After seeing Sarah Hyndman give an entertaining talk about typography I just knew I had to get hold of her latest book, How to Draw Type and Influence People.
I first became aware of Sarah Hyndman when I attended one of the Glug Birmingham events earlier this year. She was talking about her research into typography and psychology, and gave attendees an entertaining and informative tour through the different ‘personalities’ of various typefaces. Sarah has previously written books including Why Fonts Matter and The Type Taster: How Fonts Influence You. These books are based more on conceptual ideas around typography, offering a philosophy of type and showing how it can influence our thoughts, emotions and senses. Sarah’s latest offering builds on these by providing an activity-based handbook for fledgling typeface designers to learn the fundamentals which will allow them to one day become masters of type design.
Touched by type
The overall aim of How to Draw Type and Influence People is to leverage creative exercises to help us better understand how type can convey a messages; this is more than the information encoded in the text, it is about the form and function of the type itself. The book’s introduction opens our eyes to the variety and quantity of type we are exposed to on a daily basis. In an early exercise we are invited to draw the typefaces used in logos on the objects and products visible at that moment. I was sitting in the kitchen and was therefore exposed to a range of different type styles, from food jar labels through to the logo on the oven. The following 13 chapters then look at different aspects of type, taking in things like font families, serif and sans-serif typefaces, sensory type and font personalities. The early chapters help build knowledge about more formal aspects of typography, such as ligatures, proximity and legibility. Sarah also focuses on some more arbitrary concepts such as ‘Wild West’ type, Victoriana, sci-fi the type used invoking and inciting revolution. The idea is to contrast the more structured understanding of type introduced in early chapters with a more free and fluid, almost instinctive, appreciation for the impact different font choices can have on an audience.
Learning by doing
Of course, it is the activities which underpin all of these different sections. Sarah’s commentary is concise and sparse, leaving us to focus on the very enjoyable task of putting our new learning into action. It’s not just a case of repeating the same activities over and over however. Throughout the book there are activities which allow us to practice doing things like drawing different font weights, mastering monograms, learning about ligatures and channeling the senses through shaping and texturing letterforms. There are matching activities, cut-out templates and grids that make for the easier identification of subtle glyph architecture. There are also a few quiz style questions scattered throughout the book which test both objective knowledge and subjective opinions on certain aspects of type. I felt these weren’t strictly necessary and didn’t really mesh that well with the overall context of the book. The book ends with a glossary set out over three spreads, which includes useful terms and quick tips (this would actually make a really good poster!).
Putting it all together
It is the interactivity of How to Draw Type and Influence People which makes it such a joy, and this is made possible by its well thought out design and construction: the pages use a heavy enough grade of paper that drawing on one side of a page won’t interfere with what’s on the reverse; where pages or elements of a page can be cut out, the reverse is left blank. We are actively encouraged to make the book our own on almost every page, and this is reinforced by the understated templates and elements that have a real hand-drawn feel. The book is also a nice size, and certainly larger than I thought it would be from the picture (imagine a stubby A4 pad if that helps!).
There has clearly been a lot of thought and effort put into this book. Although I’m yet to work my way through all the activities I have already found my appreciation for type and ability to construct it has improved. One of my favourite things about Sarah’s book was that in moving between the different sections we unwittingly soak up all kind of information, from type design terminology to the history of different styles and movements. As a graphic designer I am always looking to improve my typographical capabilities and How to Draw Type and Influence People provides a fun and therefore almost effortless way of doing so. It’s worth pointing out the caveat that such accessibility means that anyone looking for a comprehensive instructive compendium on type design will do better with a more formal text. However, the strength of the book is in its charm and utility which I am sure will appeal to fledgling typographers of all ages.