His typefaces—Electra and Caledonia are most widely used—were specifically designed for Linotype composition and have the clean spareness of the motor age. Metro is most notable as his most modern sans serif typeface. Metro was developed by Linotype in the late 1920s in response to similar type being sold from European foundries such as Futura, Gill Sans, and Erbar.
His scathing attack on contemporary book designers in An Investigation into the Physical Properties of Books (1919) led to his working with the publisher Alfred A. Knopf. A series of finely conceived and executed trade books followed and did much to increase public interest in book format. Dwiggins was perhaps more responsible than any other designer for the marked improvement in book design in the 1920s and 1930s. He gained recognition as a calligrapher and wrote much on the graphic arts, notably essays collected in MSS by WAD (1949), and his Layout in Advertising (1928; rev. ed. 1949) remains standard.
WAD (as he called himself) is credited with coining the term 'graphic designer' in 1922 to describe his various activities in book design, illustration, typography, lettering and calligraphy (his first typeface designs were released much later). The term did not achieve widespread usage until after the Second World War.
Dwiggins' love of wood carving led to his creation of a marionette theatre in a garage (.5 Irving Street) behind his home in Hingham, Massachusetts (30 Leavitt Street), and a puppet group named the Püterschein Authority. In 1933 he performed his first show there, "The Mystery of the Blind Beggarman." Dwiggins built his second theatre under his studio at 45 Irving Street. Further productions of the Püterschein Authority included "Prelude to Eden," "Brother Jeromy," "Millennium 1," and "The Princess Primrose of Shahaban in Persia." Most of his marionettes were twelve inches tall. The marionettes were donated to the three-room Dwiggins Collection at the Boston Public Library in 1967.
In 1957, shortly after his death, Bookbuilders of Boston, an organization of book publishing professionals that Dwiggins helped to establish, renamed their highest award the W.A. Dwiggins Award.