REVIEW: Explorations in Typography 2nd Edition

by Carolina de Bartolo

There are so many introductory books on typography and type design, and particular titles are often recommended to students. It’s not to say that the usual classics aren’t worthwhile (they are), but this is a good one that deserves notice.

In 2011, university typography instructor Carolina de Bartolo released the remarkably useful and beautiful, “Explorations in Typography.” Aimed for those arranging type for print, it was a smart and intelligent method to visually demonstrate different ways of setting text with attention to typographic styles, arrangements, spacing, and size. Generously sized for real-world page design scenarios with delicate design features throughout (including yellow gilded edges), an equally useful iPad app version was also released. 6 years on people still read, and reading off screens (both desktop and handheld) are just as vital if not more so than print. Along with the welcome design advancements of typography on websites, tablets, touchscreens and apps, the finer details are just as important as the ability to “learn by looking.”

This completely redesigned and expanded edition diligently explores and enhances the what, how and why of effective typesetting through numerous examples and tips. Suitably supported with an essay from Erik Spiekermann (as in the original edition) and the always-typographically knowledgable, Stephen Coles (responsible for compiling typeface descriptions and an index of alternate fonts either low-cost or free for educational use) you couldn’t ask for a better set of teachers who know what they’re talking about.

With a new robust design (hardcover binding + exquisite finishing), thinner paper stock, increased font styles and sizes, this edition is an essential guide and type specimen for those who want to seriously up their game when handling basic to complex layouts & grid design. While geared for educators and students alike, it is also beneficial for publication or web designers working with large amounts of text that require clarity or typographic hierarchy while maintaining appropriate visual interest.

Continuing with the qualities of being both a resourceful and beautifully produced book, a solid online version provides live testing (with slider bars & clickable tabs for a selection of core fonts), a type combination guide and a PDF of downloadable teaching materials in conjunction with the book’s content. Replacing the iPad app for the first edition, this website itself demonstrates the precepts shown within the 24 chapters covered. In the end, the best design books are ones that have lasting power as a teaching opportunity, a trustworthy guide and as a permanent part of one’s learning & inspirational library. The second edition of “Explorations of Typography” belongs in that category.