The Typography Idea Book | Book Review


Following on from our previous review of The Graphic Design Idea Book, we bring you its more nuanced counterpart; The Typography Idea Book. While typography may be classified as a subset of graphic design in many people’s minds, this book stands on its own two feet and presents the reader with a detailed – yet accessible – breakdown of what makes the heart of the medium keep beating with fresh concepts year after year, decade after decade.


OFFSET regulars will recognise former speaker Steven Heller regardless of their familiarity with his work as New York Times’ art director, and his partnership with renowned designer Gail Anderson flourishes throughout this book as the pair leave no stone unturned in their introduction to an area that many find difficult to crack. With the help of 50 masters of typography, this book appears both concise, yet encyclopedic in nature – a rare feat!


Right from the off, you get a contents page that acts as a road map. From the history of artistic movements to the notion that illusion and misdirection could be a useful tool, Heller and Anderson act as your personal tutor from your first day of school to your graduation on the back-pages. It’s a journey, and it’s certainly one whose reward is contained within itself.


The book opens with a call to arms for designers to “Make great typography”, and details what’s in store ahead. “… if typography basics are the ‘main course’ in your typographic feeding frenzy, the ideas herein are the dessert.” And it’s true. While this does act as a great primer for curious minds, it’s a huge leap from their other title covering graphic design as a whole. This book feels polished. It feels refined. Like good typography itself, it contains subtle touches that set it apart from the noise.


High-points include the Heller and Anderson’s discussion of one poster by Saul Bass for the 1966 feature film, ‘Grand Prix’. It’s a simple black-and-white image of two race cars passing over the film’s title, but of course, it’s also so much more than that.

“By adding speed lines to the bold gothic title on the speedway, Bass immediately telegraphs salient plot points and shows the thrust of the plotline.”


The Typography Idea Book is one which should be required reading for any students of the game. If you’re dedicated to your craft, there are few easier ways to increase your knowledge base than this text. It’s a timeless work and it’ll be around for quite a while, but get to it now before the competition gets a jump.


The Typography Idea Book is available from Laurence King here. You might also be interested in New Perspectives in Typography by Henrik Kubel and Scott Williams and of course the other book in Heller and Anderson’s series, The Graphic Design Idea Book.


Photos by Lauren Pritchard