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23rd August
2011
written by Tony

For some people it’s hard to imagine how something so ubiquitous and generally unnoticed as typefaces (or, more colloquially, fonts) could be interesting enough to write a book about. Of course, the design community spends a great deal of time and effort considering, analyzing, using, staring at and generally obsessing over typography and fonts, but it is rare that a book like this would be aimed at the non-design affiliated. This is a shame, because, as Garfield amply and ably demonstrates in his book, type is fascinating. Its origins and tradition closely associated with the people, and the era, that gave birth to it. Most people will open their font menu and choose a font without ever considering why that it exists, why it looks the way it does or even what its name means. Baskerville, Garamond, Goudy — fonts yes — but also people. People who invested significant time and fortune into crafting a something that was intensely personal, men who knew that, if successful, their lives and work would never be noticed by the very people they were invested in: readers. As a designer myself, the importance of typography in my life could hardly be understated. I think that type is one of the most important things in our visual world, it defines and directs most of our daily interactions and in some cases keeps us from harm. It’s not difficult to see why a book like this would be interesting to a designer, but the real success here is that I think this book would interest anyone with any curiosity about the world around them. Garfield covers some of the most visible typographic fare, namely the real story behind Comic Sans and its seeming ubiquity, in a way that is engaging, unpretentious and accessible. He deals with the stories behind the typefaces, and the people who made them, with care, humor and a frankness that defies the musty pretention and self importance that so many histories fail to avoid. Typography as pop culture? Why not? After all, it seems only prudent that we learn a little about the thing that shapes nearly every surface we look at, and in the digital age is a defining part of the vast majority of our experiences. As Garfield points out, fonts have personality, tenor and tone, they convey emotions and communicate in ways that are subtler than phrase and syntax, in ways that we aren’t even consciously aware of. Perhaps if we endeavor to learn about the rich and varied history behind type, and what it does, our greater appreciation for it will improve all our lives. Thanks to TLC Tours for inviting me along on this tour! For other stops on this tour and opinions on Just My Type, check out some of the following blogs:

Monday, August 15th:  Melody & Words Tuesday, August 16th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage Wednesday, August 17th: Chaotic Compendiums Thursday, August 18th:  Books Like Breathing Monday, August 22nd:  A Home Between Pages Wednesday, August 24th:  1330V Thursday, August 25th:  2 Kids and Tired Friday, August 26th:  Amused by Books Monday, August 29th:  Unabridged Chick Wednesday, August 31st:  Simply Stacie Thursday, September 1st:  BookNAround Tuesday, September 6th:  Bibliosue Wednesday, September 7th:  Man of La Book Thursday, September 8th:  My Book Retreat Monday, September 12th:  Lit and Life Wednesday, September 14th:  In the Pages

16 Comments

  1. 08/23/2011

    I personally know very little about fonts, but my husband was a tech for designers for years and years, so he knows tons. He even had to design a font himself once! Two years ago I got him a shirt that cracked him up. All it has is the word Helvetica on it, but it’s written in Comic Sans. 😀

  2. 08/23/2011

    Ooh, I love books on things that are present in our lives at all times but that we rarely think about. Great review of a book that seems like it would interest more than just the design-oriented. I love that it puts font in historical context, too! Fabulous 🙂

  3. Oh this looks like a lot of fun. I love fonts and playing them though I could only guess the origin/meaning of a handful.

  4. 08/23/2011

    Great review Tony! I was immediately interested when I saw this book was out, and am very happy that it proved to be engaging!

  5. 08/23/2011

    Delightful review, Steph. I always wonder how fonts got their names. I remember there was an anti-Comic Sans movement in the British press recently!

  6. Ever since I saw this book I have wanted to read it. I love anything and everything having to do with type, and I love this idea.

    I can remember being little and telling my mom some letters looked mean. But I swear, I paid attention even when I was young.

  7. 08/24/2011

    I admit to not understanding a lot of what drives people to be excited about fonts, but think that the history behind some of them sounds interesting. I can see where someone who works with them a lot would have a lot of curiosity about them, so it’s very cool that this specialized little book is out there for them. I am glad that you enjoyed it so very much!

  8. 08/24/2011

    I really loved this book — I thought it was so approachable, easy-to-read, and informative — the best about popular non-fiction.

  9. This sounds like such a fun book. I definitely want to get my hands on a copy. And I love your “I Am A Geek” tag 🙂

  10. I am fascinated by font but I’m not a designer of any sort so I’m glad to know that the book appeals to non-professionals like me.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  11. 08/26/2011

    I really love design and the impact of font, so this book really interests me. Have you seen the documentary HELVETICA? I saw it on Netflix a little while ago. Very fun for the font nerds like us out there.

    BTW, I tried to read this and comment on it while I was at the library and it was blocked with a content warning? Made me laugh, those dangerous fonts.

  12. 08/28/2011

    I’m new to typography and design. But I’m very interested in these topics. Recently I began a likewise book in German. It’s all about typography and layout and begins with the history of fonts. It’s so fasciniting. “Just my Type” is now on my reading list. Thanks for the review!

  13. 08/29/2011

    I think I’ll find this book interesting. Though I’m not a designer I’m interested in fonts and I think people don’t notice how important there are.

  14. 08/30/2011

    At my workplace, we constantly debate on the fonts used in our documentation, and throw out various “rules” that we have learned to live by…but I think this book could make an interesting read to figure out the intentions of the creator. I love playing around with fonts and I am sure to love this book as well.

  15. 08/30/2011

    I just cataloged this the other day and was thinking, “Man, what kind of nerd would read this book?” Now I know! 😉

  16. 09/07/2011

    I keep checking the keep unread box so I won’t forget how much I want to read this book!

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