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Butterick’s Practical Typography

Posted by Rebecca Blake on December 19, 2013

Butterick's Practical TypographyLawyer and type designer Matthew Butterick has self-published a treatise on typography: Butterick’s Practical Typography. Although the book is targeted to non-designers, it is a clear, easy-to-follow overview of the basics of typography that even designers well-versed in type layout will enjoy revisiting. Butterick builds a solid basis on typography best-rules, starting with “Why Typography Matters,” and proceeding with thorough discussions of type composition, formatting, font choice, and page layout. He concludes with an appendix of valuable features such as a meaty bibliography, a list of bad typewriter habits, and keyboard shortcuts for common accented characters.

Butterick’s Practical Typography is not only a well written treatise on the fundamentals of sound type usage, but also an experiment in web-based book publishing. Butterick created Pollen, the publishing system used for the book, using the programming language Racket. The result is a simple, elegantly designed online publication which is easy to navigate and free. Butterick intends to keep the book ad-free, but requests that users support the expensive project by buying Butterick’s fonts, sending a donation, or buying his previous book, Typography for Lawyers.

Butterick comes by his expertise through a career built on design and typography. After receiving his BA from Harvard in visual and environmental studies, he worked as a type designer and engineer at the Font Bureau, and created Herald Gothic, Wessex, and Hermes. After founding the web design firm Atomic Studio (later bought by Red Hat), he went to UCLA Law School and joined the California Bar.

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