New Book Review: Lettering & Type

Copyright © 2009 Kate Harper

When I discovered the new book: Lettering & Type: Creating Letters and Designing Typefaces, by Bruce Willen and Nolen Strals, I was drawn to it because it included contemporary lettering ideas. Lettering books can sometimes fall into two extremes: either being too traditional, or limit themselves computer fonts. This book seems to bridge the two without making us feel we have to learn the serious art calligraphy in order to do good lettering.

Just like the greeting card business is being challenged by emailing and E-cards, calligraphy has been challenged by the endless amount of homemade and free handwritten fonts all over the web. To me, this is an exciting time, because lettering has become more expansive and creative, pushing many boundaries in all different directions. This is exactly why I like this book. It treats all lettering as valid and interesting.

Since calligraphy is really a lifetime art which requires extensive study, and is often taught from person to person, I'm glad the book kept the history "brief," outlining the time line in simple boxes and graphics that quickly moved forward to the present.

Even though it was only a few pages, my favorite section of the book was on the topic of distressed type. It recognized it as a legitimate lettering style and explained that when two letters appear distressed the same way, it doesn't look good and comes across as just another font. That presents a challenge. I agree, and in fact, when I make fonts out of my handwriting, I often use the lower case and upper case as different versions of the same letter, not necessarily different case sizes.

I find the most interesting books on lettering to be ones that include informal handwriting and casual lettering, and this book covers both subjects. It also includes the classical instruction on traditional lettering, but it's also full of fun images, and it is a welcome sign to the modern designer.

For more information and reviews on this book, you can visit the amazon listing at
Lettering & Type: Creating Letters and Designing Typefaces ,
by Bruce Willen and Nolen Strals

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