Book Review: How to Create Typefaces, from Sketch to Screen

New & novice type designers rejoice! Tipo e has published an eagerly-awaited English translation of Cristóbal Henestrosa, Laura Meseguer and José Scaglione’s wonderful 2012 guide, Cómo crear tipografias. Del boceto a la pantalla. This little tome combines just about everything a type designer needs to know into one invaluable, condensed resource.

How To Create Typefaces is both a readable workshop as well as a holistic exploration of type design, theory, and practice. Written from the perspective of each of the three authors, the book lays out their philosophies & approaches with brevity & wit. Experienced type designers will enjoy peeking into Henestrosa’s, Meseguer’s and Scaglione’s workflows while beginning designers will appreciate the thorough explanation of practical considerations & construction techniques. If you’ve ever wondered which letters you should be designing first, how to handle accents that rise above 1,000 units, or how to approach distribution channels and piracy, you’ll find the answers here.

Highlights include:

  • the authors’ inspirations, motivations and workflows
  • the similarities and differences between methods of writing, calligraphy, drawing and type design
  • common elements, approaches and considerations when sketching typographical characters
  • proportion and structure, consistency, optical correction, planning and workflow
  • digitising sketches, drawing with digital outlines, fundamental and complementary characters, sequences and derivations
  • controlling and adjusting spacing and kerning
  • the importance of counterform, numerals and vertical spaces
  • designing family variations including italics, weight and proportional variants, optical sizing, and superfamilies
  • the role of digital technology in typeface design
  • legal issues and marketing, plagiarism and piracy, distribution models, custom typeface design and costs
  • a fantastic “deep cut” bibliography, well worth exploring

Pretty comprehensive, right?!

For fellow visual-learners, there are many wonderful graphic examples of the authors’ techniques sprinkled throughout the text.

How to Create Typefaces encapsulates in one book what could previously be found only in multiple (and sometimes expensive) textbooks and internet forums. Designers who are tired of endless Google searches or who may not have access to extensive resources will enjoy the specific & guided feedback. The authors’ voices make this book feel like a very, very local type community!

Two important notes: this book focuses primarily on the essentials of designing Latin serif & sans serif type. While the principles of type design are somewhat universal, readers interested in the specific construction methods of scripts or more complex global writing systems will need to look elsewhere. Similarly, Opentype features, programming, and hinting are only briefly touched upon.

Still, until recently there was a total lack of comprehensive texts for novice type designers. How to Create Typefaces fills this gap quite nicely. It is on par with Karen Cheng’s Designing Type: Cheng explores the construction of letterforms and their interactions with one another, while How to Create Typefaces’ practical approach details how to craft both the letterforms as well as the typeface itself. The two texts complement one another very well.

All in all, How to Create Typefaces is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in the construction of type. The book is available from Amazon UK and Tipo e.

Published in Madrid by Tipo e
Written by Cristóbal Henestrosa, Laura Meseguer and José Scaglione
Translated by Christopher Burke and Patricia Córdoba
Coordinated and designed by Elena Veguillas
Copy edited by Sarah Snaith and Manuel Sesma
Cover design by Laura Meseguer
Book set in Karmina by TypeTogether and Multi by Laura Meseguer
Printing by Birzzolis SA
ISBN 978-84-938654-3-6