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Old 03-24-2007, 01:09 PM   #1
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Default An A-Z of Type Designers

Neil Macmillan’s An A–Z of Type Designers is an illustrated listing of important type designers from Gutenberg up to the present time. It is not complete, of course — too many new typefaces (and new designers) emerge every few months for anyone to keep up with all of them. But this book does include many recent contemporary designers — including Peter Bilak, Frank Blokland, Mark van Bronkhorst, John Downer, Dave Farey, Tobias Frere-Jones, Jonathan Hoefler, the late Justin Howes, Akira Kobayasi, Martin Majoor, Jim Parkinson, Albert-Jan Pool, Fred Smeijers, and more — who are otherwise known mainly through type catalog listings, magazine articles, web zines, and other transitory references.

The author describes this as a successor to Rookledge’s International Handbook of Type Designers (published in 1991). (The Handbook reappeared in an updated 1994 edition, renamed Rookledge’s International Directory of Type Designers, published by Joe Freedman’s Sarabande Press, but that edition may not have been consulted for Macmillan’s book.) The earlier books were mainly text, with limited type specimens, a few photos, and lists of the type designs.

Macmillan’s A–Z is much more graphic, with color illustrations that include type specimens, type in use, and sketches by designers. It is a large-format book very much in the modern picture-book style. If you want to see comprehensive examples of each designer’s work you will have to dig further. But the book would clearly become an unliftable tome if it attempted to show even 12-point examples of every typeface.

I was intrigued by some of the missing entries. For one thing, there seemed to be a bias against script designers — there was no mention of Gillies, Kaufmann, Robert E. Smith (Park Avenue), or Trafton, for example. And the coverage of English and European designers was better than the North American. (For those, you need to consult David Consuegra’s American Type & Designers, which I describe briefly in this thread.) On the other hand, Macmillan corrects what was an extremely odd omission from the Rookledge volumes — he includes Adobe’s Rob Slimbach (Carol Twombly appears in all three).

There are also eight essays by various authors (the most interesting to me was John Downer’s piece on typeface revivals).

The book is a high-quality paperback with foldover covers; $35, Yale University Press, 2006. (About $26 from Amazon and other sources.)

A good companion (so you can see examples of the fonts): FontShop’s big yellow catalog, FontBook (hard cover, $100, 2006). It lists most of the fonts available in digital format, shows character sets, and includes designer, foundry, abridged historic information, and more.


Last edited by ktinkel; 03-24-2007 at 01:52 PM. Reason: add link to related thread
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