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Thoughts about Design (& other stuff)

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I was meaning to post a book review as a follow up to the one I put up a while back, but we got busy, and didn’t have time to read as much as I would have liked (aside from the typical weekly haul of comic books). Luckily, the Christmas holidays rolled around again, and I was able to find some free time to lay on the couch with a stack of books. As usual, I got some good ones as gifts over the holidays, some arrived from the local library, and others finally found their way into my hands after gathering dust on the office shelf. Here is a recap of what I spent time with over the holidays and into January;

The Anatomy of Type (Stephen Coles)

This is the perfect book for me. The Anatomy of Type takes a close up detailed look at 100 diverse typefaces and examines what makes them distinct, different, and decent. By breaking down Type classification into 16 different categories, Coles displays the vast diversity available in typefaces in today’s market place, while highlighting the best of the best. A wide variety is scrutinized; from the traditional likes of Morris Fuller Benton’s  “New Century Schoolbook”, to Laura Meseguer’s lesser known “Rumba”. Great insights and plenty of tidbits too. I have been referencing this book plenty while working on various type projects. This is currently my favourite book in my collection, and I look at it so often I am concerned that it might fall apart.

The Evolution of Type (Tony Seddon)

I received this book as a Christmas gift from my Father-in-law. Once again, he fabulously nailed it, without hints or suggestions. Tony Seddon’s book is the perfect sister volume to Stephen Coles’ The Anatomy of Type. The two go together so well that it can’t be coincidence (especially since Coles wrote the foreword in Seddon’s The Evolution of Type, and Seddon was the designer for Coles’ The Anatomy of Type). Presented in chronological order, this books reads like a hit parade of the top 100 typefaces throughout time. Each entry receives a detailed write up about what made it successful, special and how the technology of the time shaped its character. There is not only a focus on typefaces, but also the legendary creators that make “Type Lore” so intriguing.

I can’t recommend this book enough (Thanks, Bill!).

In Progress (Jessica Hische)

I have a Love/Hate thing going on with Jessica Hische.

I “love” her work… but I also “hate” her because I’m so jealous of her work/career. She is crazy prolific, lands choice projects without seemingly even trying, and I don’t think she is even out of her teens yet. She gets tons and tons of media exposure, along with really plum speaking gigs (where she just drops a shitload of F-bombs). Her work speaks for itself… and it should probably be left that way. I was determined to “hate” In Progress (so determined that I ordered it from the library instead of purchasing it)… unfortunately I couldn’t. It was well thought out, and Hische’s personality shone through making it a casual, yet informative read (sans F-bombs). Not a whole lot of new information, but lots of tips and tricks, and great insight into her creative process from start to finish. Nicely put together too. “ugh”.

Mastering Calligraphy - The Complete Guide to Hand Lettering (Gaye Godfrey-Nicholls)

I’ve never had the patience for Calligraphy. My handwriting sucks, and “traditional” calligraphy just felt stodgy, out-dated, and far too labour intensive. However, the more I learn about typeface design, the more I realized that I could no longer ignore the connection between type and calligraphic letterforms. I decided that it was time to get a better understanding of how letters are properly drawn in order to better inform my typeface constructions. There is no shortage of Calligraphy books out there. However, few of them are as comprehensive and as well designed at Godfrey-Nicholls’ Mastering Calligraphy. I’ll never be a Master Calligrapher (or probably not even a “mediocre” calligrapher), but this book has definitely come in handy for my typeface design projects, as well as a great reference for practice on drawing various styles of hand lettering. It’s a great inclusion to the 10four library that gets pulled from the shelf often.

Visible Signs: An Introduction to Semiotics (David Crow)

This one has been sitting on the shelf for a long, long time. I picked it up years ago, but the “academic” nature of the content always put me off, and I would reach for something lighter. Now that I finally got around to slugging through it, I wish I would have tackled it a while ago. I had an introduction to semiotics at design school and usually try to be aware of various aspects in my professional work, but it has been a long stretch since I’ve tried to resolve theories and ideas regarding semiotics in my work as well as what I view in the world around me. Crow’s book is particularly appealing to designers and put together in a manner that makes sense to someone working in the visual arts. He provides excellent and engaging examples and breaks down the information into easily digestible chances that build upon each other all the way through to conclusion of the text. Visible Signs covers the type of things I studied at Emilly Carr University; “codes”, “readers”, and “the message”, but things start to get interesting discussing “symbolic creativity” (chapter 7) and “junk & culture” (chapter 8).

Plus: as a bonus; Fun stickers!

Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art (DK Publishing)

This is a massive coffee table book that serves as a love letter to Marvel Comics. The title says it all… it’s not rocket science. Lots of glorious comic art from the past 75 years of my favourite comic book company. All the greats are well represented; Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Jim Steranko, and the Buscema brothers, along with more contemporary favourites like; Adi Granov, David Aja, Steve Epting, Marko Djurdjevic, and Alex Ross. I was surprise how many of these I actually own. Fantastic production value, and it came in a spiffy slipcase… too bad Comet has already chewed the corner off it. There are little blurbs that accompany each cover image, but I really would have preferred more exposition and interviews with the artists. In the end, you're not really reading this book, it is all about the art. It is a great way to visualize just how much the art form of comic books has evolved over the past 75 years.