Within 24 hours of its release, volume 2 of The Little Black Font Book found its way to the number one spot on Amazon UK’s typography book chart. It’s still there, and it shows no sign of budging. Three years ago, volume 1 was similarly popular. It seems that pocket-size typographical reference guides are in high demand and that designers find HypeForType’s modern take on the traditional type catalogue a handy, quick-fix of inspiration.
HypeForType director Alex Haigh created a second volume in order to “refine and improve” what he’d done with the first. Feedback suggested that readers wanted an increased number of pages and more of a visible layout. To pick the essential typefaces that would make it into his second Little Black Book, Haigh was highly selective, focusing on the versatile and the functional. “I wanted to make sure the typefaces used were fit for any occasion, and this meant that they had to have pure balance. It was also important that the chosen typefaces would work for everything from a student portfolio piece to a major, global brand campaign.”
Of all the typographic compositions laid out in the slim booklet, Haigh most enjoyed setting “Eat, Sleep, Kern, Repeat” in Trojan by Alex Trochut. “It’s a cheeky mantra that every designer will be familiar with, especially if you’re serious about type,” says Haigh. Another favorite was Domani, as the typeface is “so beautifully intricate that it just jumps right off the page.”
What seems to make the catalogue so successful is not just the fact that it practices what it preaches—its shifting use of black, white, and red brings the fonts alive. Compare that to the neutral black-on-white of conventional type catalogues. The slinky size is also key; it’s been designed to slip neatly into a graphic designer’s pencil case or computer bag, just like a color swatch fits snuggly into a painter’s pocket.