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Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works

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Explains what type is, demonstrates how to select it, and examines its use in printed communication.

188 pages, Paperback

First published February 1, 1993

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Erik Spiekermann

21 books24 followers

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5 stars
769 (35%)
4 stars
685 (31%)
3 stars
510 (23%)
2 stars
131 (6%)
1 star
54 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 86 reviews
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,894 reviews1,927 followers
November 18, 2012
Rating: 4* of five

The Book Description: A classic guide to typography -- now updated for the Web -- More than 200 full-color illustrations and photographs bring the discussion of typography to life.

-- Updated to include new material on Web typography and other forms of online text display.

This classic typography book, first published in 1993, is now updated with brand-new typefaces, fonts, and illustrations. Internationally renowned graphic designer Erik Spiekermann explains in everyday terms what typography is and offers design guidance in choosing type for legibility, meaning, and aesthetic appeal. Stop Stealing Sheep and Find Out How Type Works, 2nd Edition guides the reader through all aspects of typography, from the history and mechanics of type, to training the eye to recognize and choose typefaces. Uncover type's roots and placement within society and learn how to use space and layout to improve overall communication. This elegant guide for readers of all levels is revised and updated to discuss the particular design challenges of type on the Internet. Note: This title was originally announced in the October 2000 Pearson Technology Group catalog.

My Review: Books about type are a guilty little pleasure for me, one I do my best to hide underneath a front of ignorance and indifference. People, by which I mean boring, unimaginative consumers of Stuff, are seriously snotty and cuttingly dismissive of typeheads when their difference comes to light. “My gawd, don't you have anything better to obsess about?!” is the most printable of the snarls I've had directed at me when I venture to observe a sign's efforts to communicate are vitiated to the point of incomprehensibility by the typeface used.

But this book is so much fun, I will go on and review it, and inform the uninterested that their uninterestingness is showing. Don't bother commenting. I'll only be rude to you. Loudly and at length.

Now...for the initiates, the Cool Kids...here's a hit from the hookah of type maven Spiekermann that will keep you snickering at the spirited writing and musing on history's chanciness at the stories he's telling. How a typeface survived in the days before the web is really a function of chance. The examples that the book gives are a hoot, the sample word he chose is “Handgloves,” which for no reason I can explain caused me to burst forth in gales of mirth, the defense of Comic Sans alone...!

I learned a lot about the story of type. I learned a lot more about the role of type in problem-solving, social (Interstate signage, form design) and commercial (brand identity, book design) than I ever knew I didn't know. I had a rare experience all the while: I had fun.

Not for everyone, for sure and certain! But a gas and a half for the amenable.
Profile Image for spoko.
196 reviews14 followers
August 31, 2022
Spiekermann and Ginger have, essentially, nothing to say. Unfortunately, they spend over 150 pages saying it. The worst of it is that there are all kinds of color photos, headings, etc., so the book is printed on heavy, glossy paper. This is bad because [a] glossy paper is hard to read text on (as any designer should know) and [b] both heavy/glossy paper and color inks are expensive. Thus, you must pay $20 for a book that could very easily be condensed into a $1.50 pamphlet.

This book is often touted as an introduction into type because it is basic and easy to access. The problem is that it is too basic. If you know what a serif is, this book is too basic for you. If you know that it is possible to adjust the spacing between letters, words, or lines of type, then this book is way too basic for you—even if you aren’t familiar with terms like letterspacing and leading. Get a book that will be a real introduction—if you’re going to learn about type, learn enough that it will make a difference. If you want easy access, pick up something by Robin P. Williams (doesn’t matter what—they’re all about the same). If you really want to learn something, get Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style. Whatever you do, pass this book up. You could learn more, cheaper, from a high-school yearbook instructor.
Profile Image for eq.
154 reviews
December 17, 2009
I thought this book was going to give me a seizure. There were so many different fonts, images, margins... Did I mention fonts? They were everywhere. I get the point (or pica) - font matters. But did you have to put it everywhere? I can only look at "Handgloves" so many times in so many ways and mixed up in the overall book was just confusing.

Font. Sigh.

And what was up with the information in small, red font in the left margins? I couldn't make up my mind about what to read. Should I read the main text? Should I read the margin? Or should I just look at the images. What a headache!

I ended up looking at the pictures.

p.s. I blame Joe Comeau for this.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
76 reviews1 follower
February 26, 2009
If you are interested in typography, but maybe weren't taught much about it in say, art school, then you'll love this book. Every page was a wonderful introduction to something I simply didn't know, but was completely captivated by...rather, many pages were - I do know what a descender is and how to tell a sanserif from a serif. I'm no idiot.

But, I'd recommend this to every graphic designer and type-nut.

I'm definitely putting it on my essential reading list for my Fundamentals of Graphic Design module!
Profile Image for Deane Barker.
Author 6 books34 followers
December 29, 2014
I can't recommend this book. It's a little ironic that the biggest problem with a book on type is its format.

The book is divided into chapters, but each one is essentially a collection of mini-essays. In each two-page spread, the left page is an image of some kind, meant to illustrate what the right page is discussing. A couple problems:

* There are no headings. Since each two-page spread is a mini-essay that is meant to stand alone, a heading summarizing what's under discussion would have been helpful. The essay often didn't seem to say much, or make any sort of unique point about anything. Many of the essays seemed to just run together.

* The essay was divided into main text (a black, serifed font), and a sidebar which was a tiny, fluorescent orange font. The sidebar was visually hard to read (again, ironic in a book on this subject), and I couldn't figure out how it was supposed to be thematically different from the main text. I basically read them as one uninterrupted passage of text -- main, then sidebar -- and I don't know if I was supposed to.

In the end, I got little out of the book, beyond some general points about type and some understanding of the scope of decision when it comes to selecting a font.

Specifically, I was missing some practical discussion on the "meat" of type -- ascenders, descenders, etc. Halfway through, I began to feel out of place, like the book assumed I had a base of practical knowledge which I didn't actually have. As such, I think this book is more for graphic artists, and not for type novices looking to understand the core precepts of the discipline.
Profile Image for Marla.
184 reviews1 follower
February 20, 2020
This book was such a letdown after reading and loving 'Just My Type' by Simon Garfield. This book, which I read the second edition of, was just such a letdown. The high goodreads rating doesn't reflect that it has almost no actual history, facts or information about fonts or type. It spents the whole book comparing fonts to people, houses, forests, etc. without actually giving me any real interesting or useful information. The title is a joke that they say I should understand by the end of reading this book, but nope.

As well, you would think a book that a book that discusses book layouts and ease of reading would have an extremely readable layout, right? WRONG. The left side of each two page layout was a picture, sometimes related to the discussion. The bottom of the page was random fonts with no discussion as to how they're relevant to the topic. And there are two columns of text: a large one for main discussion and a smaller red-font one for 'deeper discussion'. I wanted the deeper discussion but stopping to read it interrupted the flow of the main discussion from page to page. I didn't feel like there was a good time to interrupt the reading so I could look at the deeper topics. I feel like those should have been integrated into the main discussion so that the main discussion was deeper and more interesting & educational.
Profile Image for Andy.
357 reviews59 followers
June 2, 2013
A coffee-table book about typeface design. Very introductory and light in content, but there are nice visuals and some interesting tidbits in the sidebars. I enjoyed the comparisons of typefaces and their histories, particularly those that were applied to specific purposes - industrial signage, newspapers, etc. Sometimes terms are used before they are defined (such as "x-height") or are not defined at all ("tracking" is spacing between letters), which is a problem. There are some good observations about what criteria should guide font choice. I particularly liked the procedure of making a backlit sign readable and the observation that typefaces for heavy reading should have milder, understated ascenders and descenders.

But on the whole, I'd prefer to have had more concrete analyses of what makes a typeface good or not good - in general I wish this book were written more systematically. What exactly makes Helvetica blander than Frutiger, in the opinion of the authors? For what applications are slab serifs better than normal serifs? Typeface design sits at an interesting juncture between artistry and practicality; perhaps it's pointless to be so systematic about the paintings in the Met, but because typefaces are often created with specific intended applications, it's quite possible to be quantitative and hard-headed. What's the right ratio of ascenders to x-height for literature? What about our highway signs is good for visibility, and how could we improve on it? What's the best way to space lines in instruction manuals? The pure artistry element of typeface design may still be an unquantifiable je ne sais quoi, but the value added in practical application is certainly measurable and optimizable. Presumably experts in the field have done studies analyzing this; these are the kinds of insights I want to know.

The edition I read was published in 2003; doubtless this book needs (already has?) a revision with a mind to phones, tablets, and e-readers.
Profile Image for H James.
289 reviews22 followers
November 2, 2021
I guess if you become famous enough in your field, someone will allow you to publish your blog as a book? This slim volume starts out as poorly structured typographic‐manual‐cum‐scrapbook and slowly drifts off into a stream of Mr Spiekermann’s musings about modern life. Few if any of the opinions are objectionable (although some may have last been relevant during the Windows XP era), but the design is third‐rate, so reading is a chore and finding anything specific is nigh impossible.

I have seldom if ever encountered a book that made me want so badly to hit Ctrl+F to find‐and‐replace all accidental mid‐sentence double spaces.
Profile Image for Rachel.
268 reviews
August 4, 2012
Meh. I think this would be good if you didn't know anything about typography. But if you've at least heard of kerning or x-height (even if you don't know/remember what they mean), I would move onto something more complicated. Not a whole lot of concrete information and a lot of touchy-feely conversations about how different typefaces are happy or sad.
Profile Image for Miriam.
255 reviews
July 4, 2009
One of my favorite books. It is a strange mix of graphic art and philosophy.
Profile Image for Hossein.
4 reviews
April 25, 2018
A really fun and simple way to explain how to work with types and typefaces.
Profile Image for Vidit Bhargava.
85 reviews3 followers
November 21, 2018
It's ironic how a book on typography fails to have an easy to read layout. Text is divided into two columns, on the left is the main text in black and serif font font, and on the right is margin scribblings set in a lower point sans serif. One would think that the margin text would be small tidbits of information, but sometimes it's even longer than the main text. Making it a very difficult reading experience.

The book itself has some insightful information on typefaces. If you're new to typography, after reading the book, you'll get a hang of certain sentiments revolving around type and perhaps will be able to choose typefaces with greater ease. Also liked how the author draws comparisons to the real world in certain cases to make it easier to grasp certain concepts of typography. It's something that I enjoyed reading.

I can see myself referring to certain pages of the book from time to time.

A decent primer to type design, but this is a very opinionated and philosophical take on typography, you might want to look at certain practical guides as well for a quicker understanding.
Profile Image for Ashley Lambert-Maberly.
1,290 reviews8 followers
May 6, 2019
I've been reading quite a few books on typography and design this month, and (considering the topic is so fascinating) they've been a bit dry, or fluffy--either extreme. This one hits the sweet spot, straight through the middle--not so academic as to bore the bejeezus out of you, not so jejeune as to induce eyerolling. Lots of fonts explicated along the way, with coherent explanations of what makes them special. Very recommended. (I can't hand out 5 stars willy-nilly--it's not going to win any literary awards, and it didn't move me to tears, so 4 it is.)

(Note: 5 stars = amazing, wonderful, 4 = very good book, 3 = decent read, 2 = disappointing, 1 = awful, just awful. I'm fairly good at picking for myself so end up with a lot of 4s). I feel a lot of readers automatically render any book they enjoy 5, but I grade on a curve!
Profile Image for John.
69 reviews1 follower
April 2, 2018
If you already agree that "typography is an important element of written communication" then there doesn't seem to be too much here. There's some talk about kerning, tracking, font weights, and their effects on how a piece of text feels. However, I don't have as sensitive of an eye as Spiekermann so the examples showcasing an obviously better or worse chunk of type didn't work so well for me. I could have done with a bit more hand-holding and in-depth analysis of *how* different fonts had different characters, or how the way one piece of text was set mattered to the reader, etc.
Profile Image for Jeff.
Author 13 books22 followers
December 31, 2017
Not sure why I reread this. I didn't get much more out of the third edition as I got out of the first. Not sure if this book was meant to be a book on typography history or usage, but falls short of being either. I know it's difficult to make a deathly boring subject as typography interesting, but it's been done. This book wanders all over the place, touching on a variety of subjects within typography. I have a lot of respect for Spiekermann as a typographer, not so much as a writer.
Profile Image for Alicia Mason.
3 reviews
August 7, 2020
I really like Erik Spiekerman’s work on Meta but this book is far from it. Every other page is a picture and the ones that do have words have so many different side bars it ruins the flow of the book. Also the final chapter is disappointing because the small side bar text is yellow on a white background which makes it really hard to read. This has made me sad because I was expecting so much more.
19 reviews1 follower
February 4, 2018
В отличие от Феличи и Коральковой, эта книга Шпикерманна более метафизическая, со множеством метафор, цитат, параллеле�� и красивых иллюстраций, также отличная верстка. Но по сути содержания - слишком абстрактно для меня.
Profile Image for Andrey.
11 reviews1 follower
October 16, 2017
Very interesting book about font and some information about history of typography with beautiful images, fonts and many more.
Profile Image for Vicente Sarmento.
6 reviews2 followers
January 9, 2018
Quick and fun. The info on the sidebars makes the book richer and deeper if you want to know type better.
Profile Image for J.W. Donley.
Author 4 books48 followers
December 8, 2019
This book is full of great examples of how type is used. But, there was a ton of extraneous info that I was tired of reading.
Profile Image for Christian.
96 reviews2 followers
March 28, 2020
A fun (if dated) text on type and why it matters. Lots of resources inside as well.
Profile Image for Sergei Bobrov.
114 reviews
October 16, 2020
Закрепление пройденных азов по шрифтам в прошлой книги, хотя стоит начинать с этой книжки узнавать про типографику, она более щадит новичков.
Profile Image for Jon.
6 reviews1 follower
June 30, 2021
This book was formative in my early design career. It got me see typefaces as, in a sense, people. They have personalities, some read better than others, etc. Great read.
Profile Image for Sougeitu.
287 reviews
October 18, 2022
It's a good introduction for anyone who wants to know a little about type. But I don't think it's enough for pros.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 86 reviews

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