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Designing Type Paperback – April 3, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Karen Cheng is a graphic designer and associate professor in the visual communications program at the University of Washington, Seattle.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300111509
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300111507
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 8.5 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #190,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Karen Cheng is Professor of Visual Communication Design in the University of Washington School of Art, Art History and Design, where she has taught since 1997. She received her Master's Degree in Design from the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning, where she studied type design with graphic design faculty member Heinz Schenker, a graduate of the Basel School of Design in Switzerland. At the University of Washington, Karen's research activities span both authored publications as well as creative work. She is the author of Designing Type, a book described in reviews as "indispensable for anyone who designs type" and "a very well done and handsome book... an invaluable reference destined to be a classic in the field." The first edition of Designing Type was published by Yale University Press in 2006, and has since been translated into German, French, Spanish, Chinese and Korea. Appealing to both educators and practitioners, it was immediately and very positively received as a seminal work in the field, becoming a required course textbook at several universities. As a practicing designer, Karen focuses on information design--both the design of data/information graphics, and the design of forms, maps and other functional communications. Her design work has received numerous national and international awards, including a nomination for a US National Design Award in 2011.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Linda A. Goin on June 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
Ok, you slugged it through design school where you learned about typefaces like serif, sans serif, ornamental...the works. While you now know the difference between Bauhaus and Arial, you still don't know how to design a typeface. Designing Type can rescue you, especially if you need to design a typeface in a hurry for a client who demands something to go with his product line...

Author Karen Cheng, associate professor at the University of Washington's Visual Communication Design Program in Seattle, teaches type design and typography. The lessons that she includes in her book are so simple that you can understand the type designer's process almost overnight. Cheng states, "There is no single, `correct' process for creating a typeface. The methodologies of individual designers are as unique and varied as the designs themselves."

From this starting point, Cheng proceeds to explain how a typeface is developed, and then provides examples and diagrams that demonstrate visual principles, type construction, and optical illusions that affect typeface uniformity. She creates a step-by-step process through letters, numbers, and punctuation and accents, all developed through a variety of methods from sketching to vector graphics.

While Cheng does include history of type and foundries in her narratives, the emphasis is on type development. The only problem that you might face is that Cheng focuses only on serif and sans serif faces, and these choices are generic. However, after reading the book, I discovered that her lessons applied to all serifs and sans serif typefaces and families, and that it was just another step of imagination - buoyed by a new understanding of type - to begin to create ornamental type.

For the price, this book is worth its weight in gold for anyone who wants to learn more about how type works as a stand-alone design or as a design element within a larger format. Highly recommended for students and for the working designer.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Rick Bigus on October 2, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Absolutely a must have for aspiring and junior typeface or logo designers. However, the book is not an easy read; it should be read cover to cover with patience before being used as a workbook reference. Its text requires a sound prior knowledge of typography and related technologies. And it must be read in tandem with close observation of the numerous illustrations and diagrams to be fully understood and appreciated. The information shared by the author is not available elsewhere unless one attends graduate school in type design or apprentices to a type designer. I had completed my first roman & small cap font before I acquired this book and hadn't started my companion italic yet. And though the author doesn't cover italic type design her thoroughness in her analytical and comparative approach is such that I have the book open like a workbook for every italic character and am redrawing some of my romans. I've been teaching graphic design for 30 years and though so much has changed the fundamental and essential have not though they have evolved. This book will become a classic for serious professionals because of the level of insight that it gives into the essentials of type design.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By R. Mutt VINE VOICE on September 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
Most typography books I've seen are showcases of designers and their client projects. These books may have their place for readers who are seeking inspiration and brief but helpful tips for project management. However, none of these books discuss the actual nuts and bolts of creating fonts. Cheng's book fills this gap by focusing only on typographic design, and does so in such a highly informative way that anyone who designs fonts cannot afford to be without it. Not only are all the individual aspects of type examined, but different fonts are compared and contrasted to reveal their sometimes very subtle differences. Cheng showcases many examples of her own students' work as well so the reader can see creative applications of typographical principles. A brief but highly valuable section on punctuation is also included. The only caveat I have to offer potential readers is that this book does not cover cursive fonts, which makes sense and isn't worth deducting a star for. In all, this book is the one you need if you want to make your own fonts. Amazon currently only has it available through third party sellers so get it while you still can!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Gomez Rosado on February 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
For either those that have been loving typography for many years, or those that just recently have fallen infatuated. This exhaustive documentation of type-crafting minutiae is a MUST-have for reference and obsessive appreciation of classic forms and details.

Karen's careful eye will help you dissect all the classics... Perhaps even discover missed aspects of a much-visited serif, perhaps finally understanding the commonality of a specific "m" proportion, perhaps understand the evolution of "g"...

Many hours of delight await for you within its pages. Get it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jasen Kavel on April 16, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is indispensible for anyone who designs type. Clear illustrations show the visual construction of letters. For instance, on pages 100-101, an outline of the letter "v" placed directly over a shaded "y" in nine serif typeface examples make it clear that the "y" is not just a "v" with a descending tail. Is the sans serif "u" just an upside-down "n"? Pages 146-147 show with several examples that it's not quite that simple. Many visual details on every letter (including numbers and diacritical marks etc...) will help fine tune your type designs no matter your level of expertise. An extremely useful section is the simplified guidelines on designing sidebearings of letters. You will not regret adding this book to your typographic library.
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