I really want to learn the basics of type. However, there are so many books on the subject that I get overwhelmed while searching.

  • Since you are polling the community to create a list of answers, I am converting this to community wiki. Dec 29, 2010 at 15:42

10 Answers 10


There are two books I would recommend

  1. The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst. Simply a must read
  2. Grid Systems by Josef Muller Brockman. Not typographically centered but really good at getting an understand about type in a broader context.
  • In addition to the implementation and usage of the typographic grid, Grid Systems also covers quite a lot about the fundamentals of typography (e.g. margins, leading, kerning, paragraph spacing, folios, etc.). I would highly recommend it for new designers. Dec 29, 2010 at 12:30

This one is kind of old, but it's outstanding. To those desiring the basics it's a good fit:

The Mac is not a Typewriter by Robin Williams (link points to product page on Amazon).

There is an edition called "The PC is not..." also, but the classic work that many other people recommend is the Mac one.


Meet Your Type by FontShop is a pretty decent quick and free guide to the basics, which explains a lot of common terms (like cap height, x height, counter, points, families, kerning, leading, etc.), how to choose the right font and make it work and so on. It's only a 52 page PDF with lots of graphics, so if you really want to get into typography and learn about it, it's probably not a good choice. But for a quick introduction if you just want to get familiar with the basics, it's worth checking out.

  1. Thinking with type is an excellent introduction and is the most modern.
  2. Designing with type is a nice complement to it and a good reference as well.

They're always nearby on my shelf.


To add to the list, Stop Stealing Sheep and Find out How Type Works is also a great read. http://www.amazon.com/Stop-Stealing-Sheep-Find-Works/dp/0672485435


This one is about typography in books, but the knowledge can be applied to screens as well: The Form of the Book by Jan Tschichold.

Read the readers comments for more details. The introduction is from Bringhurst, whose book in essential too because it covers so much.


Here are a few that I have in my collection that have some good information.

  • The Elements of Typographic Style
  • The TeXbook
  • While You're Reading
  • Idea Index: Graphic Effects and Typographic Treatments
  • Exploring Typography
  • Thinking with Type, 2nd revised and expanded edition: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students

You can find all of these on Amazon or at B&N Hope this helps and good luck


I found The Complete Manual of Typography does an excellent job of unpacking complex knowledge in an elegant manner. (Link to Amazon)


Introductory reading:

Robin Williams: The Non-Designer's Design Book

It shows step by step how to apply simple principles (contrast, alignment, repetition, proximity) and use color/fonts to get a clear design for a business card, for example.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.