Text is crucial in all forms of design from websites to posters and digital graphics. By studying typography you’ll learn how to craft brilliant logos and websites that all function as expected.
There is no single best way to work with type. It varies with each project and content requirements.
Yet by studying typography you’ll learn how to pair fonts together and match styles regardless of the project. My goal with this post is to curate the best books on typography for all experience levels to help you improve your type design prowess.
Whether you’re looking to design a new font from scratch, or just match up some nice fonts from Google Webfonts, these books should have more than enough to help you move forward.
Thinking with Type
This is the de-facto book every designer should read. Thinking with Type has been around for years and it offers one of the clearest detailed looks into typography for all mediums.
You’ll learn everything about letter anatomy and how to pair fonts that work together. Again there is no single best formula for this, so a lot is learned through trial & error.
But with this book at your side you can reference ideas and suggestions from professional designer Ellen Lupton. She offers a lot of great advice for both beginners and experts alike, all of which can apply to pretty much every project.
I’m a huge fan of this book and it’s one of the few staples that belongs on every designer’s bookshelf.
Just note that the digital Kindle version has some screwy printing errors so it’s better to go with a physical copy if possible.
The Anatomy of Type
To dig deeper into type design I also recommend The Anatomy of Type by Stephen Coles. This one’s a bit newer and covers all the details about typography you usually don’t think about.
This book is great for web designers but especially useful for calligraphers and type designers. It is a true anatomy book for learning about hanging letterforms, tags, serifs, and all the terminology of a typeface.
Over 250 pages you’ll learn by studying real fonts and following practical exercises to pick up these ideas.
Thankfully the lessons are pretty simple to understand so even a beginner can pick up this book and learn a lot. It may feel a bit incomplete for professionals but there’s always more to learn when it comes to typefaces.
Designing Type offers an illustrated look into typography for the design world. You’ll find tons of diagrams and patterns that showcase how font faces differ from each other and why certain font pairs work so well together.
Great design often comes down to conceptualization and intuition to gauge whether something will work or not. With this book you should have no problem picking up subtle differences in typefaces for web and print.
The author Karen Cheng analyzes a wide range of typefaces from old-school manuscripts up to modern day type foundries.
You’ll find detailed rules and guidelines for creating your own fonts and adding symbols/punctuations into those fonts.
If you’re looking to design a custom typeface then keep a copy of this book nearby.
Some designers prefer sketching their ideas first since this leads to more creative execution. With Drawing Type you’ll learn the subtleties of creating letterforms with traditional drawing materials.
This book encourages designers to test a lot of ideas in drawing first. All typefaces and compositions can be planned better on paper before bringing them digital.
While this book doesn’t teach you the specifics of type design, it does talk about creativity and finding typefaces through experience. The more you sketch the better you’ll get and the easier it’ll come to you as second nature.
You’ll find tons of great examples inside and lots of inspiration from professional type designers around the world.
The ABC of Custom Lettering
Here’s a much newer guide on the topic of type design with a focus on practical exercises. The ABC of Custom Lettering spans 140 pages with dozens of step-by-step exercises for designers, illustrators, and calligraphers.
You’ll learn all about type choices and how these can impact your final project. Choosing an existing typeface is often the simplest way to go, but you can also design your own from scratch.
This may be a better choice if you’re creating a unique logo for a company, local band, or a startup website.
Either way custom lettering is a skillset that anyone can master and this book will get you started on the right foot. Just make sure you do the exercises because there’s a lot to learn, even for professionals.
While this may not be as practical of a book it’s still a tremendous resource for aspiring type designers.
In this book you can study her sketches, her idea creation process, and the final design process inside digital programs like Illustrator.
Creating a typeface is no easy task but it’s something you can learn with practice. This book won’t make you an expert type designer but it’ll show you what an expert does in their day-to-day workflow.
Designing with Type
Designing with Type has been through quite a few editions with the most recent published in 2006. This classic book explains the process of compositional design through the use of proper text sizing, spacing, and color choices.
Type design goes so far beyond just picking a font or two. It’s really about pairing your font styles with the project to create a composition that fits the goals.
A movie poster’s typography should look very different than a flyer for a local toy drive.
In this book you’ll study both print & digital type to see how they compare. Over a handful of exercises you’ll get your hands dirty with many different projects and ultimately walk away with a mastery of type design.
I wouldn’t say this book is easy to pick up and start using right away, but it’s also not that difficult to follow either. Perfect for intermediate designers who want to up their type game.
Just My Type: A Book About Fonts
There’s so much history behind the printed word that gets lost in the content. Many people don’t think about typefaces dating back 500 years but they exist and have greatly influenced our modern content.
Just My Type: A Book About Fonts totals almost 400 pages long with a ton of historical research and artefacts for designers to learn from.
This book is not an instructional guide or a how-to resource.
Instead it offers a look into dozens of typefaces, how they grew into our world and why certain fonts are just so damn popular.
It’s a very easy book to read and even if you hate history this topic can probably get you excited.
Making and Breaking the Grid
While this isn’t technically a typography book it is related to type design. Making and Breaking the Grid is one of the few revered books on grid systems and designing with a grid in mind.
I recommend this mostly for web/UI designers who want to understand CSS grid systems from a deeper perspective. But every font designer needs to build fonts on a grid so the letterforms match up properly at any size.
This is an extremely technical book and it works best as a reference guide.
You probably won’t sit down and read this thing cover-to-cover unless you’re fascinated by grids. Instead this book is great as a reference while learning and practicing type design.
You’ll pick up the best strategies for designing a grid and planning letterforms around that grid. If you have the patience to work through this manual then you’ll pick up a lot of quality design tricks for typography and beyond.
Lessons in Typography
For a detailed crash course in type design I recommend a copy of Lessons in Typography.
This 240-page book written by designer Jim Krause teaches you everything about type in the real world. As a professional designer you’ll need to use type for every single project. The tips in this book are invaluable like how to organize & store fonts, how to test them against a composition, and how to follow a brainstorming process that works.
Matching type and fitting typefaces into a project can be grueling. But once you understand how to look at typography you’ll start getting better “hunches” the more you design.
Pick this up if you’re willing to dig into typography and really improve your design process.
You may not notice improvements overnight but these lessons will resonate with your work for years to come.
For a more direct approach to typography you might like a copy of the Typography Workbook by Timothy Samara.
Each chapter follows a pattern of design-oriented tutorials along with inspirational galleries of typefaces. The goal is to teach the reader how typefaces work in a great composition and how to design projects that work every time.
The title can be misleading because this isn’t exactly a workbook. It does have some exercises but it’s mostly a resource of raw information and tips on getting started with type.
If you’re a graphic designer looking for advice this book is an excellent read. But for anyone hoping to create their own fonts this may be a let-down compared to other titles.
Logo Design Love
This naturally includes a lot of iconography but it places a heavy focus on the text. You’ll find raw sketches, concept designs, typeface ideas and progress shots from real-world design projects.
By looking into professional work you can see how the pros use typography in the overall logo design process. This also includes design briefs and creative deliverables for clients.
If you’re looking to break in as a branding designer this book is a must-have resource. It’s one of the best logo design books with real project samples full of creatives from professionals.
Type on Screen
Web designers and mobile app designers look at typography in a very different way compared to print work. Screen designers consider accessibility and readability more than text effects.
Type on Screen is a 200-page guide to the advancements of text on digital displays. It shares advice on creative decision making and how to pair fonts on the screen that may not match as well in print.
Page copy also differs from a website’s navigation, logo, or header. Your job as the designer is to plan typefaces that work together to create an interface that encourages user interaction.
With the tips in this book you should have no trouble understanding typography from a practical exercise-oriented perspective.
It’s not the only book on digital typography but I think it’s the best for web & UI designers.
Lastly I have to drop a recommendation for Creative Lettering because it’s one of the more interesting books on traditional type design.
This does not assume any knowledge of Illustrator or font design programs. Instead it’s a journal of hand lettering created by professional type designers around the world.
Over 144 pages you’ll find dozens of cool examples for typefaces that simply don’t exist! That’s the beauty of hand lettering—you can bring typefaces into the world that you can’t buy anywhere.
I recommend this mostly for aspiring font designers or digital typographers. Anyone who wants to create their own fonts from scratch will learn a lot studying the examples in this book.
But these are only my recommendations for the best type books and they certainly aren’t the only choices. Take a look around to see what else you can find.
Whether you’re a web designer, graphic designer, motion graphics artist, or even a identity designer, there’s bound to be a great book out there to improve your type skillset.