My biggest regret regarding the book is that I didn’t give enough credit to its editor, Anna Galloway Highsmith. In fact, co-author might be a better description of her role. Not only did she provide support and insight during the long process of developing many of the ideas that went into the book, she picked apart every single sentence. She made my writing make sense. The book could not have been finished without her.
Anna and I worked hard to break down complicated concepts into simple pieces. In some ways, the results can seem like we are just explaining the obvious. And it’s true that most readers could eventually figure out much of what we wrote about for themselves.
However, we wrote it for students in their first semester of typography. To them, typography looks like a dark mess of rules, details, and vocabulary that no one agrees on. The goal of the book was to help get them started.
In this sense, it has been very gratifying to hear from teachers who use the book in their classrooms. They have told me it has helped them to quickly explain concepts they usually have to struggle to make clear to everyone. So maybe it’s actually a good sign if some readers are underwhelmed by the way we spell things out.
All this makes me wonder about the idea in the introduction, about Inside Paragraphs being the typography book I wanted when I was a student. Now I question if the student-version of me would have really seen it that way. Back then, I might have been suspicious of all the cartoonish diagrams and simple explanations. Our book doesn’t look like a typography book usually looks.
I don’t regret our approach though. Maybe it’s not the book I would have wanted back then. But I think we made the book I probably needed, whether I knew it or not.
I’m reflecting on this book, in part, because I’m trying to get serious about the next one. Instead of typography, its topic will be type design. Much of the content was developed in my classroom at RISD, same as Inside Paragraphs. In addition, I have recently had the opportunity to work with type designers whose expertise is with writing systems other than the Latin alphabet. Our exchanges have added a new dimensions to how I think about and explain drawing letters that I’m very eager to explore. The development goes slowly. But stay tuned!