Listening to Type

“Typography cannot be faked. It is either clear, interpretive of the content, and appropriate to its message, or it is a random treatment that only superficially looks daring and current.”


Listening to Type: Making Language Visible is an expansive array of visuals, sparkling writing, and thorough research on the evolution of typography. With this visually stunning primer, a full-color, vastly expanded and throughly updated second edition of Thinking in Type: The Practical Philosophy of Typography, designers will develop the skills and vision to produce truly innovative, insightful type design. All the basics of type design are covered, and in-depth information is provided on more advanced topics such as the differences between type applications, how typography creates identity, and what best inspires readers. Chapters cover:

  • The language of type
  • Type and identity
  • Space and type
  • Evolving type treatments
  • Typographic unity
  • Readability and legibility
  • What makes readers respond
  • The evolution of typography

This book packs the pages with fifteen hundred images, current and historical, specially created and found, that illustrate typographic concepts and continue to yield depth, understanding, and connectivity with each viewing. Listening to Type proves that type is much more than groups of letterforms on a page; it is a language with the ability to convey meaning and evoke emotions that represent the spoken words it symbolizes.

Here are eleven spreads from the book to give a good idea of its contents:

Listening to Type: Making Language Visible is a second edition of Thinking in Type: The Practical Philosophy of Typography, my ©2005 book on typography. The title was changed to avoid confusion with another book with a closely similar title. A little background: it takes me 12-18 months to write a book and the title is determined fairly early on. After Thinking in Type’s first printing in 2005 – after it had been printed and about two weeks before it was released – we learned that the wonderful Ellen Lupton was about to publish a book with an unbelievably similar title: Thinking With Type. At that point there was nothing we could do. Her book came out a few weeks after mine.

Listening to Type is a partner volume with The Elements of Graphic Design, 2nd Edition, which continues as a widely-adopted text for students and resource for working designers.

“My colleague Alex W. White has done it again. Even if you’ve read other books by Alex, particularly his Elements of Graphic Design, Listening to Type is a revelation. This book represents his clearest and most perceptive explanation of the building blocks of effective graphic design: type, space, and image.” Brian D. Miller, Partner, Executive Creative Director, MillerSmith; author of Above the Fold 3rd Edition

Maybe Alex White should be called the type whisperer. Examples of outstanding work are abundant throughout this volume. Typography, space, image, and color are the building blocks of graphic design and are beautifully represented. Splendidly arranged and easy to understand, this book is indispensible whether you are a relative novice or seasoned professional.” Graham Clifford, Independent Design Director and Chairman Emeritus, Type Directors Club

“My library has hundreds of books about typography and graphic design. Each provides a vantage point for seeing design differently. This is the first that challenges the reader to listen to the visuals. Strange though that concept may be, there’s deep truth there, and a plethora of beauty to hear.” Charles Nix, Senior Type Designer, Monotype; Chairman Emeritus, Type Directors Club; Former Chairman of Communication Design at Parsons the New School for Design