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Letters of Credit: A View of Type Design Paperback – December 1, 2003
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Letters of Credit is at once a history of modern typeface design and an introduction to the principles of good design. The book centers primarily on what is called the "body typeface," i.e. typefaces used for book/newspaper/magazine printing. As with any art, the student needs to learn the rules before he or she goes about breaking them. Conscious breaking of the rules is a sign of mastery, while breaking them out of ignorance is the sign of a poor artist.
Tracy takes us through what makes up a good typeface. The text is never so technical that the beginning student becomes lost. What makes up a good italic? What about numbers? What makes a good letter S? Which bar should be longer in the letter E? It is all here. The book is well illustrated with many black and white illustrations of the many typefaces he critiques. Tracy not only gives us what makes up a good typeface but shows us the pitfalls that can drag a good typeface down to a mediocre one.Read more ›
There's a lot of good technical content here, almost all of it regarding nuances of letterforms and design of type faces. He offers some interesting history, as well, from the turn of the century up to about the 1950s.
Among other type designers, he describes Rudolf Koch, best known for Kabel. As presented here, Koch was the first type designer to bridge the gap between the blackletter German alphabets and the Latin letters used elsewhere in Europe, to the advantage of both traditions. Tracy also spends a fair bit of time on Frederick Goudy. Goudy is certainly worth study, for both his succcesses and his less graceful work. Tracy seems to focus on the latter - his description of Goudy reads like a left-handed compliment in essay form.
Tracy was active from the hot-lead days, through photo typesetting, and into the early electronic era. He notes the advantages and weaknesses in each technology, as of when the book was written. Digital technology has progressed since then. Scanning has almost granted his wish that ".. vectorising is an automatic process ... [so] designers' work can be reproduced directly and with complete fidelity." Electronic design has also somewhat invalidated his claim that "the method of manufacture has [little] influence on the design of type." Frere-Jones' Reactor font is one among those that could never have appeared in metal. Also, the punchcutter's craft acted as an engraved metal barrier to entry into type design. With that barrier gone, amateur type design has come into its own (for better or worse).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book's only serious fault is that it isn't ten times as long. It is the best introduction to type design available.Published on November 4, 2012 by George Horton
This book is simply amazing! I'm from South America and it is impossible to buy this book here. For all typography lovers and specially for students specializing in typography it... Read morePublished on August 2, 2011 by Eliana