers and thesis-writers.

All this work stands upon the shoulders of giants. Without hundreds of years of work and refinement, without the maps of Ptolemy and the projections of Mercator, there could never have been the common gas-station street map, and neither could there have been the highly technological GIS systems of today.

Designorati:Cartography aims to explore the origins, view the state of the art, and guess at the future of the common (and uncommon) map.

Maps abstract the world so we may comprehend it better. Maps also speak thier own language, but it’s one we can all learn. Maps are sometimes made with an agenda and a message, and sometimes just to inform. And maps, in an indirect way, reflect our own image.

It is, in and of itself, an exploration. Designorati:Cartography hopes to become an explorers guide to that realm.