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Those are the obvious choices. But, there are also subjective issues to consider when selecting a font or set of fonts. These include kerning and letter-spacing, line spacing or leading for those of us who remember a life before the Web. What about the font’s emotional value? How well does it align with the project’s goals and audience?

Then there’s always the design’s delivery media to consider. Will it be print or digital? If digital, will it be desktop computers, mobile, tablets, etc. This is where the new book, Type on Screen, comes in handy. More than handy, actually, especially for those of us came up through the ranks by way of print.

Type On Screen is a compilation of essays, insights and practical know-how when designing for type on screen applications. This outstanding book was authored by a team of graduate students and faculty of Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and edited by Ellen Lupton. Type On Screen is the sixth in the Design Handbook series published by the Princeton Architectural Press and MICA.


Type On Screen: The design challenge of digital typography

The book’s pages explore the use of digital type across a range of devices, its history and evolution, as well as providing an understanding of digital type in action. In addition, the book features numerous case studies that demonstrate how designers are applying digital type to solve real-world design challenges.

Lupton provides excellent, practical information for Web / Graphic designers who might need a refresher course in typography. The tome is a designer handbook that’s extremely useful, if not mandatory, especially for folks with a print background. For instance before the Web, I designed mostly for print. Back then, my office walls were covered with type and foundry posters. I could identify typestyles with barely more than a glance. Then came the Web. My head was stuffed with typography for print. I had little space in my brain to store digital type information. That’s a nice way of saying I got lazy. Why remember all sorts of font factoids when I could simply hop on the Web and use or similar resource?

And so, it goes.


Type On Screen: The design challenge of digital typography

Early in the book, Ellen cites Oliver Reichenstein’s comment, “Web design is 95 percent typographic.” A brief look at websites reveals Reichenstein is correct. As a connected species, we humans are bombarded with words on screens each and every day. But, typography, it seems, is given little thought in many cases. Today, we seem more focused on tools and techniques at the cost of fine typography.


Type On Screen: The design challenge of digital typography
Pages 10-11

I had a chance to catch up with Ellen and ask a few questions about typographic matters when viewed on screen. She graciously shared the following thoughts and comments.

NT: It seems some of today’s designers treat type on screen as a second fiddle to the other elements within a screen-based vehicle. Do you think this might be due to the perceived casual nature of the medium?

EL: Attention to the typographic potential of screen-based media has grown a lot in the past few years, along with expanded access to web fonts. Quite a few designers—such as Jessica Hische, Jason Santa Maria, and Elliott Jay Stocks—are bringing refinement and subtlety to digital reading experience. Users and clients are seeing the value in better typography.

NT: Who are the type designers that have influenced you the most over your career?

EL: My personal favorite is the Dutch type designer Martin Majoor. I have used his beautiful typeface Scala since the early 90s, and I have been thrilled to see this functional and elegant type family expand to include Scala Sans. Martin is a brilliant typographic thinker. Equally high on my list is Peter Bilak. Not only has Peter designed some of the most usable and intriguing typefaces of our time, he has been a huge advocate for the value of design and typography worldwide through his website and his publishing projects.

NT: How many students and faculty were involved with Type On Screen? Were they all designers or where there team members from other, complimentary disciplines?

EL: All in all, around twenty graduate students played a role in developing the design and content of Type on Screen. A core team of six took on the lion’s share of the research and writing. They did an amazing job seeking out great examples and evidence of best practices in digital typography.

NT: Can you provide readers with some insights and advice about where digital typography is heading and how designers make the most of it?

EL: We are seeing a greater expectation that text on screen will have print-worthy features such as ligatures, correct quotation marks, and paragraph indents. Clients are expecting more integration between branding on screen and branding as applied to environments, packaging, and print publications. Unfortunately, the screen environment remains extremely diverse, not just in terms of the size of devices but with regard to the multitude of browsers and screen resolutions. The work of creating screen-based typography isn’t going to get easy any time soon.


Type On Screen: The design challenge of digital typography
Pages 18-19

NT: Do you have any suggestions for both graduates and veteran designers charting their typographical course so they don’t get left behind, wondering what happened?

EL: There are some great books, blogs, and online tutorials that can help designers create more elegant and communicative typography. Conferences are also a fun and social way to see what’s going on in the world of design across media. A designer’s education is never finished, because the demands and technologies keep changing. Our goal collectively as a profession is to keep the quality as high as possible.

Type On Screen should be required reading for every Web/ graphic design student. Pros will benefit from it as well. Type On Screen is sure to become a staple in every Web designer’s growing library.


Type On Screen: The design challenge of digital typography

Graphic designers and other type-lovers in the New York City area have the opportunity to meet the author at a book signing to be held at The Strand Bookstore, June 26: 7:00PM – 8:00PM. The Strand is located at 828 Broadway, Manhattan, NY (the corner of 12th Street and Broadway). More information can be found on the Strand website.

About The Editor
Ellen Lupton is no stranger to typography, whether it’s delivered digitally or by print. She is the author of thirteen books published by PAPress, including Thinking with Type (more than 100,000 sold and translated into ten languages), Graphic Design: The New Basics, and Graphic Design Thinking.


Ellen Lupton

She is director of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art located in Baltimore. In addition, Ellen serves as the Director of the Center for Design Thinking at MICA. Lupton is also the Curator of Contemporary Design at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum since 1992, where she’s produced numerous exhibitions and books.

Lupton has contributed to various publications, including Print, Eye, I.D., and Metropolis. She has published essays and illustrations in The New York Times. A frequent lecturer around the U.S. and the world, Lupton will speak about design to anyone who will listen.

About the Authoring Team

A team of MICA graduate students and faculty authored Type On Screen. Their insights and thoughts provide readers with a range of diverse typographic information, topics and issues relating to the digital delivery of type.

Within the first four chapters authors address shaping written content whether it be a book, article, blog, ad or other delivery method. They go on to explore in-depth concepts such as branding and logo design, the evolution of type and motion graphics and the history of digital typography. These topics are punctuated with engaging, robust graphics, references and much more. Also addressed is the ever-changing use of malleable typography with icons, logos, wayfinding, navigation, menus and the like.


About MICA
MICA is a leader in the education of artists and designers since 1826. The college believes in fostering a community of talented, creative individuals committed to redefining the boundaries of art and design and to expanding their own vision and perspective through rigorous study.

Since 1978, MICA’s innovative curriculum, well-equipped campus, and world-class faculty all have a single purpose: provide the education, experiences, and resources needed to prepare the artist and designers who will lead in the 21st century.

The college enrolls 1,863 undergraduate and 306 graduate students from 48 states and 54 foreign countries, offering programs of study leading to the bachelor of fine arts (B.F.A.), master of arts (M.A.), master of fine arts (M.F.A.) degrees, and master of professional studies degrees (M.P.S), as well as post-baccalaureate certificate programs and a full slate of credit and noncredit courses for adults, college-bound students, and children.

The college’s site can be found at

About Princeton Architectural Press
Celebrating its thirty-second year, Princeton Architectural Press (PAP) is a world leader in architecture and design publishing, both in market share and in editorial and design excellence. With over 1000 titles published, PAP has consistently sought team up with the best in the design and architectural fields to publish in-depth information for its authors’ readers.

PAP build a solid, respected reputation by identifying new trends and publishing first books on emerging talents, as well as by creating books of unsurpassed design quality and production values.

The PAP site can be found at