Coles, Stephen. The Anatomy of Type: A Graphic Guide to 100 Typefaces.

NY: HarperCollins, 2012.

I am not and never could be a designer, either of typography or anything else, but I’m enough of a book-junky to appreciate the differences between the way type looks on the page (both in blocks of text and as headings), or on road signs, or on billboards.

Most people pay no attention to the type that forms the words they’re reading, and that’s usually a good thing. The best, most readable body type — Garamond, Goudy, Caslon, Georgia — is unobtrusive. It doesn’t call attention to itself. Helvetica, on the other hand, while terrible in text, is extremely legible from three feet away, at any angle and in a variety of sizes. That’s why it’s the most ubiquitous typeface in any part of the world that uses Roman letters.

Coles is very much a designer and he’s extremely familiar with the telling details of a huge number of faces. He can identify almost any typeface at a glance, and he knows what each one is good for. And in this very nicely composed volume, he passes the most important part of that information on to the reader. He divides the faces (not “fonts”) into the traditional families and gives a two-page spread to each, with details on the original designer and foundry and date of release. He provides a word or phrase at large size with the distinguishing characteristics noted, a brief description of its place in the scheme of things, a full character set, and a short list of comparable faces, just in case you’re looking for an alternative. His comments are historical, biographical, artistic, and commercial, and no matter how much you think you already know about type, you’ll learn something knew on nearly every page.

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Published in: on 6 December 2014 at 7:27 am  Leave a Comment  

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