The most inspirational books

Hello, I always wondering what books inspired you to be a typographer or type designer. If you guys could share 5 books that inspired you the most, I would be very appreciate.

Thank you

Indra Kupferschmid's picture

“Counterpunch” by Fred Smeijers. The first book on type design I read in 1997 and which sparked my passion.

Then “What’s a Designer” by Norman Potter, “Modern Typography” by Robin Kinross, “Letter of Credit” by Walter Tracy and “Designing Books” by Jost Hochuli.

hrant's picture

The Commodore-64.

Books: for some reason "Twentieth Century Type Designers" remains strongly in my memory. Counterpunch inspired my alphabet reform work. Magazines: Baseline (but not any more).


Joshua Langman's picture

A storybook I read as a kid with particularly elegant chapter headings. (I said, "I want to learn how to do that.")

After which:

Bringhurst (first and still best book on typography I've ever read)

"Type: The Secret History of Letters," by Simon Loxley, which makes type design seem unparalleled in coolness

Calligraphy guides

.00's picture

"Type, Sign, Symbol" Adrian Frutiger
"The History and Technique of Lettering" Alexander Nesbitt
"Three Classics of Italian Calligraphy" Oscar Ogg (Ed.)
"Anatomy of a Typeface" Alexander Lawson
"One Line Manual of Style" Photolettering

hrant's picture

BTW, I just checked out your site ( - I'm very glad it exists.


speter's picture

It's difficult to cull just 5, but here it goes:

"Asymmetric Typography" Jan Tschichold
"Letters of Credit" Walter Tracy
"Elements of Typographic Style" Robert Bringhurst
"Hermann Zapf and His Design Philosophy" Hermann Zapf
"Fonts & Logos" Doyald Young

Nick Shinn's picture

The Letraset catalogue, c.1974

russellm's picture

What Nick said, but also, Mike Mulligan and His Steam shovel.

1985's picture

I agree with Hrant, interesting site, thanks.

I can't claim that it kickstarted my ambition but a bit later in my education I found Raster systeme by JMB. I think it gave me a desire to know my own work inside-out and that maybe designing type would allow me an even more intimate understanding of layout and typesetting, from micro to macro.

Type design:
Adrian Frutiger Typefaces. This has been inspiring me for the past year.

These are quite Titanic books and easy to suggest. What about the many smaller books along the way:

As a kid I loved Dorling Kindersley educational books, which were fantastically arranged and really easy to navigate. They were also really consistent in series. At high school I studied Russian language and the textbooks were influential, as was learning a new alphabet. Искра, which was practically a zine as it was composed on a typewriter and Вперёд!, which had fantastic 3d lettering as well as photography of signage, stamps and general ephemera. I was also inspired at some point by Schott's Miscellany which is typeset and designed by the author.

hrant's picture

> What about the many smaller books along the way

Good idea!
"Types Best Remembered / Types Best Forgotten" by Robert Norton.


Karl Stange's picture

There is a nostalgia piece with some nice pictures of the 1974 Letraset catalogue on this blog.

Karl Stange's picture

The most inspirational books for me at moment are, Fraktur Mon Amour by Judith Schalansky and Fonts & Encodings by Yannis Haralambous.

Granjon's picture

I'm just barely starting out in Typography but what has inspired me was a little note in the back of "In His Majesty's Service" by Naomi Novik. It said the book was set in Granjon typeface, and that's inspired me to look further into typography and typefaces. To learn more about typography, I'm purchasing:

The Stroke: Theory of Writing
by Gerrit Noordzij


The Elements of Typographic Style
by Robert Bringhurst

hrant's picture

I feel a responsibility to state this disclaimer to anybody in your -enviable- situation: be careful of "growing up" thinking that type is based on chirography (what the hand holding a particular writing instrument tends to produce) since it might trap you on one continent of exploration. Gerrit Noordzij is the intelligent, charismatic high priest of chirographic type. Mind the foundations you lay for yourself.


John Hudson's picture

Two things come immediately to mind:

The biography of Bram de Does, edited by Mathieu Lommen. I read it shortly after it was published, at a time when the business of making fonts for a living — meeting deadlines, responding to bug logs, trying to solve knotty technical problems — was beginning to take the pleasure out of designing type. This book was inspiring as a record of a humane and intelligent life in type design and typography, and a timely reminder of the things that first attracted me to this work. Hmm, maybe it's time to re-read it.

Gerrit Noordzij's Letterletter (and later The Stroke). What I found inspiring in Noordzij was the development of systematic ideas about letters which enabled techniques of analysis and understanding. No one else I have read has attempted this, so while I'll go some way to seconding Hrant's caveats about how one approaches Noordzij — including how Hrant approaches Noordzij —, I consider these books inspiring in encouraging an analytical approach. So far, there is nothing similar in terms of scope and depth attempted from a different perspective, but there should be.

dezcom's picture

Frutiger's "Forms and Counterforms"
El Lissitzky "About 2"
Dondis "A Primer of Visual Litteracy"
Morison, "Politics and Script"
Emil Ruder, "Typographie"
Polanyi, "The Tacit Dimension"

cheshpattinson's picture

Nice Book you people shared here


Karl Stange's picture

Just added decodeunicode - Die Schriftzeichen der Welt by Johannes Bergerhausen and Siri Poarangan to my list. Unicode is already an abstractly beautiful thing, but this book brings it to life and works as an amazing companion to the website.

speter's picture

Chris, do you mean Lissitzky's About 2 Squares (Про 2 ∎)?

dezcom's picture

Yes! I have a very good facsimile copy!

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