I Love Typography

Type Faces

An Interview With Ellen Lupton
Graphic designer, curator, artist, educator and writer, Ellen Lupton is perhaps best known for her Thinking With Type—a book that in many respects opened up typography to a wider audience. Many have remarked that she made learning about typography fun; and ‘do I look fat in this paragraph’ and ‘typography is what language looks like’ are now oft-quoted phrases. She also stirred up some controversy over her Free Fonts Manifesto, which you can read about here.

How did you become interested in typography?

I discovered typography as an art student in the early 1980s. I had played around with lettering in an amateur way as a teenager, but I had no notion of typography until I was exposed to it in a typography course taught by George Sadek and William Bevington at Cooper Union. I was stunned.


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永远都在寻觅字体设计的 灵感。夏天过后,我买了一套便宜的书法钢笔,说服自己,它会让我的鸡爬字产生脱胎换骨的变化。在浪费了一个星期和几打白纸之后,我还是没得到什么有趣的或 是有稍微艺术气息的东西。最后,在一天晚上,疲倦而失望的我,在用完了黑色墨水之后,插入了一支红色的笔芯,然后写下了下面这一套字母表——之后它变成了 我的 Joules字族。我想,如果我在这个案例研究中把它如何变成字体的过程写出来,大家也许会感兴趣。
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Sunday Type: Iso Type

Give me my Fix

January is certainly the month of lists, and here’s MyFonts list of their Top Ten Fonts of 2007. My personal favourites are these two. The first is a ‘handwriting’ font inspired by a handwriting sample from the 1930s. Mark van Bronkhorst turned it into a font and named it Sacre Bleu:


The next is Jeremy Dooley’s (Insigne Foundry) Aviano and Aviano Sans, the rich- and rather dignified-looking all-caps display faces.

aviano typeface

One List to Rule Them all

Of course the real list (the list we’re all waiting for) is Typographica’s favourite typefaces of 2007.

Typographica’s review of our favorite typefaces of 2007 is in production and we’ll publish it far more promptly than in past years. Keep your refresh fingers pushing and your feed readers running — the article will grace this space very soon.

If you can’t survive the next few days(?) until Typographic’s best of 2007 list, then you can get your fix through past lists: 2006, 2005 and 2004. That should alleviate the withdrawal symptoms until the next one.

Here are a couple of my favourites from 2005-2006:

Omnes by Joshua Darden:


and Zingha by Xavier Dupré:


One of my regular sources of inspiration is AisleOne, and I found this site on his links list. There’s some fine work to be found on the ISO50 web site; I particularly like this rather edible looking poster:


And here’s another rather comfortable and inspiring example from AisleOne:


The next item is here, not because I’m suggesting you buy this calendar from Linotype (though you can if you really want to, of course), but rather here to inspire. How about making your own type-calendar. A different type for each month, perhaps; or type treatments like those below. I like May:

linotype calendar

If you make one that you’re particularly pleased with, why not submit it as a wallpaper.

Moving Type, created by Seb Lester, was featured in the 2007 Typophile Film Festival, and demonstrates the varied emotions that type elicits. I mentioned above the rich-looking Aviano. There are other types that shout corporate, while others exude confidence and elegance, or conjure up whole eras. I’m sure you can think of many such examples.
YouTube Preview Image
And here’s one of Seb’s typefaces, Neo Sans—also used for this article’s header. Thanks, Seb.

Neo Sans

Readers’ Type

It’s really encouraging to come across the work of iLT readers. Nour is a regular reader and was inspired to have a go at type design upon reading Alec’s So You Want to Create a Font series (part 1 | part 2).

web geometric by Nour

Many seem to be put off by the amount of work involved in creating a font. However, what’s to say that you ever have to complete and publish it. Why not create just the lowercase—or even a few letters—for your own use. In the process, you will learn a great deal about how type works, and your good type radar will become that much more sensitive. So don’t be put off by font creation software, discretionary ligatures and kerning—take up your pencil and paper and get drawing. You won’t regret it. If you do have a go, be sure to let me know.

Coming up…

I have so many articles prepared, that I’m really not sure which to post first, so just this time, I’ll let you decide:

Here are your options:

1. An interview with Ellen Lupton;

2. Talking About Type (a kind of essay about type the way we talk and write about it);

3. Type Terms—Transitional Type, part 3 (part 1 | part 2).

All of the above will be published, but it’s for you to choose the next one to be published on Wednesday or Thursday.

And finally…

Well, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing (kerning, gardening, washing the car…), have a great Sunday.

15 Great Examples of Web Typography

The List: Q1 2008

What better way to start the year than with a little typographic inspiration. Last year I published 15 Excellent Examples of Web Typography, and owing to its popularity and people’s sateless appetite for lists, here are another 15. I’ve decided to make this a regular feature and will publish this list every quarter (3 months [for those living on Mars, that’s every 5.7 months]).

Some of the designs are here for their simplicity, and they demonstrate that sometimes less really is more. Others made it onto the list simply because they use text well, or they demonstrate how the grid should be used. Although I’m sure that a number of these sites are very accessible and validate against HTML99 and the like, they exist here not because of that and not because they are pretty (though sometimes they are), but because of their treatment of text—their typography. Well, here they are (in no particular order). Enjoy.

Webstock—mixing it up:


Happy Cog—note how the main menu items are incorporated in the opening paragraph:


The Morning News—transferring that magazine or newspaper look to the screen is sometimes disastrous. This one gets it right:

Typography. The Morning News

SpiekermannPartners—this is how you use a grid (note: no footers):


Rainfall Daffinson—the not-so-invisible grid:

Typography. Rainfall Faffinson

Porchez Typofonderie—typetastique:


AIGA NY—clean and simple:

Typography. AIGA NY

Fray—a nice slab of serif:

Typography. Fray

Cameron i/o—just text. I’m rarely a fan of light text on a dark background, but…

Typography. Camero i/o

Upstart Blogger—web typography gone Swiss. A white-space feast:

Typography. Upstart Blogger

Frieze—I’m sure you’ll recognise the logo font:

Typography. Frieze Magazine

Freelance Switch—organised and structured:

Typography. Freelance Switch

Monday by Noon—another simple one, and fluid to boot:

Monday by Noon

A Brief Message—nice use of sIFR:

Typography. Ripped From the News

Words are Pictures—nice text and gorgeous illustration; shame about the silly scrolling thing:

Typography. Words are Pictures

What do you think?

And who can name the font used in the header for this article?

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Sunday Type: Feel Type

Sayonara 2007

Welcome to the last Sunday Type of 2007. It has certainly been an interesting year. I recently received an email from a reader pointing out that the links to my archives, prior to August 2007 are missing. Well, of course, that’s because iLT didn’t come into existence until that month; it certainly feels as though we’ve been here a lot longer than that.

A little audiovisual stimulation to get us started. I really like these new 30-second spot commercials for British Airways.

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

Thanks to typeforyou.org for the link

How would you like your Garamond, Ma’am?

A really quite wonderful article, Garamond vs Garamond—physiologie d’un caractère typographique, by Peter Gabor, taking a closer look at the different flavours of Garamond. No doubt there are many Garamond fans among you; but which one? Adobe’s Garamond, Simoncini, Stempel, ITC?


Barney has very kindly taken the time to translate the entire article into English: Garamond v Garamond—Physiology of a Typeface. Thank you, Barney). I can’t describe how impressed I am with this article—it’s beautifully written too. Reading this was the highlight of my week—not sure what that reveals about me and my life. Anyway, I wonder what Claude Garamond would make of these? And what about the other Garamonds that don’t bear the name?

Garamond's many flavours

Many thanks to the eagle-eyed Manuel Martensen for sending me the link.

I also like this cover from the PDF magazine, Blanket. Some interesting text treatments inside too. I don’t like that drop-shadow under the text on the cover, but overall…nice.


You can download the PDF from fontanel. The Aqua Issue set in Teardrop, with Canstop used for titling—both freebies from Dafont. Neither font is a masterpiece of type design, but they are fun, and they work well in this context.

In my interview with type designer Neil Summerour, he mentioned the work of Alejandro Paul. You may have spotted Alejandro in the comments to that article. Well, I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned his web site before, so here it is: sudtipos.com. And here’s a little taste of his rather gorgeous Feel Script,


There’s also a short piece on Erik Spiekermann’s blog that I like. Always interesting to know how type designers feel about the use and abuse of their typefaces. The article is called Dublin Type.

iLT in 2008

I have a number of type-related plans for 2008. First is a news site that’s like Digg but just for type-related news; if it ain’t type, then it’s not news. Not sure what to call the site yet. The working title is type nuts (type-related news). I thought it would be nice to have all the type-related news in one place; and also a good way to further promote all things type. It would also be interesting to see which kind of news items are most popular. So, if you publish a type-related article, or you come across something that gets your typographic juices flowing, then you can submit it to typenuts.


The site will go live some time in January. Also, I haven’t forgotten the typography wiki; I’m in the process of starting the design from scratch again—it will be very simple to look at, and hopefully very simple to find your way around. More on that later.


I’d really welcome any comments and suggestions you may have—especially on the typenuts news site. Just leave a comment below or send me a mail. I’ll also be redesigning this site a little to make it more easily navigable.

Coming soon (2008!)

Next up we have another 15 Excellent Examples of Web Typography. I think I’ll make this a regular feature (publishing a list every quarter, then a review of the best of the best at the close of each year.). If you missed the first one, you can find it here.

And if you haven’t already played with TypeFlash, then….

And finally…

I would love to hear your feedback on iLT in 2007. Do you have a favourite article? Is there something you’d like to see more of in 2008? A huge thank you to all those who have contributed to iLT. And an extra big (100pt) thank you to Alec Julien for his three articles—So You Want to Create a Font, parts one and two and his Joules Font Case Study; to Julie Elman for her The apostrophe doesn’t swing both ways; to Cody Curley for his review of The Logo, Font and Lettering Bible; to Dan Reynolds for his review of Counterpunch; and to Kris Sowersby and Neil Summerour for being such great interviewees. If I listed everyone, it would start to sound like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Oscar acceptance speech, so I’ll just say thank you! I hope that you all have a very happy, productive, creative and typographically exquisite New Year! See you in 2008.

Type faces

Neil has published over 40 typeface families (over 420 fonts). In 1992 he opened his own foundry, Positype. He has also lectured on type design in Japan and the U.S., and his fonts have been used by the likes of XXL Magazine, MTV, VH1 and Sony/Tristar.

How did you get started in type design?

That’s a curious question….It happened a few years after I graduated from the Graphic Design Department at The University of Georgia. While I was in college, I studied under Ron Arnholm, a masterful type designer who most notably created the Legacy typeface family. Having already fell in love with fonts and the creation of letterforms and all of the minutia surrounding it, the injection of Arnolm into my education laid the foundation for me developing into a type designer. That said, years later I was invited to sit through a lecture by a visiting designer, a big name to say the least, so I was intrigued and went.

scan of Neil Summerour's type sketch

I’m not naming names solely because I do not want to insult anyone, but after the lecture I was so annoyed and aggravated at the lack of talent and amazing luck this designer had, I literally said to myself as I walked out of the auditorium “if this guy can do it, I sure as hell can!” So, I immediately went home and started sketching my first two type families that would later be picked up by T-26 in Chicago.

Why type design?

I love it. I love contributing to the evolving historical threads of communication. As a type designer, I provide visual tools that allow creatives to communicate, express and engage the masses. It’s exciting, awe inspiring and humbling to think someone chooses a font you have poured a part of your life into for months or years for something they are designing…and you get paid for it…it’s a win-win. Besides, nothing is sexier than a smooth bezier curve :)

What do you like most about type design? Which part of the process do you enjoy the most?

The concept. I like finding that ‘little something’ that lights the creative fire and gives me the energy to push through a design. My style varies depending on the type of font I am developing. The stylistic diversity keeps me from getting bored with it and each time, each new design, each completed glyph allows me to refine my skill. What I enjoy most is seeing all of the ‘parts’, be it the diacritics or opentype features, come together and ‘work’ on the screen on paper.

What kind of approach do you take when designing typefaces?

I get an idea and it sits in my head for a long time before I sketch it out. I have to like it in my imagination a long time before I put it on paper. I usually keep 5-7 new designs in the works at all times. Some of the sketches never get completed because I see something too similar to another design or I just end up not liking it.

What do you like least about type design?

The wait. Once a design or type family gets to a certain point, I can never seem to work fast enough to finish it.

What are some of your favourite typefaces, and why?

That’s not easy. There are so many. My answer will be a reflex to the question because if I think too long, I will either never finish the question or write way to much:
1. Scala Sans by Martin Majoor. That is a beautiful family. I’m attracted to this type of organic, mechanical, technically clean type of sans serif. This is not his only masterpiece, but it is a favorite.

Scala Sans by Martin Majoor

2. Legacy Serif by Ron Arnholm. No one has done a better Jenson than Ron Arnholm. This is one of the best digital typefaces that doesn’t look digital. I expect to see type fairies flying away with magical lead type after seeing a piece expertly set in this typeface family.

Legacy Serif

3. The expansive type family Leitura by Dino dos Santos. Dino’s work is consistently gorgeous. This is one of the most reliable families out there. Each style has a place somewhere within the context of the design and the diversity of offerings within the family make using it as workhorse type family possible.

leitura italic

4. Affair by Alejandro Paul. I know Alejandro has some newer work but this a major favorite of mine. Why? It’s lush and fun. You can’t use it everywhere, but its OpenType diversity allows you decide how much fun you want to have at any one time.


5. Avenir by Adrian Frutiger. When I need a font, I look to this one first to see if it will work.


What advice would you give to aspiring type designers (to beginners)?

Don’t go to the computer too soon. Spend time sketching the font out on paper and in your head. ‘See’ it and understand the eccentricities it must have to really achieve the goals you have set for it. Read, observe and experiment…understand that your first few designs may never ‘sell’ or even be completed but the process of designing type and failing i just as important as succeeding. And, be original…don’t do what everyone else is doing. It’s boring.

What kind of approach do you take when teaching your students about typographic design?

When I have the opportunity to teach at The University of Georgia it’s always in electronic graphic design which encompasses both advanced Photoshop® and web design but type and how and when to use it are always one of the first considerations I press to the students. Good type use or type manipulation can make or break a piece. Many times I borrow a quote from Yusaku Kamekura (a prolific and influential Japanese designer) that “good is good”, As a designer, with the knowledge you have and have been taught, you know when something is just “good”….it’s a feeling that your design, your creation invokes when you and others look at it. In many ways, type and typographic design is just that…you know when it is good. In my opinion, the great designer knows how to make it even better.

What is your proudest achievement?

As ridiculous and as cheesy as it sounds, I really have to say I haven’t been completely satisfied with any one project….yet. As a designer and businessman, so much of my time has been spent building up my core businesses: Sliced Bread, my advertising agency in Athens, Georgia and the TypeTrust in Chicago that I often do not have the time I would like to spend on my ‘work’. As a designer, as with any designer, you go through a maturation process where you begin to ‘see’ good work and can repeatedly produce it…as well as guide others to do the same. I’ve hit that stride and am excited with what I am doing now, but have not produced that great ‘piece’ yet. I think I’m proudest trying to be a good husband and dad.

What plans do you have for the future?

Continued work and development with my business partner, Silas Dilworth, to make TypeTrust a great distribution portal for really excellent typefaces. For personal typeface work, I’m finishing up a nice techno display sans, called Ginza, that will be released in January 2008. I will continue work on a heavily involved, versatile script, called Eros, and a recut of my first font families, Iru1 and Iru2.

Eros sample

[You can see more of Neil’s types at TypeTrust.]

In this weekend’s regular Sunday Type, I’ll be writing about some of the exciting things iLT has planned for 2008. You can subscribe to I Love Typography and never miss an issue.

Sunday type: Evan’s Type

A Merry Typemas

Am I really writing this on the eve of Christmas Eve! Goodness—all in the name of type. Anyway, I didn’t want you missing your weekly Sunday Type. If there’s anyone sober out there, here goes. Let’s start with an Epic, or rather the Epic typeface from Neil Summerour.

Epic from Neil Summerour

I won’t say too much more about Neil’s types, as I recently interviewed him for iLT and will publish it in the New Year. In the meantime, you might like to take a look at some of his types here.

Here’s an absolutely gorgeous poster from David Bennewith. One of those things that I instantly knew I just had to have. Thanks to Kris Sowersby for the link.


For fans of Wim Crouwel and those seeking inspiration, take a look at the Crouwel Flickr Group.


This is a great idea (though firmly rooted outside the realms of my financial means). These beautiful illustrations by Edward Lear have been reproduced at gargantuan sizes—a collaboration between Surface View and the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum).


It’s one of those pretty but hopelessly stupid Flash web sites, so I’ll need to give you a map and a compass to navigate your way to the page (Isn’t that insane! What are URIs for—goodness me!). You’ll need to visit Surface View, then click Collections, then click the V&A sub-menu, then click Edward Lear - Alphabet (thoroughly stupid navigation, but the illustrations are worth it).

Metro Script

And here’s a pretty script from Umbrella Type that’s worth taking a look at,


New Kid on the Block

Please give a warm welcome to a new blogger on the scene. He’s small and he loves books. However, his being small no doubt has something to do with his age—he’s just 10 years old. When I was 10 years old (and it’s a stretch to remember that far back), the Internet didn’t exist—hard to comprehend now.


I know this particular news item is not type-related, but it’s Christmas and I was so thoroughly impressed with this young chap, that I couldn’t help but mention it. The blog is called Evan’s Book Site. Be sure to take a look, leave a comment, and tell your own children about it. Perhaps I should get him involved in my Type for Kids book—now there’s a thought: co-authoring a book with a ten-year old (guess I’ll have to ask his dad (Andy Rutledge) first.

And finally…

This news item via Mark Simonson: Arial Exam. Well, it made me smile.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Type Faces

An Interview With Kris Sowersby

Many of you will have heard of Kris Sowersby, and something tells me that we’re going to be hearing a lot more about him. He’s the guy behind the sans serif typeface National and the serif typeface Feijoa; he was also on the team of three that created (perhaps type of the year?) FF Meta Serif.

How did you get started designing type?

There was a point at design school when I realised that I loved drawing letterforms, so much so that I would prefer to make typefaces than become a graphic designer. I think it was when I was drawing/copying Bembo letter by letter, trying to understand how it was put together. I noticed that the arch of the ‘n’ subtly curves into into the right-hand stem—all the way down into the serif.


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Sunday Type: x-rated type!

Madame Loves Typography Too

Welcome to 2007’s penultimate Sunday Type. Can you believe that 2008 is almost upon us? I remember, as a child, dreaming about the magical year 2000. Well, that’s quite enough reminiscing; don’t want to short out my keyboard with sentimental tears. I had so much material for today’s Sunday Type that I was going to save some of it for next week’s; but that might smack of mean-spiritedness, and it’s Christmas (almost), so you get it all.

Do you like Madame? No, not that Madame! Linotype’s Madame. She’s had a facelift of sorts: she is now available in the OpenType font format, which will be a relief for many—it should making using her much easier.


Thanks to Dan at TypeOff for the link, the byline and for creating the header. Sadly I don’t have Madame (yet). Be sure to subscribe to Dan’s blog—it’s really shaping into a good resource and a great read. After the success of Dan’s Counterpunch review, you’ll probably be seeing some more of him here.

Thinking about next year: I’m always looking at ways to improve iLT. One of the things I was intent on doing was having contributors; I’ve already had some great ones, and there are many more to come; if you’re interested in writing for iLT, then let me know.

The FontWall is not much more than an idea right now. The lists of monthly ‘fonts’ is growing, so I wanted a place to ‘archive them’, so the FontWall was born; I have a few ideas for it; perhaps you have some ideas of your own? I promise to at least tidy it up!


Perhaps another title to add to your Christmas shopping list is Foyle’s Philavery—a treasury of unusual words; it’s not a type title, but it is rather pretty; and word lovers and wordsmiths will love it. I like the cover. The paper quality is a little poor but, for the price (and content), it’s worth it. The only thing that bugs me about the cover is that rather ‘isolated’ apostrophe. Anyway, the flowers are pretty ;)


I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy any fonts this month. I failed again and bought Feijoa Display; I’ll add the other weights later; that’s always something to keep in mind: that one can buy these great typefaces piecemeal. So, for me, I just wanted to set the header of the interview with Kris Sowersby in Feijoa, and that’s why I opted for the display weight only; later I can buy the other weights and use it for setting texts or whatever.


Isn’t she gorgeous.

If you remember back as far as 15 Excellent Examples of Web Typography, you may also remember that FontShop’s site was in the list. Well, I guess their web designer had some spare time on his hands and thought, how can I make it better?

Sporting more than just a shiny new exterior, the new FontShop.com boasts some solid improvements under the hood, too. Our Font Detail pages have always been the place to get the nitty-gritty on every font in the shop, but the new advanced Character Set viewer lets you see every glyph of every font so you can get even more nitty and gritty.

And the result is great. I wonder if he’ll redesign iLT? That reminds me: if there’s anything that really bugs you about this site (I’m thinking about the design, not me), then let me know.


I just had to include this little story: Kelly Patrick Robinson, an iLT reader from San Diego left this message on my FaceBook profile,

Last night, I found myself in a coffee bar, and my mate asked me to explain a bit about typography. Luckily, there was a newspaper handy, and with the help of an iPhone, the conversation eventually visited iLoveTypography. The site itself became a visual aid.

Made my day.


A few gorgeous new desktop wallpapers (these two designed by Zachary):



She won 700 Penguins!

I said I’d give a copy of 700 Penguins to someone whose question is used for the interview with Kris Sowersby. In fact, I’ve chosen several readers’ questions, so several names went into the hat, and out came Lauren Marie’s. Congratulations, Lauren.

Hoefler & Frere-Jones

If you haven’t heard of H&FJ, then…well, you should have. Not only do they produce some of the most beautiful types on the planet, but they’ve also been running a great Typographic Gifts for Designers Series; I’ve mentioned some of them here before. If you forget how to spell their names, never fear, because they have the best domain name on the Web—typography.com. You’ll find links to all the featured gifts in the left-hand column of the H&FJ web site.


And here’s a taste of some H&FJ love,


I think I need to take a cold shower now! Positively x-rated.

The Sarabande Press

For twenty-odd years, the Sarabande Press has been producing beautiful letterpress limited editions. In that time they’ve designed and typeset over a thousand different books, from novels to scholarly books for major museums, and just about everything in between. I like that they have some short videos showcasing some of their work (perhaps I could do something similar when reviewing books here on iLT). I only wish that those videos were a little larger. Be sure to watch the Beinecke Peep Show video too.


Thanks to Ilisha for the link.

Coming Up

I’d like to thank those who have contributed financially to iLT. We’ve hit the $30 mark. Once the six-part Type Terms is finished, I will rewrite all the articles and publish the entire series in a single PDF file to download (should be around 30 or 40 pages). When writing those articles, I only publish a fraction of what I write in my notebooks (or you’d be scrolling down to Hades), so the PDF will be a much extended version. To support iLT overheads, I might charge for the PDF (a couple of dollars, perhaps).

Face to Face, a new feature on iLT where I interview type-people I like. First on Face to Face is the wonderfully talented, Kris Sowersby—I’ll publish the interview on Wednesday; I think you’re going to like it—a lot! I’ve almost finished writing the third part in the Type Terms series, Transitional. These take quite a while to research, so I’ll most likely publish it around Christmas. Can anyone think of something more original than Face to Face?

And finally…

Since starting iLT, I’ve received hundreds and hundreds of messages from readers—everything from “can you name this typeface for me?” to “can you give me some fonts?” to “are you single?” (that one went into the sympathy pile); but this one has to be the strangest:

Hi there.

I’m thinking of getting a tattoo. I realise making a permanent mark on one’s body is a big decision, and one that I’ll have to live with for many years. I want the word ‘truth’ tattooed on the inside of my wrist and I need to choose a font for it. Being the type guy, I thought that you or your readers might have some wise input. I’ve explored various options, and so far I’m leaning towards using Baskerville for its classic look (the mark still has to look good 30 years into the future…)
Sorry to bug you directly, but I’m not sure how else to go about contacting ILT.
Many thanks in advance!

Anonymous Roger Gordon.


Have a great Sunday, folks.


Several Reading University classmates of mine from the typeface design programme share a small house. On the dining room wall is a poster that reads:

To be blunt, and it is good advice to serious newcomers: do not make the mistake of being afraid to be labelled ‘conventional’, ‘traditional’, or any other such dusty term.

If someone is compiling recommendations for aspiring type designers, include this one. It comes from Fred Smeijers’ 2004 book, Type Now: A Manifesto. Eight years earlier, Hyphen Press — Type Now’s publisher — released Smeijers’, Counterpunch. A book about typeface design, Counterpunch is also about possible lessons that sixteenth-century punchcutters from France and the low countries have for all of us today.



Fred Smeijers, Counterpunch: making type in the sixteenth century, designing typefaces now. London: Hyphen Press, 1996. 220 × 145mm, 192 pages. At the moment, only for sale at Typotheque.com. Typeset in Renard, which may be licensed from the Enschedé Font Foundry. Printed on really nice paper.

Why now?

Writing a review about Counterpunch is a daunting task. It feels a bit like travelling back in time to review Laurence Olivier on stage. Moreover, Smeijers is alive and well, teaching, designing, and moving our consciousness forward; since his book was published, it has been widely discussed, at least in typographic circles. My review comes 12 years late.

There has been much discussion about “recommended reading” on iLT as of late. After the recent review of the Logo, Font, and Lettering Bible, John asked me if I would write an article of my own. No single book can act as a complete introduction to typeface design, but everyone may have their own favourites — so sharing the titles can be a good idea. Counterpunch is one of these for me.

A bit like The Elements of Typographic Style, Letters of Credit, or The Stroke, Counterpunch can have a sort of messianic effect. When I was in college, I saw one student inspired to start cutting his own punches. It took me longer to move toward typeface design, but once I did, I was lucky to come across Counterpunch again. The note on my halftitle page reminds me that I bought it in March 2004. My copy has been well-worn ever since.



Most common typographic literature seems to be written in English these days, even by writers with other first languages. Whereas aspiring designers in continental Europe or other parts of the world may have problems parsing the lyrical texts of say, Robert Bringhurst, Smeijers writes with a direct, beautiful clarity. Is this a trait of his native Dutch? In many regards, if you aren’t a native English-speaker, Counterpunch might be a good first typography book; or at least your English-language one.


Smeijers’ commentary on written strokes, how these relate to letters or words, and the different kinds of letter-making are worth the price of admission alone. This book, and much of his work itself, seems to have arisen out of a need to describe typography to engineers — but they are both more than just simple explanations. Each chapter could stand alone as a single lesson on a given topic. They work together, but separately form a collection of references that may be revisited individually at any time. I will spare you a repetition of Counterpunch’s contents and highlights — that would be like giving away the ending of a film. This is a review, not a summary.

Just as one cannot become a photographer by reading a book about Photoshop, typeface design is not about learning how to use FontLab, or even about learning how to control vector outlines. Many aspirants become seduced by flashy help guides, and think that simple software knowledge will take them to their goal. Smeijers explains how the masters of the past made type in actual size, at a “resolution” of c. 2540 dpi. Only a few names are mentioned in this book; that might be because these characters have each shaped the way that writing in the West would appear for centuries. The ways by which sixteenth century punchcutters thought is what must be comprehended, not the newest key combinations in the latest software programmes.

Software itself will offer no help — it is just a means to an end. This book hardly mentions font creation applications at all. Counterpunch could have been written today, or at any time since the mid-1980s. It doesn’t matter, because it gets to the root of typeface design rather quickly. Typeface design is about the interplay between black and white shapes. I know that this idea might sound cliché because you can read about it in every type designer interview. If you’ve seen the Helvetica movie, then you have heard it there, too. Isn’t there a clip on the Internet somewhere where Erik Spiekermann mentions it? This repetition is the truth. So take that clip of Erik’s voice and turn it up to 11. Then play it on auto-repeat.

Toward the end of Counterpunch, Smeijers’ tone takes on the timbre of a Jeremiah in the wilderness, a message that extends into Type Now. The methods we use in our work may not include the best possibilities, and it this reminder that can only be of benefit to us. Smeijers’ work illustrates tendencies that may be followed in word and deed. How many of us today are better, quicker, and more deliberate because of this book?



Counterpunch is more than a book. It is also a love letter to Hendrik van den Keere and a type specimen for the Renard family. The reader will find much to discover, such as sound definitions for a few old terms, a narrative of a father–son relationship, commentary on a Harry Carter translation of a Pierre Simon Fournier tract; or information about the French punchcutter Pierre Haultin, who is more obscure than he deserves! Over 12 years, Counterpunch has meant many things to its readers. What it means to me today is an unsettling feeling, deep inside my gut. The feeling asks me, “Is Smeijers serious? Should I really turn a working method on it’s head? Is it a better to draw the counters first?”

I think so. Draw your letters from the inside out – they will be better.

[Dan Reynolds is a postgraduate student in typeface design as well as a foundry
copywriter. You can see his personal blog at www.typeoff.de

Sunday Type: Present Type

The Gift of Christmas Type

Christmas is fast approaching, and I’ve resisted the temptation to add snow and tinsel to my header. There will be no snow on this blog. I’m sure that most of you—being incredibly well-organised—will have completed your Christmas shopping by now. For those who haven’t, here are some gift ideas for those who love type. Depending on your budget (and how much you like the intended recipient), there’s something for just about everyone.

For typenuts with a sweet tooth, how about this:


I don’t recommend typesetting an entire book with these. Thanks to Mark for sending me this link.

Start your day with a coffee in one of these. Type and Latte combined; could it get any better?


Via the wonderful Hoefler & Frere-Jones (always a great place for beautiful type-related things). Or, how about these absolutely stunning Wood Type Notecards:


Have a secret crush on Zuzana Licko? (me too. Guess it’s no longer a secret; but then how could anyone fail to fall for the woman behind Mrs Eaves and Emigre magazine?) Then buy an Emigre t-shirt, and relive the good old days of the best Design magazine ever to grace the news-stands.


Still on the t-shirt theme, why not a Typophile t-shirt. You’ll have to wait until the New Year for the I Love Typography T-shirts, I’m afraid.

Typophile t-shirts

Buy a great T-shirt and at the same time support our favourite source of quality free fonts, Exljbris:


Fallen in love with a typenut? Win her heart, by putting the FontBook in her stocking—you’ll need a big stocking, preferably with steel reinforcement as this one weighs in at a pretty hefty 3kg (6.6 lb)!


YouTube Preview Image

How about a type sample book? Why not make your own. Have a friend who loves Template Gothic or who’s crazy for Meta Serif, Feijoa or Kinescope? Make a sample book and get it printed at BookSmart.


For Type Sample inspiration and tips, see Ellen Lupton’s web site, or ask one of the friendly type designers here.

Don’t forget to buy yourselves something for Christmas. And what better gift than a typeface. Here are a few to get you started:







There are many more in the black sidebar on the right, or you can peruse the vast FontFont library of fonts. Or, how about a type book? Choose from the recommended books above and to your right (unless you’re reading this standing on your head); or take a look at one of these:


I have all but Letters of Credit (recommended by Dan of TypeOff [happy birthday]); I’ve read all the others and can recommend them.

Other News

For those of you who like your type without counters, you’ll like this:


Lost Type

My flight was cancelled after a scary aborted take-off, so I had to fly via Amsterdam and South Korea; and in all that chaos, I lost my type design notebooks! No great loss to the world, but annoying nonetheless.

Budget Type

And if you’re really broke, then why not send your friends a life-time subscription to I Love Typography. It’s completely free, and always will be. That way you’ll be giving me the gift of a new visitor too :)

Coming Soon

The third part in the type terminology series—Transitional Type. Also an article on Serifs—really a long-overdue follow-up to the Who Shot the Serif? article; and much more.

Have a great Sunday everyone, and a typographically lovely Christmas.

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.


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.

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
144 Logo Layouts 52;
Typestyles Categorized 56;
A Date With Numerals 58
PART 2: Drawing Letters………60

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.


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!



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.


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.
[Cody is a Communication Designer. You can see his personal blog here.]

Coming Soon:

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

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