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  • Shaping Text


    (2 reviews)

    Shaping Text takes a practical and broad approach to typography. It is aimed at design students and graphic designers, and also at those who are concerned with content: writers, editors, and publishers. Showing a wide range of examples from first-rate designers across the world, the book examines why and how typographic designs work well in a given context. Particular attention is given to the team play between the text itself—written language—and the design—the shaping of the text—to form a new, multilevel visual message with a complex content.

    Jan Middendorp is a freelance editor, writer and designer working in Berlin. He is the author of such reference books as Dutch Type (2004), Type Navigator (2011, with TwoPoints.net), Shaping Text (2012) and Hand to Type (2012). Since 2007 he has been the editor of MyFonts' bi-monthly newsletters, which reach an audience of over a million users. He has written about type, typography, performance and media for a variety of magazines including Eye (London), Typo (Prague), Etapes (Paris), tipoGrafica (Buenos Aires) and Items (Amsterdam).

    by: Jan Middendorp
    Publisher: BIS Publishers
    ISBN: 978-9063692230
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    Ralf Herrmann

       1 of 1 member found this review helpful 1 / 1 member

    It’s a beginner’s guide to typography. But unlike many other books in this segment, it doesn’t just repeat the old “letterpress teachings” taken over from the typography books written decades ago. It’s a fresh take on the subject, with beautiful and contemporary illustrations and font samples and it also covers recent developments like OpenType font technology, webfonts and typography on mobile devices. 

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    H James Lucas


    On the penultimate page of this clear, accessible, and trustworthy guide to designing with type, Mr Middendorp issues a challenge to educators: “There is a task for design schools here: today’s designers need to learn how to perform the tasks of the professional typesetter and proofreader − nobody else is doing it.” This indictment of the publishing industry at large is both justified and suggests that Mr Middendorp was acutely aware that the creation of a work as admirable as Shaping Text cannot be left to the usual processes.

    Within this framing, it makes sense that Shaping Text manages to feel like a masterly work despite having enough grammatical hiccups that the reader might suspect that Mr Middendorp was working without a professional copyeditor. Even with a liberal sprinkling of malformed clauses, not‑quite‑right prepositions, and other oddities, Mr Middendorp’s ideas are clearly delivered, which is fortunate because they are well considered and worth heeding. His design examples, although highly Eurocentric, stem from diverse eras and movements; his definitions and explanations are clear and accurate; his recommendations are sound.

    Shaping Text is a textbook much more than a desk reference, so it may be of limited value to advanced professionals. It will be applicable to design students, hobbyists, and professionals just getting started. It includes enough background and context to be approachable by absolute beginners (the section on numerals even includes a quick primer on how to read Roman numerals—what a mensch!), but Cyrus Highsmith’s more compact Inside Paragraphs may be a more immediately useful source. Shaping Text may be be less applicable than Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style to anyone working exclusively with long‑form texts but will be more valuable to anyone working with posters, covers, branding, or web‑design.

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