I Love Typography

Logo, Font, and Lettering Bible

Book Review By Cody Curley

Welcome to my review of the Logo, Font and Lettering Bible by Leslie Cabarga. There was some talk of this book in the comments of a past article on this beautiful blog. Someone mentioned something of the cover; I think it was me. Anyway, I think it is an absolute atrocity. Considering that this a book about logos and lettering, should there not be an entirely sexy typographic cover? The answer my fellow typophiles is, yes! Yes, there should be.

Logo, Font, and Lettering Bible. Cover.I have separated this review into three sections: content, typography and layout, and usability. There isn’t really much I can say here without expressing my opinions subjectively, but I hope that some of the points I make help you decide whether or not this book is for you.

Content

Leslie covers a lot of topics in this book. There is everything, from basic logo rules, general typography guidelines, how to start making your font (forms, kerning, hints, and directions), font creation software; and finally, even some professional advice.

Here is a look at an excerpt from the contents taken directly from the author’s website. Brace yourself.

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PART 1: The Logo……………………14
Defining the Logo Type……………………………………………………………16
Logo Design in Deutschland 32;
Karl Schulpig, Logo Meister 34
How to Design a Logo in 3 Quasi-Easy Steps…………………………………….36
Step 1: Immersion 37;
Step 2: Creative Copying 38;

What a Logo Is, What a Logo Is Not 41;
Step 3: Thumbnail & Comp 42
Resources…………………………………………………………………………..52
144 Logo Layouts 52;
Typestyles Categorized 56;
A Date With Numerals 58
PART 2: Drawing Letters………60
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I know what you are thinking: “Cody, are you mad?! Why have you gone and spaced the numbers using an abnormal amount of periods?” Well folks, I hate to break it to you, but I didn’t. The author of this logo, type, and lettering bible did. For the unabridged contents, visit the author’s site.

I’m going to give you the bad part of the content first, so here we go. The main thing that really got me with this book was the organization. This book jumps all over the place and half the time I was skipping through the pages to find the next step of turning the “S” I just drew into a font. Next, the actual logos and examples chosen to support the writing are horrible. The only things I stopped to look at were the historical resources used in the book. A number of the posters and illustrations presented in the book are from the early days of logo design and type setting. However, those are by far the nicest imagery in this book. I know, I am shooting down this book, so let’s move onto to some positive points. I think it’s about time or else you might stop reading here.

Now, once you get past the horrible examples, the book includes some solid and useful information. Leslie covers some really good points and things to think about when creating a logo or font. There are some clear steps on how to start your project. He looks at the thought process, sketching, and illustrating; also breaking down glyphs into groups and suggesting the order in which you should be designing your letters and characters. There are also many different type styles covered: calligraphic, hand written, serif, sans serif, tech’, etc. When breaking down the fonts he only does so for the two main styles (serif and sans serif), but he does it well.

logo-font-let-spread9.jpg

After that it kind of jumps right into illustrator techniques and things to remember. Tutorials in the book are quite easy to follow but, toward the end of the book, those tutorials become less easy to follow. It’s almost as though he ran out of steam towards the end of the book and abbreviated everything. After illustrator techniques we jump back to importing your fonts into a font program. He touches on kerning pairs and general rules of thumb for typography and type setting, but not in any particular detail.

The last section of the book, the “Business Section” is sparsely illustrated with some hints on how to be a successful designer for a living (if only it were that easy). A lot of it is useful, but mostly things you learned in design school or at least in any rudimentary business class. Now, on to the most important part:

Typography and Layout

Grab the arm of your chair, tie off a rubber band, bite into a piece of wood, and get ready for this! It’s going to be a very bumpy ride. I really don’t know what to say. For a type and lettering book, the layout and typography is a crime. However, I would rather let you decide this for yourself, so I took some scans of the title spreads for a few sections as well as the contents spread; this is where that piece of wood I mentioned earlier comes into play. Bite that sucker now!

logofontletter.jpg

Usability

This book’s usability really ranges from beginners to professionals. The logo section and illustrator tutorials are obviously focused towards people who have no design training, or very little at least. The information and hints for font creation is geared toward a more intermediate or advanced crowd. There is no way someone who doesn’t know what kerning is will even think about creating a font.

The information on font creation software (although limited) is definitely for those who have looked at them or have opened them before thinking about creating a font. However, the author does do a pretty solid comparison of the three major font creation applications.

Overall

If you have a few extra dollars lying around the house and want to grab a book with some useful information for getting started on creating a font, then by all means, buy Logo, Font, and Lettering Bible. Hell, there are over 200 pages; perhaps 30 of those are worth keeping. You could just rip out the remaining pages and use them as newspaper for when you decide to ink your fonts with a fountain pen. Harsh, I know, but true.
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[Cody is a Communication Designer. You can see his personal blog here.]
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Coming Soon:

The biggest Sunday Type ever. Let’s call it a Christmas Special Sunday Type.


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  1. No. This book is phenominally good, sorry. If you want to begin along the path toward typeface design, this is an excellent start! There isn’t a great single book out yet about typeface design…in reality, you need to read 10, or even 100 books. But if I had to narrow down my list to five, this would be on it (in either fourth or fifth place). It is immensely more usefull that Designing Type, which is only worth buying in the extended German edition. I’d rather see Designing Type taken out of the “Recommended” section at the top right part of iLT and have Logo, Font, and Lettering Bible take its place.

  2. I think you made some good points about this book. In some sections the layout is ugly. Its a fun book though and I would recommend it to someone starting out in Logo Design. I found a few things helpful. The 144 Logo Layouts is cool. Also, I liked the work presented on Tom Nikosey and Daniel Pelavin on pages 174 and 175.

  3. Dan
    I don’t own this title, so can’t comment on the content. Looks as though I need to order a copy and take a look. I didn’t know there was an extended German version of Designing Type. What additional materil does it include? Which book fills your no.1 Type Design book slot?

    Enjoyed your Hold back the rain, Mr. Unger! post, BTW. Great photo.

  4. I can’t comment as to the usefulness of the content as I haven’t read the book.

    As a sophomore level graphic design student, I feel terrible about the cover, table of contents, and the scans you made. I wouldn’t have done that in high school, I sure as hell wouldn’t do that now, and I would be shocked to see that level of work by any of my studio-mates during a critique.

  5. Johno
    >I didn’t know there was an extended German version of Designing Type. What additional materil does it include?

    Anatomie der Buchstaben is the German edition of the book. It has significantly higher production values, and the type is better set. The edition was translated by Hennig Krause. It contains additional info about the special German characters.

    The biggest change about the German book is the title. The German title is “Anatomy of Letters,” which is actually exactly what the book is. It is just annotations on upright letters from commonly-used typefaces, not a book about typeface design. I don’t know exactly, but I’d like to hope that this sentiment was in line with Peter Bilak’s most excellent review of the book.

    >Which book fills your no.1 Type Design book slot?

    I think that I e-mailed you my personal top ten a few weeks back when you were asking for them. I must admit I didn’t write down and save that list otherwise :( But my top five (really in no particular order) are:

    1. Letters of Credit by Walter Tracy
    2. Counterpunch by Fred Smeijers
    3. Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
    4. Logo, Font, and Lettering Bible by Leslie Cabarga
    5. Anatomy of a Typeface by Alexander Lawson

  6. BlueStreak

    Some of the content on the Cabarga website could use a revisit with better design using CSS. But the book is well designed and I second Dan Reynolds that it’s a great resource. I’ve thought for years that Cabarga is too humble for his own good. But then again if he promoted his work as shamelessly as Barnbrook, I’m not so sure I’d be as big a fan of his work as I am.

  7. Dan
    I completely agree with you that is is a good resource for starting the font design process, but aesthetically this book just doesn’t do it. When a book has a focus for this many topics, you would expect organization and a using typography to clearly present all of it. I found this book really hard to read and my eyes were constantly jumping around the page, probably due to lack of proper layout and typography work.

    Justin
    This is exactly what I was thinking when I picked up the book. To a designer’s eye is looks like something we would not want to resource from. Saying that, most of the content is stuff a designer already knows. That starts to make me think that it’s a book 80% focussed toward the beginning designer, with no experience.

  8. Cody
    >but aesthetically this book just doesn’t do it

    That isn’t my point, though. I just disagree with the recommendation:

    >If you have a few extra dollars lying around the house and want to grab a book with some useful information for getting started on creating a font, then by all means, buy Logo, Font, and Lettering Bible. Hell, there are over 200 pages; perhaps 30 of those are worth keeping.

    I don’t think someone should buy this book just because they have extra money lying around. Who does anyway :( I think this book is a must because of the varied information in it. Right now, you aren’t going to find a lot of this information in any other book. You might find it all online on various threads at Typophile, but bundled all together like it is, it saves a lot of learning time! Type design is all about learning, I think. Or at least, I hope ;-)

    Moreover, although I love beautiful books, I don’t expect typeface designers to necessarially be good graphic designers or even typographers. All three of these things are different skills, even though there is a lot of overlap. Although I come from a graphic design background, I see typeface design almost as more like Industrial Design… a typeface is a tool, a designed product, that other people will use. You try to make the tool as good as you can, but after that, you let the baby go and grow up! Err… something like that, at least.

  9. About the cover, there is also a softcover version released which looks better in my opinion. This is the version I have. You can find an image here. Much more ‘sexy typographic’, I think? At least it’s clean, simple and stylish looking.

  10. What an awful cover, ouch.

    The german version looks better, a bit like a medical bible though, but better. I can’t buy a book about ”design“, if its cover sucks.

    So i might get me the german version when i have some money lying around (i think that does happen sometimes, just so you know). :)

  11. On the author’s blog, under the “Miscellany” link on the left-hand side, he refers to the much nicer text-only black cover as being the British cover…in a rather snarky way given both the eyeball–abusing US cover and the design of his website.

  12. I’m pleased this review has stirred up some contrary opinions. I shall now buy it and decide for myself; it’s interesting to see how the opinions of type designers, graphic designers, etc vary on this one. Once I received my copy, I’ll let you know what I think.

  13. Manuel
    >The german version looks better, a bit like a medical bible though, but better. I can’t buy a book about ”design“, if its cover sucks

    Note please that the German cover linked to more towards the top of these comments is the German edition of Karen Cheng’s Designing Type, not the Logo, Font, and Lettering Bible.

    The Logo, Font, and Lettering Bible exists in just US and UK editions.

  14. I’m curious…could someone who has a copy see if there’s mention of anyone else being involved in the cover design & layout of the book? I don’t recall seeing any mention on Mr. Carbarga’s website.

  15. BlueStreak

    “Cover and interior design by: Leslie Cabarga”
    “Design consultant: Lisa Buchanan”

    The design of the book is very dense and layered. If you like the modern thing with lots of white space, this isn’t it. I guess I’m overlooking the problems everyone has with the design of the book because I’m overwhelmed with the content.

  16. Duty-bound, I come to you from my granddaughters’ iMac 3,500 miles from home …

    I think I may have been the one who first mentioned Leslie Cabarga’s Logo, Font and Lettering Bible on iLT. Cody, while I respect everything I have ever read of yours here, I think you may be a tad off this time.

    First, the cover is phenomenal. Sexy, is sometimes, in a word: bullshit. The cover did, however, stop me when I first picked up the book. It wasn’t pictorially graphic. Then I read the title. Well, hell, it is about type, not pictures. And it represents a few treatments to type, the first thing you see.

    Now, that, said, the background reading may be slow. Often, background info is, as it leads up to what a book is about, does, or shows. But this book leaps off the page for someone like myself, a designer of pages looking for an entrance point to thinking about designing my first type. (Maybe, sometime, when I’m not so busy making books.) There are some clear and concise exercises that got me considering what skills I need to hone most, since I cannot draw a whit, and others that made me consider what it is I want to have when I finish creating my typeface family.

    Dan is 100% correct about the reasoning behind someone’s decision to buy this book. The info in it makes it a must-read, if not a must-have, unless you are already a seasoned designer of types. And he is also spot-on in his top five list of books on type design, although I must admit to not having read Counterpunch yet.

  17. Thank you Dan, but that is even more awful then, if there’s no better cover version available.

    But wait, Justin just said that there is a british cover, and it sure does look better, but i don’t like that one either. And calling it the bible of all that, is a bit too much as well.

    But this is kinda off-topic, i guess.

  18. It’s funny that most of the negative commentary about Cabarga’s book comes from those who have never read the book and address its design rather than its content. Dan is right: type designers aren’t necessarily typographers, and vice versa. They are indeed very different skills. It’s a pity that Cabarga’s book wasn’t designed by a good book designer, but the exemplary content still stands.

  19. Leslie Cabarga’s book is well designed, but just not classically designed. The whole spirit is playful and impish. However, it is very well controlled, in that the layout of information is always clear and easy to follow. This book could be deadly dull, but it is both fun and accessible.

    However on the ‘top’ list of books for type design I would put instead Cabarga’s essential manual for FontLab:

    Learn FontLab Fast

    I would also add to Dan’s first, the best single source for information on type design, which is

    Briem’s site, free!

    I also adore Doyald Young’s book

    Fonts and Logos.

    Its many examples give you the subtleties and show the secrets of even color in type, one of the key features of high quality fonts.

  20. Finally getting around to typing some responses. I am just going to write a general comment for everyone, because I’m at work and shouldn’t be on this addicting blog anyways. Haha.

    There is a lot of talk of the design and there are different opinions from different designers. This, is exactly what I wanted to start and something that really struck me when I read the book. In this thread we have: design students, typeface designers, book designers, graphic designers, and web designers. We pretty much cover all of the fields, except maybe advertising? Everyone seems to have a different opinion on the design of this book and the credibility of the information inside.

    Like I said, it was a subjective review. I was reviewing my opinions and concerns with a book that claims to be a “bible” of type, logos, and lettering.

    In no way can I say that this cover is nice, nor the layout of the book, or the main part “typography”. I was extremely reluctant to get a copy of this book because I found it hard to look at. Now, by “hard to look” at, I don’t mean because of the graphics, but because it just wasn’t set right. A book like this, that is solely for information, should be set to get that information across in a clear manner.

    This brings me to my question (which Johno has seemed to figure out already).
    …it’s interesting to see how the opinions of type designers, graphic designers, etc vary on this one

    When you are looking into buying a book, what is the deciding factor of the purchase? Do you buy a book because it is set well and laid out well? Do you buy for information? Of course there are tons of factors in this questions, but I would like to keep the opinions strictly for type and type layout books only. If you choose to answer, please write your profession (graphics designer, type designer, etc.) and how many years experience you have. I think this can start quite a nice study.

    I am extremely happy to see so many different designers here, and I am really enjoying the fact that there is discussion and different opinions concerning this book. Let’s continue!

    If this is a little unorganized, sorry! Writing from work has to be fast. =P

  21. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m a graphic design student–sophomore level (final exams/project due dates starting Monday am).

    When I look at a book my first concern is this: is it already on the required/recommended list for one of my classes?

    I tend to shop my book list around to professors and junior/senior students to see if anyone has read it & can give me a breakdown of how useful they found it.

    As a visual person, the design and layout of a book, regardless of subject, are important. If the thing is legible and readable–and the information inside is solid–I’m going to be interested in it enough to at least be told by bookstore employees that I’m not in a library.

    For a type & type layout book…if I feel that it’s badly designed, it’s getting moved towards the bottom of the list. If it’s badly organized I feel it reflects negatively on the skills of the book designer, and in this case, the book designer happens to be the author. Like Cody, I think a book about information–regardless of whether it’s for a seasoned pro or *cough* entry-level student *cough* or anyone/everyone/no one in particular–needs to get that information across in a clear, legible, and readable manner. The scans provided from the book give me the impression that this isn’t the case–particularly the ToC. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for it beyond being playful. The problem is that playful doesn’t always equal good in terms of legibility & readability.

    The scans/review don’t kill the book for me. I want to find a copy to read through for the font creation software comparison and to look at the tutorials. If I end up buying it, I will definitely be pasting in a sensible table of contents over the original. Maybe a cover, too, as well as colour-coded sticky notes so I can easily flip to where I want to.

  22. Well, generally speaking, whenever I buy a book—or even when I take one out from the library, in those instances where I don’t want to own the book—it’s the content of the book that is decisive. Now I must admit that I find it particularly ironic when books about design subjects are badly designed. And if I were on the fence about whether the content of the book was really worth spending time (and/or dollars) on, I gues then bad design might sway me one way or the other. But I don’t buy books because of the way they are designed. As a book designer and layout artist I’m much more interested in how book design is done on books I have already bought because I want to read them.

  23. Cody
    When I buy a book, I buy it for the information in it. If there are multiple editions, I will buy the one that is best produced (i.e., “designed”), provided I can avoid the price and also provided that it doesn’t have significantly less information than a possible newer & less well-made edition.

    Books are for reading. They are a medium to convey information, just like this website is another medium. I collect books. “Books” that are not primarily meant for reading/conveying information are Artists Books. I find artists books pretty to look at in Museums, Libraries, and Galleries, but I do not collect those things.

    Honestly, I believe that this is more the view of a “typographer” than a type designer ;-) I’ve only ever bought one book because of the typeface it was set in. I have bought one or two books because of their design, and maybe even one book because of it’s cover…out of the blue…and I have certainly borrowed books because of their design quality. But when I buy books, its the information that counts. That’s what books are for!

    Justin
    I don’t believe in handling entry-level students any differently from professionals. I’ve never taught, but if I would, I’d love to start out with entry-level students. I can’t tell you how often I’ve sat in design lectures where the speaker was playing down their students’ work “because they were just sophomores” or whatever. Student work reflects the quality of the instructor. I was an entry-level student once, too, and we were treated better. We also did some great work. Looking back on my ten years in design, some of my most creative—and hardest—tasks came at the beginning. Also, when I was an entry-level student, I read books aimed at professionals. Isn’t that what entry-level students are supposed to do?

  24. Yes, we agree the German version looks a good deal better.
    Let us know what you think once you buy it?

    Dave Mac
    G3 Creative

  25. Dan
    Absolutely. I have argued for this with my studio professors. They agreed that they should be teaching to us on a more equal footing, but with the caveat that in a program with 60-odd sophomores there is always going to be a fair number of students that would not be comfortable at that level. Sadly, those of us that would be happy to be pushed like that aren’t quite so happy to be taught down to. I’ve asked the head of the graphic design program and dean of the college of design to consider creating an advanced sophomore curriculum should the resources for it ever become available. The biggest problem with that though, resources aside, is my school’s first year. It currently is not program-specific—students from GD, architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, studio arts, etc, are all together for our freshman year in two studio classes and a design culture class. It’s wonderful for getting cross-disciplinary feedback and fostering a common vocabulary, but would make identifying students who could handle and advanced sophomore program a little more difficult even with the portfolio-based admission process.

  26. Wow! I need to seriously check this book out. The design of it looks beautiful. Thanks for the review, :) Good Stuff!

  27. Hi Robert - with Christmas just around the corner
    perhaps you could add it to your list?

    Cheers,

    Dave Mac

    G3 Creative Scotland

  28. Here’s a shot of the UK edition cover:

  29. TypoJunkie

    Good points guys!

    I “read” the UK version and decided to buy it. As I bought it from Leslie’s website, the controversial cover came in the mail (to my shock). Overall, I think it’s a good book (content–wise), but not so good typographically speaking. A little messy and playful, qualities I don’t particularly associate with good typography. And I do feel it tries to speak to everyone, instead of targeting one sector of the design public, and although I don’t particularly think this is bad, I wish he had picked his audience more specifically.

    Oh, and I’m a graphic designer specialized in packaging, although I went typographical/type designer for two years during my recently–finished MA. Right now I’m trying to get back to packaging, but I’m finding it a bit hard after the MA experience.

  30. Thought this from John D Berry’s blog was interesting (in light of some of the comments above):

    Browsing through a local bookstore yesterday, I kept picking up interesting-looking new books and opening them, only to put them down again when I saw the inside typography. An uninviting text page can put off any reader; it’s just that as a typographer and a book designer, I can tell exactly what it is that puts me off.

    TypoJunkie
    Why the intended move back to packaging?

  31. Justin
    Yes, the school topic is a huge issue with the industry right now I think. Personally, I can’t agree with you on the portfolio screening because some of the students I went to school with went from absolute nothing to a more than average designer by the time they were finished school. One think I think that the design programs (graphic more specifically) should have is a prerequisite of knowing the basics of the programs you will be working with. I had some people in my class that NEVER opened an Adobe program before entering school. Totally wrong.

    Typejunkie
    A little messy and playful, qualities I don’t particularly associate with good typography.
    There has to be a method to the madness of playful and busy type. Otherwise it just looks all over the place and unorganized. Really great post, I completely agree.

    Johno
    I think I just think like John D. Berry. I have done exactly the same thing many many times. Looks like I will have to check his blog out.

  32. Cody:
    “One think I think that the design programs (graphic more specifically) should have is a prerequisite of knowing the basics of the programs you will be working with. I had some people in my class that NEVER opened an Adobe program before entering school. Totally wrong.”

    I agree, actually–after rereading what I posted, I find that I didn’t quite express my full train of thought . I wish my freshman year had been about the basics of typography, layout, etc, and the software, that we’re getting now in our sophomore year. As it’s set up now, it’s certainly not bad. I can’t help but feel like it would have been to everyone’s advantage if the program were set up differently–at the very least making sure all freshman are given some level of familiarity across Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, Dreamweaver, & even AutoCAD before we’re separated into the different programs.

    I was fine with PS and fumbling with Illy before my first year started, and now can say I’m competent across the first three…and now that I’m on Giftmas Break, I’ll be trying to get some basic Flash/Dreamweaver skills before I get back into studio.

    One thing that would be nice to have along with our CS3 bundle: FontLab (or one of the other two big font creation apps). Sigh. A boy can dream.

  33. Justin
    >One thing that would be nice to have along with our CS3 bundle: FontLab (or one of the other two big font creation apps). Sigh. A boy can dream.

    A student license for FontLab Studio 5 is just $250, right? And a student license for TypeTool is just $99… even cheaper. Way cheaper than a lot of the other hardware/software we tend to buy…

    Cody
    I’m afraid I can’t go along with the idea of software pre-requisites for undergrad design programs :(

    I knew PageMaker, some Quark and some Photoshop before I went to design school in the late 90s, but it didn’t really put me at any advantage over the students who had less exposure. Furthermore, I were I was studying, we had painting majors who before they started, had never painted! But they had one thing… they had drive. That’s what really matters. The night before a big deadline’ll teach you whatever software skills you don’t know, as long as you are driven enough. This was my experience, at least…

  34. Err… “Furthermore, where I was studying, we had…” not “Furthermore, I were I was studying, we had…” sorry :(

  35. The design of it looks beautiful. Thanks for the sharing…

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