Review: Combining Typefaces by Tim Brown

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Book Review: Combining Typefaces by Tim Brown

Combining Typefaces is part of a series of ‘pocket guides’ from Five Simple Steps, and, like most of their publications, it is very well designed, researched and written.

Part reference book and part tutorial, the book helps designers answer the question – “What typefaces should i use?”

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It begins with a refresher course on the anatomy of type – if you don’t know your ascenders from your counters then it’s important not to skip through this. A knowledge of this terminology will help later in selecting typefaces that work together.

The next section takes a spin on the ‘jobs to be done’ idea, by asking in what context your type will be used – is it for a user interface? headlines? long passages of text? and also what size and scale the type will be used at. There’s a very strong focus on context – using real text, in the browser, on devices, to assess the best typefaces to use.

Once you’ve an anchor typeface selected, the book goes beyond the typical ways of matching typefaces (using superfamilies, or choosing a time period, or choosing a designer) and looks at the actual visual elements that make typefaces work together – rhythm, shape, proportion, colour and anatomy.

The final part of the book is a critique of a number of sites such as Contents Magazine and Art of the Title and analyses the type choices made, and what makes them work together.

Combining Typefaces is a short read, but makes for an excellent desktop companion for any designer who cares about type. It’s also a fantastic resource, full of links to useful tools and sites. And it’s only £2!

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