It’s an exciting time for type. Today’s robust generation of young typographers is constantly experimenting with the limits of one of the oldest visual art forms, and at the same time, the Internet has created a vast audience of design observers hungry for the next new thing.
But today’s most gifted typographers aren’t only concerned with bleeding-edge digital techniques. As the Little Book of Lettering, a new book by Emily Gregory, makes clear, there’s also a renewed interest in old-fashioned methods like sign painting, and an appreciation for hand lettering and all its human-generated imperfections. The range of techniques and approaches in the book are wide-ranging, from John Passafiume’s obsessively detailed hand-drawn compositions that are as precise as any machine’s, to Nina Gregier’s embroidered lettering and Teegan White’s honest, beautiful illustrations of words and phrases. Many of these artists and designers are drawn to typography because of the restrictions the letters place on their work: "The constraints of legibility," White tells the author, "give me a strict framework to experiment within."
As you can see in the sample above, the unavoidable practicalities of type both constrain the artists’ work and force them to innovate in ways that still maintain the traditions of the medium—no small task. Because what good is type that can’t be read? White’s illustration for "The Person You Love Is 72.8% Water" is a fine case in point: an evocative mix of anatomical and scientific imagery.
But don’t expect fine-grained descriptions of technique and process from the Little Book of Lettering—it’s the sort of enticing yet slight book you’d find on the table at Urban Outfitters. What it lacks in depth it makes up for in breadth, but there are big ideas here; you’ll probably be wishing the physical size of the book wasn’t so frustratingly small.
Buy the book for $17 here.