Book Review: How to create typefaces

This is the long-awaited English translation of Henestrosa, Mesegeuer and Scaglione's Cómo crear tipografías. Until recently there has been a dearth of books aimed at the beginning typeface designer; monographs such as Gerrit Noordzij's The Stroke and Counterpunch provide solid theoretical background but do not guide the beginner in the practicalities of type design. Stephen Moyes' Fontographer: Type by Design was really the only textbook in this space until the release of Karen Cheng's Designing Type, which has become one of the standard recommendations.

So how do the books compare? Whereas Designing Type focused on the proportions and characteristics of typical serif and sans serif families, How to create typefaces positions itself as both a practical exposition of the nuts-and-bolts process as well as a guide to the more abstract elements such as design philosophy and marketing. Multiple authors sharing their experience and opinions, often on overlapping topics and from different perspectives, is of real benefit, and adds to the feeling of the book as a compendium of type design wisdom.

For me, I found very little information that was new to me, but the book serves as a compact distillation of what previously could only be found in a disparate collection of sources or gained through type crit and discussions in forums like this one. Read this book, and you have read what a beginner needs to take away from The Stroke and Counterpunch and Letters of Credit and so on. 

But not everything. There are some surprising areas which are not covered or glossed over. If the aim is to get a beginner to take a font to market (as one would assume from the inclusion of a chapter on distribution and sections on project management), then the lack of any discussion of hinting is puzzling. Likewise, the need for OpenType programming is mentioned - but no introduction to the topic is provided.

Should you buy this or Designing Type? Both. They are companions, not competitors. Designing Type will help you to understand how typefaces work and how alphabets are constructed; this book will, as its name implies, teach you how to create typefaces.

Henestrosa, Mesegeuer and Scaglione, 2017, How to create typefaces, Madrid: Tipo E
Available from Amazon.

Comments

  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 796
    Designing Type is a thorough and methodical analysis... by someone who is not herself a type designer. Still surprisingly useful and good despite that. Nonetheless, the new book by our Spanish-speaking friends is a better first choice, now that it exists.
  • Simon CozensSimon Cozens Posts: 238
    Oh sure. If you're an impecunious arts student and can only afford one, get How to create typefaces and borrow Designing Type from the library. And if you have good design eyes, you strictly speaking don't need Designing Type. But I clearly don't (see other thread) so it was helpful to me...

    One more thing I thought of afterwards: I don't remember a discussion of smooth curve joins, which is definitely something a beginner needs to know.
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