COOPERMADE: Designing with Type

Designing with Type

Ever since his graduation in 1963, James Craig A'63 has had a long and productive history with The Cooper Union as a professor, author, and generous philanthropist. Perhaps his greatest legacy—to design students both at Cooper and elsewhere—is his landmark textbook, Designing with Type, first published in 1971, and currently in its fifth edition. As a young man, Craig never saw himself as much of a writer: his focus was decidedly the visual arts. A native of Montreal, he studied fine art there before attending Cooper and then earned his MFA at Yale. In 1967, Craig started a 33-year-long career at Watson-Guptill, a publishing house specializing in arts-related publications—both books and magazines. As the company’s design director, he quickly accrued a wealth of experience working with typography in a professional, fast-paced setting. At the same time, he had taken a position as adjunct professor at the School of Visual Arts to teach typography. He soon discovered that there were no good textbooks on the subject. It was then that an editor at Watson-Guptill encouraged him to write his own. But as he recently reflected, that was easier said than done. “Because one knows there are no good books on typography,” he said, “doesn’t mean one knows how to write one.”

But Craig worked with several editors at Watson-Guptill, and brought the book to press after 4 years of work. Having already accrued much professional experience, he considered how best to convey to his students the critical tenets of the field. The result was an innovative approach to teaching typography that has been an essential part of the education of generations of designers ever since. Some of the world’s most respected graphic designers—including Milton Glaser A'51, Michael Beirut, Paul Rand, Ivan Chermyeff, and many others—have recognized the book as a standout in the field of design education.

Designing with Type, which over its 50-year history has been published in Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and Korean, was revised for its fifth edition by Craig and another Cooper graduate, Irene Korol Scala A'97. In 2013, the two established the James Craig and Irene Scala Designing with Type Award, made possible by a generous gift from Craig. The award provides a $5,000 stipend for a School of Art student with a strong interest in design to study abroad.

Today, Craig, who taught Introduction to Typography for 30 years at The Cooper Union and still lectures widely on typography, maintains two websites associated with Designing with Type, where he showcases some of the best, most imaginative graphic work produced by his Cooper students. He’d love to hear from students who studied with him over the years: they can contact him at


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