Learning About Typography

Typography. We all think we know what it is but very few of us actually do. It’s one of those enigmas within design that gets brushed over so quickly during your degree that you barely have a taste, let alone time to digest it. Often students have no idea where to even look for good typefaces and Dafont is saved in their bookmarks bar.

But how do you know what makes a good typeface?

This is difficult to answer because it’s not so black and white. Even if a typeface is good doesn’t mean it is always right, hence why typography is something that takes time to understand and you can’t expect to just ‘get it’ after one class. Finding the right typeface will depend on the use case, however there are a few qualities I generally look for. Is the type designer a professional or just some guy who scored a free copy of Glyphs software? Does it come in a variety of weights? Does it have italics? Does it have all standard characters? Is it available as a web font?

It definitely worries me how little graduates know about type. A fundamental facet of design and yet basic typesetting is a skill few possess when being thrown into the industry. So ask yourself, are you serious about learning?

Read a damn book!

Sounds like a no brainer but libraries are lined with dusty shelves. Thinking With Type is a must read, covering pretty much everything you need to know and will provide you the language required to find out more. It takes you through letter anatomy, classification, line spacing and alignment, kerning, tracking, hierarchy and more.

For those not ready for this depth just yet, there are smaller, less comprehensive resources too. Typoguide (pictured above) is a pocket-sized book to master every day typographic adventures.

Take an online course.

It blows my mind the quantity of online content that is available for free or close to it. The internet is a generous place and if you invest solid research time the returns are high. As a well known advocate of tutorials, I find this format perfect for learning at your own pace and recommend enrolling in a few courses. Code School offers a free online type course and Skillshare has an abundance to choose from.

Make learning fun.

Everyone learns differently and it’s smart to recognise methods that work best for you. For the kinesthetic learners out there, you achieve best results by doing and should give the Kerning Game a go! Use your data here over Facebook and you’ll be a pro in no time.

For visual learners, use diagrams and flash cards to learn about letters. Typecards is an app for exactly that purpose. Remember that fun is universal and naturally if you can make something more enjoyable you’ll do it more.

Know your type giants.

Learn from the people who really know their shit! Prolific typographers share insight and wisdom across their blogs, twitter and instagram accounts, so stay updated with with them to up your type game. Names like Jessica Hische, Erik Spiekermann, Kris Sowersby, Jonathan Hoefler, Tobias Frere-Jones, Paul Barnes and Christian Schwartz are several you should know about!

Recommended reading:
Upping Your Type Game by Jessica Hische
Type For A Purpose by Erik Spiekermann
Typeface Mechanics by Tobias Frere-Jones

That should keep you busy for a while! Have anything to add? Shoot me an email and let me know.

Images property of Typogui.de

TypographyGabby Lord