Book List For Aspiring Type Designers

Type designers love books. Just check out the Type Designers At Work blog and see how many have bookshelves in the background. We love books for two reasons, they are full of beautiful specimens of typography and are a great source of knowledge. 

The fundamentals and history of type design are fairly static making books an ideal medium to contain this knowledge. In fact, sometimes the older and more obscure books hold the most interesting content.

The following are some of my most opened and referenced books while I am drawing letters:


Cover of Designing Type

Designing Type Second Edition

Karen Cheng

This book was my main reference while drawing my first typeface. The book examines each letter in detail, comparing examples across different classifications of typefaces. It is very useful for figuring out visual compensations, metrics, and relationships between upper and lowercase.

Cover of The ABC of Custom Lettering

The ABC Of Custom Lettering

Ivan Castro

Typographic letters come from calligraphic forms and learning some basic calligraphy really helps to create an understanding of letter shapes. The calligraphy section of this workbook is incredibly well-explained and has a great variety of traditional calligraphy models to reference.

Cover of How To Create Typefaces

How To Create Typefaces: From Sketch To Screen

Cristóbal Henestrosa, José Scaglione, Laura Meseguer

This overview of the type design industry provides an essential look into the process of making a typeface. I read it after I had been working in the industry for 5 years and it confirmed a lot of the things I had learned along the way.

Fun References:

Cover of Custom Lettering Of The 20s And 30s

Custom Lettering of the 20s and 30s (40s and 50s, 60s and 70s)

Rian Hughes

This whole series is amazing. Each collection gives an excellent feel for the lettering and visual spirit of the time. A treasure trove of ideas and excellent reference for nailing the tone of a particular era in your work.

Cover of A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles

A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles Vol. 1&2

Cees De Jong, Alston Purvis, Jan Tholenaar

I didn’t immediately appreciate this book when I bought it in second year university – it was full of old stuff. When I gained an appreciation for old type specimens (especially the layouts and ornamentation) this book became one of my favourites. Also serves as a great jumping off point for researching more into a specific specimen book. 

Cover of Alphabet Thesaurus Vol.2

Alphabet Thesaurus Vol.2

Edward & the Staff of Photo-Lettering (editors) Rondthaler

So many alphabets! This old photo type catalog is an excellent reference on how other designers solved certain problems in certain styles. Many of the specimens in here are no longer accessible because they were never made into a digital format so there are some unique things to look at in here. 

Cover of Arcade Game Typography

Arcade Game Typography

Toshi Omagari

Pixel type is freaking cool! I heard Toshi had to play through and beat a lot of the games in order to collect the full specimen of each typeface in this book. It is impressive how much variation can be achieved on an 8x8 grid. 

Dig Deeper:

Cover of Size-specific Adjustments To Type Designs

Size-Specific Adjustments To Type Designs

Shoko Mugikura, Tim Ahrens

Thinking of making a text-specific style for your design? This is a must-read detailed study of methods that make type work in small sizes.

Cover of Bi-Scriptual


Sascha Thoma, Ben Wittner, Timm Hartmann

Are you setting two different scripts next to each other in a design or just curious about other scripts and want an overview? This book is for you!

Cover of Reading Letters

Reading Letters: Designing For Legibility

Sofie Beier

A scientific look into legibility. This book explains what happens in our mind when we read and how we understand letters. It gives a new perspective on how your type designs will be understood and interacted with. 

Cover of Shaping Text: Typography and the Reader

Shaping Text: Type, Typography and the Reader

Jan Middendorp

A detailed dive into how to use typefaces well. Great type designers understand typography on a deep level and this book covers a lot of angles. Knowing how fonts will be used in many typesetting instances is crucial to making functional fonts.