Universal Principles of Typography with Elliot Jay Stocks

May 12, 2024
Elliot Jay Stocks

Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, ex-Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, and founder of 8 Faces Magazine. His recent collaboration with Google led to the creation of Google Fonts Knowledge. 

It is not surprising then that someone with his breadth of knowledge would be asked to write a book on typography, and we are excited to share a sneak peek into that very book: The Universal Principles of Typography—100 key concepts, theories, and guidelines for choosing, pairing, and using type.


We asked Elliot to tell us a little more about the book project:

I was very fortunate that Quarto approached me to write a book in their “Universal Principles” series, published under their Rockport imprint. 

While speaking at SmashingConf in San Francisco in June 2022, I met with my commissioning editor, and discussed how the book might work. I liked the approachable, accessible nature of the other books in the series he showed me, and I felt like I could create something that worked in that format. 

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At the time, I was mid-way through my collaboration with Google, running the Google Fonts Knowledge project. I’d also been teaching typography workshops for several years, so continuing the idea of typographic education in a book format was appealing. 

However, I decided the only way I could take on the project was to design and illustrate the book. Typography is so specific that it would be weird to write about a particular typographic treatment and then have another designer potentially set the type without adhering to the rule described in the text! 

Luckily, the publisher agreed, and by the end of 2022, I’d written six sample chapters, designed the main interior templates, and proposed three cover options. These things are a helpful way of ensuring that the author/designer and publisher are all on the same page and also serve as pre-sales material that the publisher uses to generate interest in the publishing world way ahead of the book’s release.

I spent a good chunk of 2023 on the book: first, finishing the text; then, when most of that was done, creating the illustrations and typesetting everything. It was stressful at times—I had to give up trying to bring in client work during the school summer holidays to fit the book production around childcare—but overall, it was a wonderful experience, and I tried to regularly take a moment to appreciate how lucky I was to be in that position. One of my favourite parts of the process was taking myself off on a brief writing retreat just before half of the text was due.

Fortunately, as I was handling all of the design, I got to push some of my edits right up to the very last minute—which I was very grateful for, as I realised very late in the day that I needed to restructure everything dramatically: there was something about the way I’d divided up the content initially that wasn’t clicking, and that didn’t become apparent until almost everything was written and designed. There’s nothing like adding extra pressure right at the last moment!

 
 
 
 
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From having the initial discussions with the publisher to the finished book being on the shelves, it was nearly two years, and at times, it can feel like it’s never going to end. Still, I’m so happy with how it’s all turned out and grateful for the opportunity to have this book alongside so many typography books I love. 

Thank you for this sneak peek, Elliot!

If the flick-through is anything to go by, this book is a comprehensive manual that deserves a place on every designer’s shelf. It offers many practical strategies and actionable insights, making it an indispensable resource for aspiring and seasoned designers.

It would also make a fantastic teaching tool and a perfect companion to Ellen Lupton’s Thinking with Type in any tertiary classroom. Coincidentally, Ellen wrote the foreword to Elliot’s book.

Head over to Amazon to preview a sample.

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margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1714702892291 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ /* desktop padding overrides */ padding: 0; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1714702892291 { text-align: ; } } @keyframes VOLUME_SMALL_WAVE_FLASH { 0% { opacity: 0; } 33% { opacity: 1; } 66% { opacity: 1; } 100% { opacity: 0; } } @keyframes VOLUME_LARGE_WAVE_FLASH { 0% { opacity: 0; } 33% { opacity: 1; } 66% { opacity: 1; } 100% { opacity: 0; } } .volume__small-wave { animation: VOLUME_SMALL_WAVE_FLASH 2s infinite; opacity: 0; } .volume__large-wave { animation: VOLUME_LARGE_WAVE_FLASH 2s infinite .3s; opacity: 0; } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1698919145984 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1698919145984 .block { /* border settings */ border: 1px none #68d3d7; border-radius: 0px; /* background color */ background-color: #FFFFFF; /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding: 0; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1698919145984 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1698919145984 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* desktop padding overrides */ padding: 0; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 20px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 20px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1698919145984 { text-align: left; } } #block-1698919145984 .btn { border-color: #68d3d7; border-radius: 4px; background: #68d3d7; color: #ffffff; } #block-1698919145984 .btn--outline { background: transparent; color: #68d3d7; } #block-1698919145984 .card__footer { color: } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1698111760405 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1698111760405 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 0px; /* background color */ background-color: ; /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding: 0; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1698111760405 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1698111760405 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ padding: 0px; /* desktop padding overrides */ padding: 0; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1698111760405 { text-align: ; } } #block-1698111760405 .block, [data-slick-id="1698111760405"] .block { display: flex; justify-content: flex-start; } #block-1698111760405 .image, [data-slick-id="1698111760405"] .image { width: 100%; overflow: hidden; width: 500px; border-radius: 0px; } #block-1698111760405 .image__image, [data-slick-id="1698111760405"] .image__image { width: 100%; width: 500px; } #block-1698111760405 .image__overlay, [data-slick-id="1698111760405"] .image__overlay { opacity: 0; background-color: #fff; border-radius: 0px; } #block-1698111760405 .image__overlay-text, [data-slick-id="1698111760405"] .image__overlay-text { color: !important; } @media (min-width: 768px) { #block-1698111760405 .block, [data-slick-id="1698111760405"] .block { display: flex; justify-content: center; } #block-1698111760405 .image__overlay, [data-slick-id="1698111760405"] .image__overlay { opacity: 0; } #block-1698111760405 .image__overlay:hover { opacity: 1; } } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1694873532692 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1694873532692 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 0px; /* background color */ background-color: ; /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding-top: 15px; padding-right: 15px; padding-bottom: 15px; padding-left: 15px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1694873532692 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1694873532692 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* desktop padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1694873532692 { text-align: left; } } #block-1577982541036_0 .btn { margin-top: 1rem; } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1698913035794 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1698913035794 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 0px; /* background color */ /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1698913035794 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1698913035794 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ /* desktop padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1698913035794 { text-align: center; } } #block-1698913035794 .btn, [data-slick-id="1698913035794"] .block .btn { color: #ffffff; border-color: #68d3d7; border-radius: 0px; background-color: #68d3d7; } #block-1698913035794 .btn--outline, [data-slick-id="1698913035794"] .block .btn--outline { background: transparent; color: #68d3d7; } /* flush setting */ /* margin settings */ #block-1710998367280 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1710998367280 .block { /* border settings */ border: 4px black; border-radius: 4px; /* background color */ /* default padding for mobile */ padding: 0px; padding: 0px; /* mobile padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } @media (min-width: 768px) { /* desktop margin settings */ #block-1710998367280 { margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; } #block-1710998367280 .block { /* default padding for desktop */ padding: 0px; /* desktop padding overrides */ padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; } } /* mobile text align */ @media (max-width: 767px) { #block-1710998367280 { text-align: left; } }

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