Overly Ambitious Summer Reading List 2022

four books stacked on a table outside with some yellow flowers and greenery in the background. The books are from top to bottom: The Typographic Medium, The Black Experience in Design, Type Specimens, and Building Ligatures The Power of Type

As the weather warms up and the bugs get buggier (at least in the Northeastern US), there’s nothing like an overly ambitious reading list to get those summer vibes flowing. Here are some Alphabettes-approved books published in the past year or so that will make the perfect stay/vacation companions. Do a public service and be sure to buy these from a local bookshop or request a copy for your local and university library!

Baseline Shift: Untold Stories of Women in Graphic Design History
Edited by Briar Levit
Princeton Architectural Press, October 2021
Baseline Shift is a collection of accessible and enjoyable essays on women whose work and career in design impacted their communities and the broader culture in notable ways, but often overlooked by mainstream design histories. This is required reading for students in design history courses and anyone looking to expand their awareness of design history, broadly.

The Black Experience in Design: Identity, Expression, & Reflection
Edited by Anne H. Berry, Kareem Collie, Penina Acayo Laker, Lesley-Ann Noel, Jennifer Rittner, Kelly Walters
Skyhorse Publishing, February 2022
“This book represents our collective effort to capture the current moment of cultural reflection, as well as to consider the futures we are creating together.” The Black Experience in Design is much more than a collection of essays, experiences, and conversations on design practice, scholarship, and education. Edited by Anne H. Berry, Kareem Collie, Penina Acayo Laker, Lesley-Ann Noel, Jennifer Rittner, and Kelly Walters, it is an essential text for all designers and a material acknowledgement of the past and ongoing contributions of Black/African diasporan designers in the United States and beyond. Don’t miss Schessa Garbutt’s essay, “&&&: Provoking Type” on finding one’s voice through the established (and many times problematic) rules of type design.

Building Ligatures: the power of type by TypeTogether
TypeTogether, 2022
I’ve been a superfan of TypeTogether since its infancy. Over the past 15 years, TypeTogether, co-founded by Veronika Burian and José Scaglione has developed a significant library of “beautiful, engaging, and infinitely useful” typefaces that support languages from across the globe. This book documents their collaborative design process, featuring essays by international experts in type design and typography.

by TipasType
TipasType, 2021
For readers of most languages outside of English, there’s a major lack of books on typography. Elementype by TipasType hopes to solve this by offering a straightforward but detailed reference book on the basics of typesetting and using fonts.

Extra Bold: A Feminist, Inclusive, Anti-racist, Nonbinary Field Guide for Graphic Designers
By Ellen Lupton, Farah Kafei, Jennifer Tobias, Josh A. Halstead, Kaleena Sales, Leslie Xia, Valentina Vergara
Princeton Architectural Press, May 2021

Frauen gestalten Schrift by Barbara Lüth
August Dreesbach Verlag, June 2021

Mono Moment: Monospace Type Design by Christina Wunderlich
Slanted Publishers, February 2022

​​Spitzfederkalligrafie: Von der Englischen Schreibschrift zur Modern Calligraphy
By Stefanie Weigele
Verlag Hermann Schmidt, April 2021

Type Specimens: A Visual History of Typesetting and Printing
by Dori Griffin
Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2022
A subject near and dear to my heart, Type Specimens focuses on typographic history through the analysis of the brochures, posters, booklets, and many other kinds of ephemera used to sell and market typefaces. While early printers’ manuals were used to help guide the use of type in print shops, type specimens have become an important part of printing and visual culture. Griffin’s writing is both accessible to students and engaging for the armchair type historian, and each chapter’s endnotes provide endless rabbit holes to discover.

The Typographic Medium
by Kate Brideau
The MIT Press, 2021
This book draws from philosophy, linguistics, and cultural studies to explore typography as a medium through which we can understand language, culture, and communication. Countering the notion of successful typography as “invisible,” Brideau argues that the perception of differences in form and shape of type are at the center of its significance. The author includes her own endearing hand-drawn illustrations of typeface examples throughout the book.

Honorable mentions (published pre-2021)

Buchstaben im Kopf: Was Kreative über das Lesen wissen sollten, um Leselust zu gestalten
By Antonia M. Cornelius
Verlag Hermann Schmidt, 2017

Designing Fonts: An Introduction to Professional Type Design
by Chris Campe and Ulrike Rausch
Thames & Hudson, 2020

How Many Female Type Designers Do You Know?
by Yulia Popova
Onomatopee, 2020

Olivetti, a Unidade na Diversidade
by María Ramos
Fundación DIDAC, 2019

What’s on your overly ambitious reading list?

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