Stephen Coles’s The Anatomy of Type takes less time to read, but much more to digest. From the terminals to the tails, Coles breaks down the nuances of 100 typefaces with beautiful, comprehensible illustrations. He draws particular attention to the details that make a typeface unique. With a short history of each type and suggestion for what the type is good for, this is a must-have for web and print designers.
Once you’ve mastered The Anatomy of Type, you can pick up Lara McCormick’s Playing With Type to explore various typographic techniques. The book provides 50 experimental guidelines to jumpstart your creativity. The hands-on approaches aren’t limited to just playing with type on the computer. For example, the first experiment, “Ransom Note,” encourages you to cut out types from printed materials and assemble them together as a collage. With simple instructions and well-executed examples, Playing With Type is fun to read and inspiring to apply.
Tim Brown, a former colleague and a great friend of mine, had written a little book called Combining Typefaces. Even though the text is quite short, Tim managed to squeeze in invaluable resources for readers to explore further. The e-book format turns out to be quite useful for that task.
One of the advices I take away from the book is to experiment with different types. Nothing wrong with sticking to just one family, “But it also robs us of the opportunity to truly understand why a combination works or doesn’t, and can lead to a false sense of completion.” Tim said, “The task of combining typefaces doesn’t begin or end with any single piece of advice—it is necessarily more complex, and dependent upon a project’s design goals.” I’ll definitely keep that mind when designing my next project.
For the second project of my Advanced Web Design class, I need to build a mobile web application. Although I have done responsive design for two years now, I have never built a web application; therefore, I picked up Kris Hadlock’s jQuery Mobile: Develop and Design to see if this is the right framework for me. To my amazement, I have learned the power of jQuery Mobile through Hadlock’s excellent, easy-to-follow writing style. jQuery Mobile is very well thought-out and it does all the heavy lifting. You could build a decent mobile web application if you get all the right hooks and Hadlock’s book is a great reference for those.
Rachel Andrew, web developer and creator of Perch, gives us a taste of the future of CSS layout techniques. Even though CSS3 Layout Modules are still too early to implement on client projects, they seem promising and exciting.
I am also digging Five Simple Steps’ A Pocket Guide series. The affordable price tag is irresistible. Definitely looking forward to Tim Brown’s Combining Typefaces.
Truth be told, I didn’t read the first edition of Janice (Ginny) Redish’s Letting Go of the Words simply because I couldn’t get past the reprehensible cover design. After hearing a couple of recommendations from the folks in the web content industry, I decided to give the second edition a read and it turns out to be quite useful, especially tips on writing effective headings, clear sentences and meaningful links. Must-read for anyone who writes for the web.
Colin McFarland’s Experiment! is a refreshing approach on usability. One of his conversion techniques is to “take things away.” He suggests, “Sometimes taking things away is just as good as adding new things. Before you add, experiment with taking things away to the cancel the noise.” I couldn’t agree more. If you’re looking for guiding principles to improve your web site’s user experience, this book will show you how to do so through experiments.
If you’re a Web designer and haven’t jumped on the responsive bandwagon, Tim Kadlec’s Implementing Responsive Web Design will help you make the transition. As the author states it, this book is about “embracing the flexibility of the Web and practicing responsible responsive web design.” He’s done a thorough job of covering the key components (fluid layouts, media queries and responsive media), but the sections on planning, design workflow, responsive content and experiences are the gems of the book. I’ll recommend this book to my professor to be used in our Advanced Web Design class as well.
I finally read Donald Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things because the book is recommended for my upcoming Graduate Design Seminar class. I must confess, this book is not as enjoyable as I had expected. In addition to the dated examples of everyday things (since the book is published in 1988), the design of the book itself is not too pleasing. The page numbers and the headings are bled to the edge. A few times I couldn’t figure out if the text belongs to the illustration or the main content. The most disrupting reading experience is paragraphs after paragraphs of italics. Nevertheless the book has many principles that I agree with, especially on the balance of aesthetics and usability:
If everyday design were ruled by aesthetics, life might be more pleasing to the eye but less comfortable; if ruled by usability, it might be more comfortable but uglier. If cost or ease of manufacture dominated, products might not be attractive, functional, or durable. Clearly, each consideration has its place. Trouble occurs when one dominates all the others.
A smart, approachable guide to the basics of typography. Kristin Cullen’s Design Elements: Typography Fundamentals focuses on the language of type and typesetting tips with rich visual complementaries. Yet what makes the book a pleasure to read and the subject easy to absorb is Cullen’s accessible instructional writing. I love Cullen’s take on web typography:
Type for the web, as well as digital devices and gestural interfaces, meet challenges because conditions vary, unlike fixed mediums such as print. Multiple browsers, platforms, and screen sizes present type differently. Typefaces suited to one might not suit another. Expect the unexpected in digital realms. Be flexible and responsive. Digital formats know no bounds. Unlimited virtual space offers potential unseen in other areas.