Editions: First Second

The Language of Composition by Yuri Gordon, second edition

Task: to republish a book by Yuri Gordon.

The Language of Composition is a collection of essays by the famous graphic artist, type designer and artist Yuri Gordon. Dozens of years of design practice led him to the idea that almost all areas of human activity are subject to uniform laws of composition. The framework of this theory makes possible such unusual notions as the interface of the Sistine Chapel, the power points of a film poster or the level of elaboration of a typeface.

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However, the author isn’t writing a textbook, so he isn’t excessively concerned with the precision of his definitions. According to him, he “works with descriptions and metaphors.” His vision captures such objects as the head of Nefertiti, a Velázquez painting, the golden section, text alignment and a shape on a playbill. Using a variety of examples he shows how composition works. The conclusions will inevitably appear subjective, many of them unexpected and controversial. And the author’s views were contested when the book was still in the form of a series of articles in the author’s blog. The most important comments form the first readers of the blog remained in the book.

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There is no difference between the composition of a stool, a song, a novel, an opera house, a logo, a costume for a minor character in an opera or even this very sentence. Moreover, a mountain range obeys the same laws of composition as a butterfly. An empire is put together using the same tools as a box of matches. If we don’t see something in a composition, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Even chaos is composed.

Why do we need a general theory of composition?

It we could combine, reduce to a set of principles all the knowledge in the field of composition accumulated by mankind, all kinds of activities would benefit.

Having understood the composition of a disease, a doctor will be able to turn tragedy into drama.

Having understood the composition of poverty and wealth, a manager will be able to more effectively influence the flow from one form of existence into the other, more acceptable one.

Having understood the composition of a crowd, an architect will be able to create a convenient system of exits for a Metro station.

Having understood the composition of a sonnet, a designer will be able to more accurately arrange visual accents in a brand book.

Having formulated the layout of a galaxy using the general principles of composing a symphony, a scientist will be able to give a director a timeline for a new TV series (and vice versa, which is funny).

You can see all this as platitude, but right now, at 6 am, with a clear head, I feel this general theory inside me. It is quite possible to create it, and it can bring immense value. This only requires one temporary effort and co-creation of people from different areas associated with composition. It requires a series of experiments that would allow to formulate and use uniform tools of composition in various spheres.


From the preface by the author

The book is intended for a wide range of readers interested in design and visual culture.

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Yuri Gordon is known primarily as a type designer, the head of Letterhead studio and the author of the book From Аа to Яя about letters of the Cyrillic alphabet. His interests, however, are not limited by typefaces and typography. Yuri works on various design problems and personal art projects, creates visual poetry, draws graphics and keeps a personal blog where he writes about work, life, design and everything else that catches the attention of his trained artistic eye. The series of articles under the tag “language of composition” was created as a draft of the future book on the laws of composition from the point of view of a professional who learned to feel it with his gut. For several years the articles have been accumulating in the author’s blog before he decided that it was finally the time to put them together, process, reshuffle, append, correct and publish. Not bound by the limits of any single genre or the discipline of an alphabet, Yuri Gordon presents himself as a philosophising typographer, calculating artist, careless critic, subjective historian and always a lyrical practitioner who turns metaphors into lines and lines into text.

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art director

chief typesetter




photo editor and technical designer

technical designer

chief editor



project editor

  • Hardcover
  • 208 pages
  • Dimensions: 194×290 mm (7,6″×11,4″)
  • Press run: 3000
  • ISBN 978-5-98062-139-1