Ellen Lupton The Movie

Don’t (dumb) Quote Me
As there was so much interest in Ellen Lupton’s book Thinking With Type, I’d like to share this video of a lecture she gave for Escola Superior de Artes E Design (ESAD).

If you can’t afford the book, then it’s a great educational piece; and, even if you have read the book, you’re sure to take something away from it. It’s just over an hour long, so pour yourself a glass of something, pull up the pouffe, sit back and enjoy:

http://www.spike.com/video/2904416

I’d be interested in your feedback on this one.

Thanks to Dumitru for reminding me of this great video.

On Monday we have the first in our series of “So You Want to Create a Font”. To ensure you don’t miss out on that any many more great articles to come, subscribe to I Love Typography — and join the type revolution.

Have a great week weekend, everyone.


  1. The bit about her teeth being kerned is brilliant, as is the aphorism “It’s never too early to talk to your child about typography.”

    Neat lady.

  2. Alec
    Yes, she’s a real educator, with quite a unique style — very engaging.

  3. Lindsay Rollo

    I recently looked over Ellen Lupton’s book and came away dissatisfied.

    Seeing the movie re-enforced the view I had formed.

    Lupton is not a typographer — she is a designer who has adopted typography as one of her vehicles.

    I’m from the school of general and technical editors for whom the word is paramount, and anything that gets in the road of the simple, direct, and easiest comprehension of the structure and content of the text is not only an distraction, but also a disservice to the reader.

    My view of Lupton’s book is the non-design of the text, the assumption that appearance is more important that content and structure, is an exemplification of the egocentric characteristic of those who call themselves designers and forget that the end use of any designed product must be to aid the user.

    Lupton’s book is more an artistic statement than a typographer’s statement.

    Despite my unease at the layout and content of the book, I did come away with three notes of typographic issues in which she has offered information for which I am grateful, or which I wish I had expressed that as succinctly as she did:

    1] ‘An en dash connects to numbers. It means “up to and including”
    not “between”. No spaces are used around en dashes.’

    In passing, I have written a WordPerfect macro to substitute an en dash for hyphens separating numerals. However, I prefer to use a thin (hard) space around both en and em dashes.

    2] ‘If text is reflowed in subsequent editing, a discretionary hyphen will disappear.”

    3] “Purge all double word paces from manuscripts.”

    I wish I had thought of the word ‘purge’ — a wonderfully evocative verb implying, amongst other things, a cleansing of the unnecessary and the undesirable.

    2]

  4. I love watching, reading, listening people who are so passionate about the things they do. Their knowledge is so contagious. That’s when I learn the most.
    I just bought Ellen’s D.I.Y Kids book, I’ll see how far can I get with that book with my 2.5 year old daughter :-)

  5. Lindsay
    I think there is always going to be difficulty when writing a book for a broad audience, or an audience of beginners. Obviously typography is much broader and more complex than Thinking With Type. However, I do think she must be commended for introducing more people to the topic and making typography that much more accessible.

    Thinking With Type will not make its readers typographers (no book can achieve this), but it will help them to be aware of what typography actually is; and in doing so, it should, at the very least, improve the reader’s own use of type.

    Thanks for your input. It’s very much appreciated.

  6. Thanks for the video John, looks like a good thing to watch tomorrow afternoon — once I’ve cleaned up this mess of a room.

    Speaking of movies, I’m also looking forward to receiving my copy of the Helvetica film sometime soon. (Shouldn’t be too much longer …)

  7. Hamish
    They were sold out when I tried. Are they available again? I’m green with envy. Good luck with that room.

  8. Good movie I enjoyed it. In my hand I have a Portuguese version of Thinking With Type (Pensar Com Tipos) the cover is redone for this version using movable wood types, so beautiful…
    http://www.cosacnaify.com.br/loja/detalhes.asp?codigo_produto=775

    And don’t remeber me about a messy room… :( XD

  9. I believe there are still some left.
    http://www.helveticafilm.com/shop.html

    Unfortunately they’re out of the Deluxe limited edition, so you’ll have to go with the standard. (Which is what I purchased as well)

    Edit:
    Silly me, I almost forgot you’re in Japan — and sure enough, the site still claims that a Japanese version is forthcoming. Sorry about that.

  10. Vivien (inspirationbit)
    Let me now how you get on with the DIY Lupton book.

    Kazuo
    pleased you enjoyed it. Thanks for the link. I thought physicists would be very tidy and organised ;)

    Hamish
    You got my hopes up for a moment there — then dashed them to pieces.
    They won’t ship to Japan until after they show it in selected theatres here (I think next spring). I guess I could just get it shipped to the UK, as I’ll be there in November. Don’t tell anyone though ;)

  11. Ah, sorry about that John.

    Of course, one could always obtain it by alternate methods — if you know what I mean. Particularly if you’re planning on buying it when it’s available.

  12. Wow! Thanks for putting that up, John.

    It’s funny, I had some confusion about Thinking with Type as I originally read it. I knew I liked it, and that it certainly was one of those books to get you thinking. However, I found the fact that there was an element of humor distracting—I couldn’t tell whether that was intentional or not. And seeing the video reinforced that feeling. How funny does Ellen Lupton intend to be? She was rather. But is that deliberate? Is she the Steven Wright of typography and design?

    Also, I think Lindsay Rollo raises some issues.

    Typography, I think, is not an end in itself. It’s a means to an end. And so I would have to say that anyone can be a typographer easily enough. The degree to which one is successful at it, good, talented … well, that all depends on a lot of things.

    I’ve certainly said before—perhaps even somewhere on this site—that, as a book designer and page compositor—I think the important thing I do is bring words to readers. And so my work is not about being so glitzy and wonderful that it makes the reader sit up and turn away from the words.

    I think to declare that Lupton is or isn’t a typographer is somewhat specious. I also think that in making note of the “three notes of typographic interest” kind of belies the notion that she is not a typographer. But I nevertheless appreciate Lindsay’s take on the issue, as it forced me to think some more about what first seemed like an itch I couldn’t scratch when I first read Thinking with Type.

    And I look forward, John, to your beginning the “So You Wan to Create a Font” series, as I’m a little stuck on where to start and have consequently let myself become bogged down in other work so as to avoid beginning to design any types.

  13. Hamish
    I’m jut waiting for a kind reader to send me the DVD (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

    Stephen
    I think that the most interesting question that Lindsay begs is,

    What is a typographer?

    Personally, I don’t think the answer — a definition — will prove very useful. However, in attempting to define typographer, we will, I’m sure, learn a little more about the typographer’s trade.

    Anyway, here’s one definition to get you started:

    One that sets written material into type; a compositor or printer.

    Not very useful, is it?

  14. The definition of typographer, John, that’s kind of what I was getting at. Anyone can do an awful lot of things in this life. Doing any of them well … now that’s the rub.

  15. Stephen
    Exactly. Add to that myriad subjective opinions of doing them well and….

    BTW, did you have any joy with those images? If not, just shout, and I’ll send you some walk-through screen shots.

  16. No, John, I didn’t have any luck improving the quality of the two images. Most annoying. I’ve had better luck posting photos on a previous blog.

    A by the way of my own: Is Ellen Lupton really that wryly humorous? Or is she totally serious and I’m not quite getting it and laughing at that?

  17. Wow what an inspiring video. It’s really good to know that there is someone out there who cares so much about graphic design and typography they make it their mission in life to share that knowledge with the world.

  18. Robert
    Yes, I think that’s Lupton’s greatest asset—her enthusiasm and passion for type and design. It is indeed inspiring.

  19. curtis

    i’m a graphic design senior at MICA where ellen teaches. she’s a really amazing woman. you’d think with all the notoriety surrounding her she’d get a big head, but she’s always down to earth and kind. she’s witty and incredibly intelligent, and married to an equally dedicated designer. she makes me excited to be studying graphic design.

  20. Vlad Fratila

    Hey, very nice resource! And a really great comment to go with it by Lindsay Rollo.

    In regards to Helvetica: i found this to be really funny (for me, at least): “We ship DVDs worldwide, except to Japan.” Yah, funny and weird.

    Im looking forward to reading Ellen’s book, although i will keep a sharp eye out for what Lindsay pointed out. (actually, as i’m listening to the movie now, she’s saying: “people say that my book is very funny, but i think it’s dead serious.”)

    … and see the Helvetica movie - you reminded me I have to order it.

  21. Curtis
    I’ve never met her, unfortunately, though perhaps some day. I wonder if she’s seen iLT? Did you get to read the review of her Thinking With Type?

    Vlad
    Thanks. I guess I’ll have to get it shipped to the UK, and collect it when I’m there next month. There’s definitely some “humour” in the book, though it’s never used for humour’s sake. “Do I look fat in this paragraph?” — I think that’s quite humorous; it takes all sorts, I guess.

  22. “What is a typographer?”

    Every day I am making decisions about typography, but many would not consider me a typographer.

    I am a web developer, and large part of what I do is creating templates for content management systems.

    The typographic decisions I make end up affecting hundreds, if not thousands of pages of user created material.

    Saying that typographic decisions can only be made by people in publishing, or formally trained designers, is the reason so much terrible typography exists on the web today.

  23. I been wanting to see that Helvetica movie. The clips I saw in the movie section of this site was just a tease. :)
    And type is not funny! :)

  24. My tip would be to go straight to “ESAD Personal Views” (I simply can’t watch the video on this iLT page) : http://www.esad.pt/personalviews/

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