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Book Review: Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton

From the Editors: We're happy to have our friend Neil Nisbet, a graphic designer, currently living in New York working with Grimshaw Architects. Review Thinking with Type. His past projects include branding for cultural organizations, festivals and music events as well as lots of flyers for clubs and bars in his hometown of Manchester, UK. His work has been shown at The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and in the exhibition 'The Flyer as Art' in Shoreditch, London. He plays drums for fun.

Ellen Lupton - Princeton Architectural Press

Originally published in 2004 the forty-eight pages of new content in this popular introduction to typography are devoted to the notoriously fast-paced and mutable subject of web standards and to contemporary case studies and examples. These new pages augment existing content drawn from the canon of graphic design structured around the themes of letter, text and grid.

Substantial essays at the top of each section offer historical context and critical theory with quotes by Barthes, Derrida and McLuchan before settling into an engaging mix of case studies and pull outs. The focus on post structuralism and many work examples from nineties icons like Emigre, Ed Fella and Bruce Mau threaten to date sections of content to the first edition.

But it is by tackling multi media design and theory that Lupton has assured the book's continued usefulness and relevance. There is a brilliant passage contrasting consumption of print and web - the 'contemplative' intake of information in books versus the 'productive' impatience of the digital 'user'. An illuminating contemporary case study identifies and contextualizes Chris Dixon's brilliantly eclectic choice of fonts from various points in history in his art direction for New York magazine.

As a piece of editorial design in itself the book is pedestrian in appearance closer in intention and execution to a populist text book than to analogous titles marketed purely to graphic designers. This approach no doubt ensures the widest possible audience and certainly the neutral setting allow the work examples to assert themselves more fully. For a more dynamic example of Lupton and husband J Abbot Miller's editorial design their book on The Bauhaus is recommended as is the latters work at a design practise you may have heard of.  

The book successfully blends a general introduction to contemporary typography with an accessible introduction to critical theory and deserves its continued success as a standard title on the subject.


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