Inside the Sketchbooks of the World's Greatest Type Designers

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From prolific design writer Steven Heller (previously) and collaborator Lita Talarico comes a fine new addition to both the 10 finest books on typography and our favorite peeks inside the notebooks of great creatorsTypography Sketchbooks is like a visual window into the minds of the world's most exciting type designers and, in turn, the intricate art-science of typography itself -- a medium both creative and practical that has to walk the tightrope between centuries-old tradition and bleeding-edge innovation with equal parts grace and agility in an era of changing reading habits and design expectations.

An understanding of content and context is essential, but, typographically speaking -- that is, in terms of the letterforms -- beauty, however defined, is key. The beauty of precision; the beauty of expression; the beauty of how one letter conjoins with others on either side of it and above and below; the beauty of how it looks on the page or screen. --Steven Heller

The hefty tome, weighing in at over three pounds and 350 pages, features work by more than 100 designers -- including icons like Paul Shaw, Matthew Carter, and Erik Spiekermann, and Brain Pickings favorites Doyald Young, Maira Kalman, and Milton Glaser -- each profiled in a micro-essay alongside the work. (Though I have to say I was surprised to find Marian Bantjes, whose I Wonder remains one of my 10 all-time favorite books about typography, absent from the book.)

Heller and Talarico's exquisite selection reveals two key archetypes of type designer: the designer as artist, using letterforms as a medium of self-expression and creative experimentation, and the designer as scientist, applying precision and technical acumen to create stunning yet utilitarian type commodities.

There are two kinds of type maker (though may more kinds of type user, which is another story). One is the precisionist or functional designer who creates typefaces for quotidian public consumption. The other is the gadfly or expressionist designer who makes -- or, rather, illustrates -- letters in any shape or form: legible or illegible, it doesn't matter, as long as it emotes. --Steven Heller

Typography Sketchbooks is a follow-up to Heller and Talarico's 2010 Graphic: Inside the Sketchbooks of the World's Great Graphic Designers, one of the five finest glimpses of creators' private notebooks.

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This post also appears on Brain Pickings, an Atlantic partner site.

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Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings. She writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

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