Monday, September 26, 2011

Just My Type by Simon Garfield

Are you a typography geek, able to identify fonts used in books, menus, and corporate logos? Or is Comic Sans the only font you recognize? Regardless of where you fall, Simon Garfield's Just My Type is a fascinating look at fonts.

Just My Type is not a font identification guide or a chronological history of fonts. I'm not actually sure how Garfield organized the book's chapters; after discussing how desktop computing revolutionized our relationship with type, he dives into the history of the aforementioned Comic Sans and the animosity many people feel towards it. Garfield also finds the time to discuss legibility vs. readability, the ampersand (did you know that while "long treated as a single character or glyph, the ampersand is actually two letters combined – the e and the t of the Latin 'et'"? I had no idea!), DIY typography, and more, while also jumping around through time to discuss the creation and influence of significant fonts, like Helvetica and Baskerville, among others.

So while there were times I wished for more organizational clarity, I also found it stimulating to not know where Garfield would head next. Would it be a discussion of typographic errors in movies, where fonts were used in movies set prior to the font's creation? Pirated fonts and the lack of intellectual property rights where fonts are concerned? The fonts used in the 2008 presidential campaigns?

Just My Type was originally published in Great Britain last year and it retains its Britishness in the American edition. Garfield proves a lively and opinionated guide to the world of fonts, so if you're at all interested in fonts and typography, this is very much worth a look.

Book source: the bookstore, via my wallet.

Cross-posted at The YA YA YAs.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a very interesting book and one that I would like to read. There are some crazy fonts out there.

Sarah Stevenson said...

As a font nerd, I've really been wanting to get hold of this one. It sounds very fun. I have a few rather dense books about typography that, I'll admit, I haven't done more than flip through, and this sounds like one I might actually read!

Ms. Yingling said...

Since I knew about the ampersand, I really, really need to read this book! Sometimes I think that cool fonts are the best part about computers!

Trisha said...

@celawerdblog - There definitely are some crazy fonts!

@aquafortis - I think this is one of those books you can read straight through or non-linearly. But it is a book to read, not browse. Good luck! :)

@msyingling - I don't know why, but I'd never thought of the relationship between computers and fonts prior to Just My Type, but once Garfield made the point, it made so much sense.