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The Anatomy of Type: A Graphic Guide to 100 Typefaces Hardcover – November 13, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Coles does a wonderful job of initiating the layman to the field of modern typography. -- Michael Stasiak, Print Magazine

The Anatomy of Type provides a glorious opportunity to taxonimize another everyday visual encounter. As your knowledge accumulates, and your vocabulary grows, you, too, will begin to appraise these fonts with a critical eye. You will gaze at them alongside Coles, nodding at his insights. -- Slate

The Anatomy of Type is a surprisingly accessible book that will appeal to anyone with even a passing interest in typography. An easy-to-use guide that rewards both light browsing and intensive study. -- John Peck, Diesel's "Beautiful Gift Books 2012"

... a down-to-earth but playful and helpful tool for users in search of a distinctive typographic tone - a cautiously plotted but worthwhile attempt to shake type classifications to the core. -- Sébastien Morlighem, Eye Magazine

The Anatomy of Type does for type users what Gray's Anatomy does for pre-med students: it explains characteristic differences in body language -- in this case the Western alphabet's most muscular typefaces. -- Steven Heller, The New York Times

From the Author

Students and professionals in any creative field can benefit from a good typographic eye. The Anatomy of Type (The Geometry of Type in the UK) is all about looking more closely at letters. Through visual diagrams and practical descriptions, you'll learn how to distinguish between related typefaces and see how the attributes of letterforms (such as contrast, detail, and proportion) affect the mood, readability, and use of each typeface. Nutritional value aside, the spreads full of big type are nice eye candy, too.

The 100 typefaces featured in the book are hand-picked by the author for their functionality and stylistic relevance in today's design landscape. Along with several familiar faces (Garamond, Bodoni, Gill Sans, Helvetica), you'll also discover contemporary fonts that are less common -- and often more useful -- than the overused classics.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Design (November 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062203126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062203120
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Coles is a writer and typographer living in Oakland and Berlin. After six years at FontShop San Francisco as a creative director, he now publishes the websites Typographica, Fonts In Use, and The Mid-Century Modernist.

Stephen was raised in Salt Lake City, Utah by a saintly Swedish immigrant and a magazine publisher of local renown. After an idyllic upbringing he outgrew the quiet Mormon enclave and escaped to a dark, but beautiful Stockholm where he pushed pixels remotely for his brother's graphic design concern. Just as he was about to see his first weeks of Scandinavian sun he was scooped up by a Berlin-based font supplier who found value in what to others was only a mildly amusing curiosity: his ability to identify and recommend typefaces. The company installed him in their San Francisco office where he labored joyfully as a creative director, copywriter, and evangelist.

Stephen now works independently out of his cat's home in Oakland where he writes about typography and consults with designers and various organizations on typeface selection. He is also a regular contributor to Print and Codex magazines, a member of the FontFont TypeBoard, a Type Camp instructor, and a judge for the 2011 Communication Arts Typography Annual.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
It used to be that people who used machines for written communication were using typewriters, and the letters that came out on the page all looked the same. There was some variation when IBM introduced the "Selectric" typewriter in 1961, with a "golf ball" full of letters that struck the ribbon and printed on the page. You could change your golf ball from a "Courier" typeface, which looked just like typing, to a "Letter Gothic" face which was straighter and without serifs for decoration. With computers, we get a lot more choices; unless you leave everything to default, you get to select, for instance, what letters you want used when you are reading e-mail. This has made typefaces more interesting to a lot of people, the type of people who were happy to read Simon Garfield's fine book of typeface stories, _Just My Type_, a couple of years ago. If you liked that, and you want to dig a little deeper, and also want a good-looking book for your coffee table, I strongly recommend _The Anatomy of Type: A Graphic Guide to 100 Typefaces_ (Harper Design) by Stephen Coles. It is enormous fun to look at the variation of the strange shapes of letters here, most of which are not exuberant show faces, but are working letters meant to be read. For any job, you want to get the right worker, and this book will help get a typeface that will do a particular job, but the book is also simply an enjoyable display of useful and attractive design.

As befits a book about typefaces, the displays here are clear, with a happy use of color and a two-page spread for each typeface. In his introduction, Coles says the hundred typefaces have been chosen because of their versatility and practical use.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Goffredo Puccetti on March 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very interesting reading. A must-have for typomaniacs. As resource book I cannot give more than 3 stars, though:
I would have appreciated a more exhaustive list of terms related to type anatomy. I think I understand the rationale of the author to stick to the terms that are widespread but still, I would have welcome to see the book live up to its cover promise where it reads: examining Shoulders, Spines and Tails in Detail. In example: there is no mention of what a shoulder is in the Anatomy of Type double page spread and, if I am not mistaken, in the whole book! Similarly a book on the anatomy of typeface, meant to be used as a reference guide, cannot, in my opinion, ignore fundamentally important concepts such as the contrast, a term which again is absent in the book.
In the part of the book devoted to in detail examination of typefaces, a quick fine-tuning of the - otherwise beautiful - double page layout will vastly improve the usability of the book: the body-text in the right page should be visually self-explanatory and be set in the actual typeface under scrutiny.
The choice of typefaces is, of course, a matter of personal taste and it is quite impossible to have two designers agree on any type list: I personally have enjoyed it a lot even if I could have lived with a couple of modern slab serifs less! :-)
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy on December 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This material is covered in practically every type book, but this one stands out in how deeply it dives into the subject. There also seems to be some innovation in how typefaces are described. I like the idea of a "rational serif" which seems to be a very adequate description that I had not run across until this book.

The book goes into 5 examples from each classification, highlighting characteristics of each font, so in that way it is a glorified marketing piece, but still very useful.

The price is right, so it is recommended.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jim Parkinson on December 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I was in Portland last weekend and went to Powell's (the world's largest bookstore). I bought a stack of lettering and type books including The Anatomy of Type by Stephen Coles. It's a very good book. I was sucked right in. It's packed with wonderful typographic insights. I think it will be around in designers bookshelves for a long time to come.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Trever on November 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I've picked up "The Anatomy of Type" more than a few times at the bookstore and finally nabbed it. I feel ridiculous for holding out this long.

The type selections match the caliber type enthusiasts have come to expect from Stephen Coles of FontShop and Typographica fame. You'll learn about traditional typefaces, like Futura, and contemporary ones as well, like Kris Sowersby's National. For the more traditional like Futura -- almost a dozen foundries have their own version to pedal --, the author tells you which one is the best and why (Neufville Digital's revival in the case of Futura). He also shares his thoughts on when a typeface is contextually appropriate; his suggestion to use MVB's Solano Gothic for "References to vintage workmanship" was enlightening.

The layout of the book is sumptuous, yet what really pulls it off is the marrying of the designer's eye with the interesting graphical inventions the author explores to instruct the reader. My favorite being the draftsman-notes with arrows.

If there's one downside to Anatomy it's the lack of actual Body text examples -- with the exception of the Display type. It's hard to understand why the choice was made to use Benton Sans in the Description section for each face instead of the typeface on the page. It left me wanting in a major way.

Even without strong examples of Body text this book deserves to be on your bookshelf, but rest assured, it will be living on my coffee table for a good long while.
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