Sometimes you just need a little creative pick-me-up. A place to get lost in someone’s experiments and sketches. And a place to inspire your own. Luckily for you, Steven Heller & Lita Talarico’s Typography Sketchbooks is exactly that. If you’re already familiar with the caliber of their previous works, then you will not be disappointed with this volume. After a few pages, you will be ready to pick up a pencil and start sketching.
Continuing in the format of their previous sketchbook compendium entitled Graphic, Typography Sketchbooks is comprised of a series of typographic chronicles for designers, by designers. At 368 pages and nearly two inches thick, this weighty tome covers a range of techniques from 118 typographers. Large full color images are central to each layout and brief supporting paragraphs supplement the designers’ creative processes and philosophies. The work displayed spans the entire sketch spectrum. From rough hand drawn concepts to finished vector pieces, there is range of styles and techniques for every preference.
The variety and depth of Typography Sketchbooks is particularly compelling. As Liz Meyer explains, lettering and type design are such small niches in the industry; it’s incredible to see an alphabet’s anatomy come to life in differing styles. Typography Sketchbooks contrasts minimalists like Erik Spiekermann with the illustrative work of artists such as Matt Luckhurst. Heller and Talarico pack the self-proclaimed “typographic playground” with lovely examples of work that is experimental, classic, expressive, minimal and everything in between. A few personal highlights include Jonny Hannah’s folk hand lettering, Ina Saltz’s calligraphic styles, Tom Schamp’s playful animal studies, and Katie Lombardo’s quirky, painted forms. And the impeccable craftsmanship and eloquent curves of legend Doyald Young’s work is undoubtedly the highlight.
In the foreword, Heller and Talarico share that a designer must be fluent in the language of type. Those who aren’t, are simply not graphic designers. These pages reveal designers exploring language and it’s evocative visual potential. I found myself dissecting and internalizing the various creative processes. Some of the featured designers, like Bob Audfuldish, form letters from pre-existing materials. Others such as John Baeder build a photographic sketchbook based on found imagery. Some work in paint, while others prefer the precision of ink tediously applied to a grid. Whether carefully archived or simply scrawled on loose notebook paper, each sketch reveals the inner workings of a creative thought process.
Typography Sketchbooks is an inspiring reminder of the array of possible styles of sketching. The merit of rough experiments and tightly honed renderings is equally evident. Next time I am in need of typographic inspiration, Typography Sketchbooks will be my first stop.
Mandy Collins is a graphic designer and illustrator residing in Charlotte, North Carolina. View her work at www.mandy-collins.com