For a friend who is a free-lance designer and has to do everything herself:
We used to have specialist that we could ask for advice, rely on for help and also blame for things that went wrong during the production process. These days, graphic designers have to be their own typesetters, reproduction photographers and print buyers. There are websites, help pages, blogs and numerous articles in trade magazines. But if you only want one reference that explains why things need to be a certain way, this book is all you’ll ever need. From typographic detail to color spaces, from paper types and sizes to image editing, it’s all here. Described in incredible but useful detail (the author is a German compositor) and illustrated in a way that coincides with what you see on your screen as you work.
As the U. S. is one of the very few countries left in the world that still doesn’t use the metric system, the book includes American sizes and measures along with the metric figures, making it also useful as a reference for conversion between the two.
If you only want one reference while you work, this is it.
Full disclosure: the book was translated from German into English by my son, Dylan Spiekermann, who has an English mother and lives in London. I helped with technical consultation for the English-language edition.
For your lawyer friend (we may not like to admit it, but we all have one at least):
As it says on the back cover: Good typography is part of good lawyering. Nobody has ever counted how many arguments or court cases are lost because of bad documents that were difficult to decipher, complicated language notwithstanding. I wonder whether documents are often impenetrable and impossible to understand because the author doesn’t want the other party to know what they’re up to – that is certainly the case with contractual documents. They need an expert to read, creating work for the legal trade. If a book works for lawyers, it’ll work for anybody who writes, edits and produces complex documents.
Matthew Butterick practices civil litigation in Los Angeles but has a background in design and typography. He has just released a typeface designed specially for these types of documents called Equity and has been running the website www.typographyforlawyers.com since 2008.
This is a pleasantly small but comprehensive book, written in a style that betrays Matthew’s background in communication. If your lawyer friend doesn’t go on to produce better documents after reading this book, it may be time for a new friend (released November 2010).
Comments about Erik Spiekermann’s Notable Books of 2011