HN Books @HNBooksMonth

The best books of Hacker News.

Hacker News Comments on
The Elements of Typographic Style

Robert Bringhurst · 6 HN comments
HN Books has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention "The Elements of Typographic Style" by Robert Bringhurst.
View on Amazon [↗]
HN Books may receive an affiliate commission when you make purchases on sites after clicking through links on this page.
Amazon Summary
Renowned typographer and poet Robert Bringhurst brings clarity to the art of typography with this masterful style guide. Combining practical, theoretical, and historical, this book is a must for graphic artists, editors, or anyone working with the printed page using digital or traditional methods. Having established itself as a standard in its field The Elements of Typographic Style is house manual at most American university presses, a standard university text, and a reference work in studios of designers around the world. It has been translated into italian and greek, and dutch.
HN Books Rankings

Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this book.
An excellent read is Bringhurst's "The Elements of Typographic Style"[0], for both history and theory.


And for the prose as well. My favourite quote:

“A man who would letterspace lower case would steal sheep, Frederic Goudy liked to say. If this wisdom needs updating, it is chiefly to add that a woman who would letterspace lower case would steal sheep as well.”

I would actually spend the money to buy Thinking with Type, if you're really serious about learning typography. Having the tree version lets you get really up close and personal with the various types, and it's easy to flip between pages to compare letterforms, etc. Another one to check out is Elements of Typographic Style [1].


For those interested in typography, while I found blog posts helpful in teaching myself, if you really want to understand, I recommend reading one of the canonical texts depending on your particular interest. Typography is a deep field with a lot to know before you can really know what you're doing.

The Elements of Typographical Style is a beautiful book and an elegant, literary introduction and guide:

Thinking with Type is full of contemporary examples to give you new ideas:

Ruder's Typographie is the book that established modern typography and is the de fact guide to modernist typography:

As an introduction to typography, I also recommend watching Helvetica: – it will give you a personal perspective on different philosophies of choice of type-face

For that matter, the same goes for color theory.

Here's a nice introduction to color in general from the Adobe website:

The Wikipedia entry is worth reading:

Kandinsky's Concerning the Spiritual in Art is a beautiful manifesto on art, but contains a very interesting theory of color:

Itten's The Elements of Color is the classic text on color:

Albers' Interaction of Color will teach you that colors are no absolute reference ponts – they interact with each other to create all sorts of effects (this text pairs well with the Kandinsky):

To get really deep into color, check out the IESNA handbook:

All this is not to obviate OP's impetus to write posts on these topics. Blog posts are crucial as introductions and I find tend to work better as references than books, which tend to be overwhelming and ignored in this digital age. But if you want to go deeper, these are my favorite references after moderately exhaustive research.

Mar 07, 2011 · lkozma on Get the best ampersand
It can all be traced back to a remark by Robert Bringhurst in his influential book "The Elements of Typographic Style" in which he suggests that in titles it is worth using the most decorative & sign we have (some fonts have different variants available) or even use the italic ampersand in roman context, because the italic & is often more decorative (ultimately they all come from a stylized "et").

I think many have taken it too far and the results sometimes look pretentious. An example still on the safe side (IMHO) is in pg's book:

And the typograhy book (highly recommended):



Coincidentally I have just started reading ETS. Care to tell me where he actually talks about ampersands in the book?
I like this question as I have had an interest in design for many years, but largely hired designers to work for me, and focused on technology.

One thing that separates good designers from hacks (in my opinion) is their appreciation of the history of design. Say you take your text, shrink the font down, and then jam the paragraphs far away from each other in a two column layout leaving a giant gutter (is that the right word?) in the middle and no left or right margins. That's (whether you want to or not) referencing a period in design history; if my memory serves, starting with some reasonably high-concept magazines in the late 1960s.

Same idea, but add thin borders as if you cut the text out of a block of paper, rotate randomly and slightly, and you're referencing fanzines of nearly the same era, a little bit later.

Now, distress the text horribly, and make everything bigger like you photocopied on 'enlarge', and you've got '80s punk.

Now, sharpen filter it all, crisp the whole thing up, stylize the borders and cut-aways, choosing a font with built-in crispy distressing, add a muted dark distressed background with a large image pattern (and probably a little pink) and you've got some sort of 2010-era crispy new proto-punk / ironic nod to punk design.

All that to say, you still want to have some understanding of the 'rules' of design, and typography, but they will be nearly worthless to you without some experience of the mental and emotional connections people make with existing significant design movements.

Luckily, this experience is pretty easy to get. seems pretty cool, although I just found it for purposes of writing this response.

With some of that experience, you will be able to 'parse' design in a technical way alongside your own artistic sense -- and since you're a technologist, you'll be able to understand how the changing technology allows new design looks to spread as well on the web, and that will put you ahead of 95+% of 'designers' on the web. Early web 2.0 was puffy letters, reflections, and large fonts for forms -- all this enabled by browser changes, and design needs of the time.

Late web 2.0 looks like we're going to have a lot of rounded boxes, shadows, and browser-based gradients, since those things are getting easier to do; whether or not that's what happens, I will be able to assess the online designs when they come about with some sense of what's come before, and appreciation for what people are doing now.

On Typography: all this goes for typography as well, one of my pet nerdy subjects. I really love The Elements of Typographic Style by Bringhurst. Design's 'rules' are far less codified than typography's rules; despite that, there continues to be amazing work and amazing font design happening, in fact, maybe more and more high quality font design. A thorough understanding of typography is a great joy for anyone who reads, in my opinion. Check it out.

p.s. I was thinking about what design group HN falls into in my head while I wrote this, and I decided "neo-Greenspun". Thoughts anyone?

> a lot of rounded boxes, shadows, and browser-based gradients, since those things are getting easier to do;

Interesting question: since they're easier to do, more people will do them, and they won't stand out. So the 'cool kids' will move on to something else?

That's always the way; design definitely evolves for fashion reasons as well as new technologies / needs.
4 years of design school left me with 2 words: Simple contrasts.

Design, particularly typography, is all about the relationships between elements. Contrast defines those relationships. For type, contrast is usually created by size, position, color, weight (sometimes called typographic color, just to confuse things), face, and variant (eg: oblique). Use as few of those to achieve contrast as possible. Thus, simple contrasts.

The Elements of Typographic Style will efficiently rock your world:

HN Books is an independent project and is not operated by Y Combinator or
~ [email protected]
;laksdfhjdhksalkfj more things ~ Privacy Policy ~
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.