Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: Just My Type: A Book About Fonts

Just My Type: A Book About Fonts
Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a free ARC eBook galley from NetGalley in return for an honest review

Synopsis from NetGalley: Fonts surround us every day, on street signs and buildings, on movie posters and books, and on just about every product that we buy. But where do they come from, and why do we need so many? Who is responsible for the staid practicality of Times New Roman, the cool anonymity of Arial, or the irritating levity of Comic Sans (and the movement to ban it)?

Typefaces are now 560 years old, but we barely knew their names until about twenty years ago when the pull-down font menus on our first computers made us all the gods of type. Beginning in the early days of Gutenberg and ending with the most adventurous digital fonts, Simon Garfield explores the rich history and subtle powers of type. He goes on to investigate a range of modern mysteries, including how Helvetica took over the world, what inspires the seemingly ubiquitous use of Trajan on bad movie posters, and exactly why the all-type cover of Men Are from Mars, Women Are From Venus was so effective. It also examines why the “T” in the Beatles logo is longer than the other letters and how Gotham helped Barack Obama into the White House.

A must-have book for the design conscious, Just My Type’s cheeky irreverence will also charm everyone who loved Eats, Shoots & Leaves and Schott’s Original Miscellany.

My Thoughts: I find fonts fascinating; I love to use unusual fonts in personal correspondence (although I prefer Times New Roman for other uses), and I love to learn about fonts and typesetting, which leads me to read the little bit at the end of many books that tells about the font being used in it. Therefore, I was very interested in reading Just My Type. However, I quickly found that the e-ARC was a mess and completely unreadable. I had wanted the book anyway, so I bought it and read the physical copy. Lesson one learned: don’t try to read graphics-intensive books on an e-reader. It just won’t work...

One thing I would have loved to have seen was a section that showed the various fonts side-by-side – sure, there were words and letters in the different fonts here and there – even entire chapters written in a different font while its history was told – but not a section dedicated to showing as many of the fonts as possible side-by-side. I would have really enjoyed that – but several books where people can take a look at fonts are mentioned, so I’ll be checking that out.

Garfield makes a discussion of fonts and typography amusing, filled with anecdotes and quirkiness. I especially got a kick out of Chapter 18: Breaking the Rules – mostly because the use of multiple fonts within a single page (sometimes as often as every paragraph) is something I have often done while writing letters to friends. It’s unfortunate that it is so difficult to use fonts effectively within the on-line world in some ways – in other ways, it’s probably for the best. For those who are interested in typography, fonts or the history of writing, this is a must-read.

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