Book Review - The Non-Designer's Type Book by Robin Williams
As an avid reader and (some would argue) somewhat-successful writer, I spend a lot of time looking at the printed word. But I don't have a full appreciation behind the effort and thought that goes into how that word gets transferred from writer to reader on paper. Robin Williams has a great book for those of us who are not professionals in the world of typesetting... The Non-Designer's Type Book.
Contents: Centuries of Type; The Art of Readability; The Art of Legibility; Quotation Marks - Or Not?; Hang that Punctuation; Punctuation Style; Shift that Baseline; OpenType & Expert Sets; Small Caps; Oldstyle Figures; Ligatures; Condensed and Extended Type; Display Type; Kerning; Linespacing (leading); Paragraph Spacing; Alignment; Headlines and Subheads; Pull Quotes; Captions; Emphasizing Type; Line Breaks and Hyphenation; Swash Characters; Initial Caps; Typographic Color; Ornaments & Dingbats; Pi & Picture Fonts; Don't be a Wimp!; Evocative Typography; Choose a Typeface; Telltale Signs of Desktop Publishing; Trends in Type; Typographic Terms; Listen to Your Eyes; Font and Product Vendors; Special Characters; Index
It's easy to look at something written and get an immediate impression as to whether it looks good or not. But it's really hard sometimes to know exactly why. Williams demystifies the whole world of print design in such a way that even a novice like me starts to "get it". Her explanation of font styles and when to use what should be required reading for everyone putting words to paper. Just because you can use 10 fonts in a report doesn't mean you should. Going a little deeper, you learn about kerning (spacing between letters) and how that can be adjusted for the best visual results. All of these subjects continue to build on each other, and by the end of the book you have a solid foundation on the subject. What makes the book even better is that her writing style is conversational and somewhat irreverent, and there are an abundance of examples on nearly every page. Even if you already know a particular rule (such as using smart quotes or hanging punctuation), the visual nature of her writing can be used to glean ideas for your own work. Reference and inspiration in a single volume is a hard thing to accomplish, but she pulls it off with ease.
This is another one of those books that will stay close at hand. This will probably be more of a "stay at home" book, as that's where a lot of my writing takes place. But it's guaranteed to get slotted in next to all my other volumes that allow me to make-believe I'm a writer. Great book...