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Typology: Type Design from the Victorian Era to the Digital Age

9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0811823081
ISBN-10: 0811823083
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Heller, the New York Times's senior art director, and Fili, an independent designer, have authored an attractive but hard-to-categorize guide to type. One finds brief (approximately 300-word) overview essays of seven time periods of typography: pre-modern, early modern, avant-garde modern, commercial modern, late modern, electric modern, and postmodern. Following these essays are shorter sidebar essays that discuss the various international influences within each time period (e.g., "Art Nouveau in Germany, France, The Netherlands, and Austria"). The essays are well written but require some knowledge of artistic and architectural trends. Hundreds of black-and-white and color illustrations from primary sources enrich the text, but, unfortunately, references to their sources are incomplete. The volume concludes with a bibliography of 55 books from the mid-1950s through the early 1990s. All in all, it is difficult to establish the audience for this book: The text is beyond the level of high school and lower-division undergraduates, but there is not enough scholarly apparatus to interest advanced scholars. Recommended for libraries that regularly receive requests for illustrations of historical typefaces or examples of display type.AP. Steven Thomas, Central Michigan Univ. Lib., Mt. Pleasant
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Readers familiar with Heller and Fili's numerous books for Chronicle, particularly in the Art Deco Series, may be worried that this latest book covers the same material. In fact, it is much larger in scope (as well as in size), covering commercial type designs, especially display type, form the last 100 years. As the authors state, Typology is not so much a formal history as a visual survey, and yet it is more than just a type timeline; each section has a brief essay that places the typefaces of that period within the contest of cultural, societal, economic and technological forces. Also, each period is subdivided by country; it is very useful in educating one's eye to be able to flip back-and-forth between, for example, Art Nouveau types in France and those in Germany (or The Netherlands or Austria). Typology certainly delivers its promise of visuals; there's an abundance of type specimens, broadsheets, catalogs and posters, most of which will be new to the reader, and all of which are beautifully reproduced and identified by year and designer. One would have to doggedly scour the used bookstalls of the world to accumulate this amount of material. Aren't we all lucky that we have Heller and Fili to do it for us?



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Product Details

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (June 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811823083
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811823081
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 0.6 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #528,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mara Kurtz on May 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
Heller and Fili have done it again. If you love type, and want to get an eclectic overview of the development of typography in the twentieth century you will enjoy this book. . It's also a perfect companion to read with Heller's Graphic Style book. I use the pair as textbooks in the History of Graphic Design class I teach at Parsons School of Design in NYC.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. D Suggs on May 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book, which is a close cousin of Heller's and Fili's Deco/Modern series ("Deco Type", "French Modern", "Deco Espana", etc.), is not just a book of fonts. It has plenty of those, and in complete form, so you can use them, but the emphasis is on excellent graphic design and how distinctive, intelligently-used fonts feature in it. This is made vivid with lots of illustration (much of it in color) and lots of text, which is informative, insightful, and very analytical. This is an essential reference and educational tool: students should consider it a small investment, and I can't imagine a professional designer being without it around the office.
The emphasis is rightly placed on early to mid-twentieth century design, but the book is fairly comprehensive, with enough of the Victorian Era and the Digital Age to justify its subtitle.
The book itself is a nicely-bound softcover with thick pages and good, clear reproduction.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jon Pastor on December 18, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's pretty clear that the other reviewers of this book share the authors' fascination with type as a design element rather than as a means of communication.

If it were only a matter of taste, however, I'd be able to shrug it off. In fact, the authors display in the design of the text of this book their indifference -- or hostility -- to what most typographers regard as good type design for readability.

The Introduction, and the intros to each section, are set in what appears to be about 14/28 on a 7-inch measure -- far too long for comfortable reading, even with that much leading.

Worse, given such a generous measure, the text is still spaced abominably -- e.g., page 10, where a hyphen break leaves two letters from "typehouses" at the beginning of a line. Even the spacing in the narrow columns that accompany the illustrations in each section is atrocious; for people who are so concerned with the way type looks, they seem totally unconscious of the way that spacing affects color.

In many places, it's clear that the text was padded (with circumlocutions) to fit the space allotted to it on a page, and in others it appears that the spacing was adjusted to fill out the page. I won't even mention the typos...

Unfortunately for these authors, I had recently bought and read "The Complete Manual of Typography" by James Felici and "Thinking With Type" by Ellen Lupton, both of which are real books on typography that are eminently readable -- and practice what they preach. The Felici book, in particular, is a treasure.

Jan Tschichold, one of the leaders of Die Neue Typografie, ultimeately recanted and became one of the masters of classical typography.
Read more ›
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Erich Shelton on March 5, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a grad student in Graphic Design, one assignment was to explore typography at a higher level than from my undergraduate studies. This book is a treasure find and definitely worth the money. The book not only provides concise information about how type has transformed our world, but the colour examples are brilliant. From Pre-modern Victorian England, throughout Europe and the United States, the reader is taken on a delightful journey of experimentation in an often misunderstood or under appreciated topic. Till the last page ending in late Modern I was capivated. The authors did a very good job in balancing facts with inspiring illustrations. The only warning is that there is a great possibility that nothing else will get accomplished if you purchase this book. I couldn't put it down!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
I loved this book so much when I bummed it off a friend that I actually decided to buy it! After reading it, you'll never look at type without wondering what cultural and economic influences helped shape it. You'll also get a kick out of seeing how different countries treated type in the same art period. I get bored easily by too many dry sentences, so I geniunely appreciated all the examples of catalogs, posters, etc. the authors put in there. Hardback books can be a killer on the legs if you want to curl up with a good book, so the soft bound cover was a blessing. Anyway, enjoy!
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