Typography Matters

Although the tools available to typographers have changed quite a bit over the past 500 years, the underlying principles have not. Many typographic principles are inextricably connected to the human form — the length of our arms, the acuity of our eyes — these determine fundamental aspects of typography like type size, leading, and line length. But the advent of new ways of producing typography raises new challenges, whether that be sea-changes like paper to pixels or more recent technological advancements like OpenType, web fonts, and variable fonts.

In light of these developments, how can we navigate these changes and understand the core typographic principles?

The anatomy of type from Elliot J Stock’s Universal Principles of Typography

Enter Elliot Jay Stocks’ new Universal Principles of Typography, published by Rockport (an imprint of Quarto). The book beautifully illustrates 100 typographic principles, including forms of typographic hierarchy, the anatomy of type, guidelines for pairing type, typographic rhythm, and clear explanations of frequently confused and conflated terms such as font vs. typeface, character vs. glyph, and the distinction between script and writing system.

A lot of ground is covered, but perhaps the book’s greatest asset is its approachable and conversational style — it’s never condescendingly proscriptive or preachy.

The book practices what it preaches (see what I did there!) and is itself a fine example of modern, simple, and effective typography. Finding your way around the book is a breeze. I especially like the double-page spreads that mark the opening of main sections — a good example of bold, clearly defined typographic hierarchy.

Universal Principles of Typography is both an easily accessible typographic reference book and a tour de force of typography’s most essential tenets — it’s nothing short of a typographic Swiss Army knife that any designer would be wise to keep on hand.

Quick links

Elliot Jay Stock’s website
Buy Universal Principles of Typography.
Back Elliot’s Fine Specimens Kickstarter project.


Header fonts: Astronef by Typofonderie and Rig Solid by Jamie Clarke Type.

Your opinion, please

Are you interested in taking typography courses and workshops with Elliot Jay Stocks? We’re keen to hear your feedback!

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