Getting Started with Typography

Today on the User Experience Design Slack, someone asked in the #topic_typography channel:

I know nothing about type or why/how it pertains to design, but I want to learn more about it since many people and companies place so much emphasis on it, where do y’all recommend I start?

My response was… a bit over the top. So I’ve preserved it for you dear reader! Here’s how you can develop a debilitating obession with typography.

Standard disclaimer

Your life may be ruined by this. Typography has habit forming tendencies.

But why learn about type? Type is the medium of knowledge. It is inextricable and inescapable. Even if you design pictograms, you still need a way to talk about them, and you talk about them with type. You can shape and refine your message. You can write with the musicality of a speech echoing in a grand hall, or the quiet intimacy of friendly conversation. It is the staging for your words!

Start here

Practical Typography by Matthew Butterick Why? Because it’s comprehensive and fantastically written by a great typographer. Most of all, it’s free.


Your appetite is whet, your bank account is full. You have begun getting annoyed about Comic Sans’ ubiquity. You have budding opinions about serifs. Read Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton, Designing with Type by James Craig and Irene Korol Scala and The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst


You have begun identifying typefaces in public. You have strong opinions about using the word “font” instead of “typeface.” Your day can be made by spotting old style figures. Start following typographical resources. Tobias Frere-Jones is one of the most gifted and cerebral typographers of our generation. Typekit Practice is full of practical and useful information, especially for web type. Pro Web Type is focused on web type and is a web book in the same vein as Practical Typography. Typewolf is a wonderful source of inspiration. Smashing Magazine’s Typography category has a constant march of authoritative and useful articles. Study up and practice your type pairing with this resource list of sites.

Like with many things in design, the most beautiful part about type is that there is a ton of information available for free or cheap. It’s partly because it’s a field that takes practice, refinement, and time—so the knowledge is often given away.

Also, it’s beautiful and fun and amazing, and there’s always more to learn in it!