Timothy Donaldson
Mark Batty Publisher, New York, 2008, English
Nonfiction, Graphic Design
ISBN: 9780979966620

From the Publisher. A book that examines one of the most fundamental discoveries in human history: the idea that shapes can represent sounds, which is the basis for all of the world’s alphabets. The book tracks the evolution of many alphabets, particularly the Latin alphabet, in several entertaining and enlightening ways.

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Erik Spiekermann

Why alphabets look like they do, what has happened to them since printing was invented, why they won’t ever change, and how it might have been.

Timothy Donaldson calls himself a “letterworker.” I know him as one of the best calligraphers and letterers around who infuses his work not with quasi-religious vigor but with English humor and a great deal of spontaneity. I cannot do better than Ken Garland, himself a well-respected designer and writer, who writes in the foreword: “This is a work many of us have been waiting for: one that brings together information on topics as diverse as the organs of speech, hieroglyphics, the development of the minuscule, maritime signal flags, the qwerty keyboard, semaphore and many others …”

The charts—one for each of the 26 letters—are complex and comprehensive and beautiful at the same time. There are many more illustrations, all made for this book. Whenever students of visual communication ask for my recommendation, I mention Shapes for Sounds as the first thing they should read. It is as entertaining and well-designed as any coffee-table book and offers a wealth of information beyond the good looks.

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