Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2013, English
Nonfiction, Graphic Design
6.75 x 9.7 inches, hardcover, 352 pages, 250 color and 50 black-and-white illustrations
ISBN: 9781616892043
Suggested Retail Price: $55.00

From the Publisher. Designers often look to the past for ways to enliven their projects. Letters with relief and shadow have long been an effective way to add spectacle or intrigue to otherwise mundane words. Introduced in metal type as early as 1815, shadow typefaces were a form of early experimentation among type founders. In the late nineteenth century, the form was adopted in wood type for use in posters and has been embraced ever since by designers looking for ways to communicate a sense of monumentality, a feeling of confidence, or a simple impression of optimism. Shadow Type presents a broad spectrum of examples—advertising, shop signs, billboards, posters, type-specimen books—featuring the most popular, rare, and (nearly) forgotten dimensional letters from Europe and the United States. Compiled by the leading historian of graphic design Steven Heller and renowned graphic designer Louise Fili, this invaluable collection, packed full of typographic ideas, will inspire anyone aiming to give more depth to their design.

On 3 book lists
Ellen Lupton

Preserved and repackaged for immediate enjoyment, this compendium of dimensional lettering is richer than a typographic fruit cake. Studded with dense chunks of visual history, Shadow Type presents examples from the early nineteenth century through the 1950s. Shadows offer a special kind of embellishment. They skirt the edges of dominant letter structures, employing bevels, highlights, side panels, and cast shadows to emphasize and underscore the primary letterform. Functioning as more than mere distraction, shadows not only give letters a decorative identity but can actually enhance their legibility and visibility.

As a genre of ornamental lettering, shadow type evolved partly from the needs of sign painters. Shadows allow text to stand out against complex backgrounds—including glass—a fact that proved equally useful for mixing type with photographs and illustrations. As structural ornament, shadow letters have a natural affinity for architecture, and yet their purpose is fundamentally illusionistic. Steven Heller and Louise Fili call these shadowed letters “three-dimensional,” yet their magic lies in carving light and depth out of flat surfaces.

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