I am a second year Communication Design student at a prestigious (pretentious) art school in New York City. This year marks my first foray into typography, and this book was the first recommendation on my to-buy list.
Anyone who is at least vaguely familiar with the concept of typography knows that most type enthusiasts range from "I didn't realize there was that much involved" to "Oh my god, you even named your child after a typeface." (I didn't know that's what they meant by "font family.") But seriously, folks: for those not yet versed in the trials and tribulations contained within passionate pursuit of the perfect sans-serif, typography can be very intimidating.
When I bought DWT 5 -- because I had to, remember -- I expected a tome comparable to the tedious scrolls of a monastery scribe; typography was to be my new religion and I was ok with that. Thankfully, that's not how my experience with DWT played out at all.
First of all, it's actually a book, complete with pleasing cover that isn't obnoxiously heavy and is able to withstand backpack fare. It's solid and smooth and looks good on my shelf -- apparently an improvement over earlier editions. But this is hardly the reason for my enthusiastic review.
The truth of the matter is, the "hands-on" way this book approaches the art of teaching typography is beyond superb. In fact, it's so superb, it makes me want to jump into a rambling anecdote -- so bear with me.
I once had a beyond awful chemistry teacher. Awful because he was dryer than a saltine and refused to get off his wrinkly behind to put some damn liquid over a Bunsen and show us the magic of the science. Don't get me wrong here -- chemistry is and should be treated with academic respect and precision. It is surely a very "logical" subject, in that the math-based reasoning behind the formulas and the calculations and the diagrams and the nomenclature is all very structured. But the propensity by which one can dive into the circuitous lexicon of chemical confoundry makes it easy to forget that a chemist is actually dealing with the stuff that makes up our physical world. Being a visual person, it would kill me to sit for an entire hour and a half doing worksheets and readings and spar in lofty conversations without doing so much as one experiment to demonstrate. I mean, it was pretty simple -- I wanted to SEE what the hell it was we were talking about. And sure enough, when we WOULD actually do an experiment, I was able to link the lofty ideas with the visual responses, and it would all be clear as day.
This is the hands-on approach I describe as being taken on by DWT. Craig makes no mistake in realizing that typography IS the book, and uses this to his advantage by creating ACTUAL TYPOGRAPHIC EXAMPLES to explain the principles of type. It's one thing to be told that Bodoni is much easier to read because of its simplified serifs, but to actually SEE Bodoni set in multiple iterations makes the difference between remembering and absorbing. It's as if Craig is stopping in the middle of his lecture, walking over to you, and drawing for you on your paper exactly what he means. Not to mention he does it in a clear and simple layout that it probably unique to edition 5.
I was ready to dread my typography readings, expecting them to be a series of formulas. Now I look forward to seeing all the neat explosions and chemical reactions, and to wondering how I'll fit them into my next layout. But don't go too fast with it Craig, take it slow -- this is introductory level, after all, and I'm not ready to put Helvetica on the birth certificate yet.