Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, and Students by Ellen Lupton

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This classic type book provides clear and focused guidance on how letters, words, and paragraphs should be aligned, spaced, ordered, and shaped. The book covers typography essentials, from typefaces and type families, to kerning, tracking, and using a grid.

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Visual examples show how to be inventive within systems of typographic form, including what the rules are, and how to break them.

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I was inspired to write the first edition of this book while searching for a textbook for my own type classes, which I have been teaching at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) since 1997. Some books on typography focus on the classical page; others are vast and encyclopedic, overflowing with facts and details. Some rely heavily on illustrations of their authors’ own work, providing narrow views of a diverse practice, while others are chatty and dumbed down, presented in a condescending tone.

I sought a book that is serene and intelligible, a volume where design and text gently collaborate to enhance understanding. I sought a work that is small and compact, economical yet well constructed—a handbook designed for the hands. I sought a book that reflects the diversity of typographic life, past and present, exposing my students to history, theory, and ideas. Finally, I sought a book that would be relevant across the media of visual design, from the printed page to the glowing screen.

I found no alternative but to write the book myself.


From the introduction

This is an indispensable publication for designers and typesetters who are just beginning to get acquainted with typography and its amazing possibilities.

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Ellen Lupton is a writer, curator, educator, and designer. Lupton is the Betty Cooke and William O. Steinmetz Design Chair at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) in Baltimore. She is Curator Emerita at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City.

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  • Hardcover
  • 332 pages
  • Dimensions: 144×215 mm (5,7″×8,4″)
  • Press run: 3000
  • ISBN 978-5-6047876-2-5