The Joy of Typography and A Reading List for Design Lovers

Insights from the FirstMark Design Driven Series, a monthly event that brings together design, UX and product leaders to share new ideas.

Some of the earliest examples of Gail Anderson’s typography skills can be found in the Michael Jackson scrapbook she kept as a girl. Above a photo of a young Jackson pointing at his flexed bicep, Anderson wrote the initials “G.A.” and “M.J.” and surrounded the letters with a heart.

Fast forward to 1991, Anderson would find herself picking the type for the words “King of Pop,” which would stretch across Jackson’s image on the cover of Rolling Stone.



Anderson is an accomplished expert in typography, having spent 15 years as senior art director at the famed music magazine. She has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Medal from AIGA, the professional association for design, and currently teaches at the School of Visual Arts in NYC.

Part of her joy of typography comes from a never-ending hunt for interesting examples - be it from a book or a bottlecap. And, during her address at FirstMark’s Design Driven NYC, Anderson offered up a fantastic recommended reading list for design lovers. Below are a few of her favorites.

Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustic
From the description: Alvin Lustig was modern before it was cool. But there has never been a monograph devoted to his work—until now. A genius best known for his book covers and interior design, his theories on design education were precursors to the curricula of some of the most renowned design schools today. Lustig lent his imaginative vision and talent to a wide range of legendary projects, from the groundbreaking architecture of 1940s Los Angeles to magazine covers that have become collector's items. Spanning the breadth of Lustig's tragically brief but prolific career, Born Modern is a must-have for any student or practitioner of design, as well as anyone interested in the history of American visual culture.

Steinweiss: The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover
From the description: Alex Steinweiss (1917–2011) invented the album cover as we know it. In 1940, as Columbia Records’ young new art director, he pitched an idea: Why not replace the standard plain brown wrapper with an eye-catching illustration? The company took a chance, and within months its record sales increased by over 800 per cent.

Paula Scher: MAPS
From the description: In the early 1990s, celebrated graphic designer Paula Scher (Make It Bigger, 2002) began painting maps of the world as she sees it. The larger her canvases grew, the more expressionistic her geographical visions became. Collected here for the first time, Paula Scher MAPS presents thirty-nine of Scher's obsessively detailed, highly personal creations.

Grafica della Strada: The Signs of Italy
From the description: For more than three decades, renowned graphic designer and self-described Italophile Louise Fili has traveled the cities and countryside of Italy cataloging the work of sign craftsmen in whose hands type takes on new life with a tantalizing menu of styles.

Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students
From the description: Thinking with Type is the definitive guide to using typography in visual communication, from the printed page to the computer screen. Throughout the book, visual examples show how to be inventive within systems of typographic form—what the rules are and how to break them. Thinking with Type is a type book for everyone: designers, writers, editors, students, and anyone else who works with words.

Anderson has also co-authored several books on design including: Outside the Box: Hand-Drawn Packaging from Around the World; New Ornamental Type: Decorative Lettering in the Digital Age; New Vintage Type: Classics Fonts for the Digital Age; New Modernist Type; and Typographic Universe.

See Anderson’s discussion on “The Joy of Typography” from FirstMark’s Design Driven NYC in the video above.