Book review: On Web Typography by Jason Santa Maria

As I finished Jason Santa Maria’s “On Web Typography”, I felt there’s something missing. While it’s a great general, quickly digestible “getting started in typography” book for developers or anyone else who didn’t have any former education in design and typography, I think the focus on making it a great all around typography book made it a bit too general.

As the book progresses, Jason does a great job taking the reader through basics of how people read and basics of type design, as well as its history, explaining everything from what are saccades and fixations through typographic contrast to picking the right typeface for your brand or website. If you’ve never worked with typography, go buy the book—you won’t get more value per page out of anything else, especially with the $9 eBook price on A Book Apart.

The part on typographic systems and grids I probably enjoyed the most, but that might be because I’m one of those grid nerds you can find in the dark, dusty corners of design. Typographic scales and rhythm are a great addition, even though that part is basically a reference to a bunch of other articles. That’s probably the biggest problem I have with the book as well: a lot of references to other places, not enough meat in the book itself. I understand that might be to not scare away less typography–savvy readers, but I felt it slightly lacked substance for someone who already worked with typography on the Web and print for a fair share of time.

To sum up: if you’re new to typography, go for it. With $9 on the eBook, it’s a steal and a great place to get you started. If you have worked with typography before and look for some more substance about using type on the Web, you’ll probably be better off with Laura Franz’s “Typographic Web Design” for the basics, followed by Khoi Vinh’s “Ordering Disorder” for the grids. Or, you could just buy this one for the references to other places, skip the entire book and just click through the links.