Cyrus Highsmith is a type designer working for 15 years for the Font Bureau. He drew about thirty great typefaces but I will talk about a more incommon project of him. Jean François Porchez describe “as one of the most talented typeface design based in United States, Cyrus know well how to play with shapes, counters spaces, and each of his new typefaces are a joy for colleagues to review, he never do any compromise, always for the sake of a good legibility.”
He just published a book at the Font Bureau, Inside Paragraphs: typographic fundamentals. Type designers don’t often write books, so when one of us do we indeed read it carefully. Cyrus could have writted a book about type design, but what he did is, I think, much more helpful for the general typographic quality in graphic design. In place of teaching type design, this book theaches type setting. It doesn’t talk about type choice, graphic design advices or hierarchy, just how to correctly set a paragraph of text. Thinking the reader is not an idiot, Cyrus Highsmith doesn’t just tell how to do things, but explains why it has to be like that.
Inside praragraphs focuses on how we read and how to improve the reading experience. Thus, it mainly deals with white space: inside letters, between letters, between words, between lines and between paragraphs. Cyrus Highsmith explains the role of each one and analyses the way they work together. At the end, a graphic designer reading this book will know the impact of each one of his choices on the reading experience.
If there’s something really surprising for a book about type is that there is not so much type in Inside Paragraphs because the illustrations are handrawn. Cyrus took the time to draw meaningfull illustrations explaining all the concepts, allowing you to, as he says in the intro, “just look at the illustrations (which is how I would start)”. In another hand, you can see the advices of Cyrus Highsmith working for the fine-tuned text in the book itself, setted in Cyrus’ itself typefaces, Ibis Text and Scout. In fact, the illustrations accompanying the text are based on the Ibis outlines. Finnaly, Cyrus is the author of all the contents of this book: layout, illustrations, typefaces, text. Definitively, the author taking a continuous care of all the ingredients of the book, you’re sure that quality is everywhere.
As a teacher in graphic design I would recommend my students to read this book much more than any other book on type choice or rules, because it teaches how to look to the text and how to ask oneself the good questions in place of just saying rules. By teaching how to look at type this book doesn’t just advise how to set a paragraph but provides a way to educate oneself look and to use it for all aaspects of graphic design.
By Jérémy Landes-Nones, July 2012. All rights reserved. Updated on 13 June 2014.
→ Inside Paragraphs: typographic fundamentals
→ Espaces du paragraphe: précis de typographie, Cyrus Highsmith
→ Cyrus Highsmith biography
→ The Font Bureau
→ An interview of Cyrus Highsmith by MyFonts