Much like Joseph Albers book on color theory, Interactions of Color. There are books on the subject of typography that are considered canonical text, like Emil Ruder’s Typographie, Jan Tschichold’s Die Neue Typographie, and Josef Müller-Brockmann’s Raster Systeme Fur Die Visuele Gestaltung. The three books are what came to mind, when I read Lupton’s book Thinking with Type. But what surprised me, and what I find great about Thinking with Type is Lupton’s understanding of the three books I just mentioned, and her ability to filter this into a concise 176-page book on contemporary typography. I enjoyed reading and highly recommend Ellen Lupton’s book on typography, Thinking with Type.
I came across Ellen Lupton’s typography book seven years ago at the 2005 typography conference, TypeCon: Alphabet City. Ellen co-presented with Alex White who wrote a similar book called Thinking in Type, which came out around the same time as Ellen’s book. The two books are unrelated, and were written independently by the authors. Lupton and White are both respected educators in the pedagogy of design and typography. In the conference the two talked a bit about why they wrote another book on the subject of typography —and there are many books on typography.
At the time, I asked the same question: why write another book on typography? After the conference, I did not think much of either authors or their book.
Seven years later, and a week after reading Joseph Albers Interaction of Color, the book on color theory, I decided to finally take a stab and read Ellen’s book on typography and see what its all about. The last time I saw the book was at the conference years before, where Ellen talked about her methods and practice of teaching design, specifically typography—the book is used as required reading in her typography courses at MICA, Maryland Institute College of Art.
Thinking with Type is surprising and modern. And it’s refreshing to find a book on typography that goes beyond the usual Swiss and German aesthetic as examples. The book mixes examples from thirteenth century illuminated manuscripts to local Baltimore designers Post-Typography. The book, which I disregarded as derivative in the past, surprised me on its clarity in presenting the subject of type setting, contrast, hierarchies, etc. To its diversity of examples, from classical, to swiss rationalism, all the way to post-typography. The book presented typography in three sections: Letter, Text, and the Grid, where each topic in a section helps build on the next.
Lastly, Thinking with Type touches on a subject that is missing in many books on the subject. And that is screen-based typography for web and interaction design.