Giving Your Right Brain a Regular Workout

Typography Sketchbooks

When Typography Sketchbooks was released back in September 2011 there was more than one RB staffer who hoped that it might make its way into their stocking. Over an inch thick and jam packed with beautifully decorated sketchbook pages courtesy of everyone from Milton Glaser to Erik Spiekermann, it seemed a must have for any self respecting type fan.

Thankfully, it turns out that the portly fellow in the red suit is a type nerd too, so more than one copy eventually made its way into our hands. It’s such a lovely piece of typographic eye candy, we’ve whipped up a bit of a review – and we have a couple of extra copies to give away.

Typography Sketchbooks draws back the curtain to reveal the inner workings of the designer-wizard who lurks within. Curated by Steven Hellar and Lita Talarico, this superbly crafted book showcases images from the sketchbooks of some of the world’s best when it comes to all things type.

118 crafters of typography, type design and logo graphics opened up their private sketchbooks and discussed their creative processes, thoughts and ideologies. The book, ordered by designer, gives a rare glimpse into the inner-workings of the who’s-who in written images and communication.

Included amongst the designers are such greats as Milton Glaser, Erik Spiekermann, Peter Bilak and Jean Baptiste Levée, as well as many up and coming designers, sure to leave their mark on the world of type design.

Each page, each designer, brings with it something new. The precise lines and functionality of Mathew Carter’s fonts contrasts with the swirls and curls of Celina Carvalho’s alphabet, based on drawings of iron motifs found in Venice. Each sketchbook is as unique as the designer who kept it. Some push the expectations of a sketchbook to its extremes; John Baeder explains that you do not necessarily need a pencil and paper to keep a sketchbook, rather he has collected photographs of ‘primitive signs and graphic folk art’ into a visual, photo sketchbook.

As different as the images presented are the thoughts and beliefs of the designers. Peter Bilak explains his belief that sketches should be viewed as part of a process rather than as independent pieces of creation: ‘In the arts, there is a tendency today to consider sketches on their own, and to sell them as autonomous artworks. This has to do with creating added value, and is far from the artist’s original intention. While I am presenting a selection of sketches here, omitting those that didn’t help the creative process, it is important not to consider them on their own, but as tools to generate possibilities.’ Conversely, Pierre di Sciullo speaks of the ‘timeliness and sensuality’ of his sketches, stating: ‘They can be viewed as part of a series, but sometimes they can be viewed for themselves, not like a former step of something else.’


With over 600 illustrations spread over 368 pages Typography Sketchbooks is a visual and intellectual feast, offering a design showcase sure to captivate all those with an interest in typography and graphic arts.

We have two copies of Typography Sketchbooks to give away. All you have to do is ‘tweet’ this review (use #rbtypesketch) and you’ll be in the running to get your hands on your very own copy.

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