Just My Type
A Book About Fonts
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A delightfully inquisitive tour that explores the rich history and the subtle powers of fonts.
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 fonts come from and why do we need so many? Who is behind the businesslike subtlety of Times New Roman, the cool detachment of Arial, or the maddening lightness of Comic Sans (and the movement to ban it)? Simon Garfield embarks on a mission to answer these questions and more, and reveal what may be the very best and worst fonts in the world.
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, Garfield unravels our age old obsession with the way our words look. Just My Type investigates 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 what makes a font look presidential, male or female, American, British, German, or Jewish. From the typeface of Beatlemania to the graphic vision of the Obama campaign, fonts can signal a musical revolution or the rise of an American president. This book is a must-read for the design conscious that will forever change the way you look at the printed word.
-New York Times, Janet Maslin
"Garfield takes readers on a rollicking tour of the world of typography."
"Garfield's engaging history of letter design will be eye candy...[Just My Type is] stuffed with fascinating bits of information...lively, richly illustrated "
-NPR.org/Books We Like
"Whether you're a graphic designer or a layperson with no background in this area, reading what Garfield has to say will change the way you perceive the written word forever. It might even lead you to make more discerning choices the next time you have a desktop publishing project in front of you. The take-away from Garfield's book is simple: Contrary to reports of its premature death, print is very much alive."
-Los Angeles Times
"Just My Type, is informative, delightful - and essential reading for word geeks everywhere."
-The Seattle Times
"Charming and informative"
-The Minneapolis Star Tribune
"You'll find a lot to like in this book....[it] informs as it entertains."
-St. Louis Post Dispatch
-Tampa Bay Tribune
"Deliriously clever and entertaining."
-The Boston Globe
"Packed with lively anecdotes"
-The Boston Globe, Word Column
-The Philadelphia Intelligencer
"Garfield's romping history (with multitype text) is zestfully informative."
"Deft and downright fun."
"Just My Type is a genre-bender of a typography book-part history textbook, part design manual, part subtle stand-up comedy routine. Garfield dances across 560 years of typographic history, sprinkled with fascinating anecdotes and vignettes, to infect you with his own inability to walk past a sign without identifying the typeface and some curious factoid about it. Funny and fascinating, irreverent and playful yet endlessly illuminating, the book is an absolute treat for the type-nerd, design history geek, and general lover of intelligent writing with humor."
"A lively, informative survey of 560 years of typefaces and font choices that will probably make you select a font that is much more you."
"Here is a wonderful update for those whose fondness for matters typographical predates the digital age, as well as those whose eyes need awakening to this particular enchantment. Garfield has a light touch and moves effortlessly among various aspects of typography past and present, not only from design perspectives but from accessible social, historical, and legal angles as well. Throughout, Garfield offers "fontbreaks" in which he focuses on the provenance of a particular typeface. An added pleasure: the book's own text switches fonts to briefly reflect the typeface under discussion. "Highly recommended to all, whether or not you feel predisposed to like this kind of thing! Eye-opening and mind-expanding!"
-Starred Library Journal
"[A] lively romp through the history of fonts. Garfield's evocative prose entices us to see letters instead of just reading them."
"A thoroughly entertaining, well-informed tour of typefaces...[Just My Type] offers an informed and pleasing answer, and a lively companion to books such as Robert Bringhurst's essential Elements of Typographic Style (1992) and John Lewis's classic Typography: Design and Practice."
"Whether you're a hardcore typophile or a type-tyro, there's something here for you: be it the eye-opening revelations of Eric Gill's utter and complete perversity, or the creation of the typeface that helped Mr. Obama gain entrance to the White House."
"There is even a photograph of a quick brown fox literally jumping over a lazy dog. What a clever, clever book."
"Did I love this book? My daughter's middle name is Bodoni. Enough said."
"With wit, grace and intelligence, Simon Garfield tells the fascinating stories behind the letters that we encounter every day on our street corners, our bookstore shelves, and our computer screens."
-Michael Bierut, Partner, Pentagram Design, New York, and author of Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design
"Simon Garfield reveals an invisible world behind the printed word... the lives of the designers and the letters they've created have never been more clearly detailed with so much flair."
-Jessica Kerwin Jenkins, author of Encyclopedia of the Exquisite
How did you become interested in fonts?
I've been interested in fonts long before I knew any of their names or anything of their history. It began seriously for me when I bought my first album covers as a boyI clearly remember going to a shop near my home in north-west London, buying David Bowie's Hunky Dory and Electric Warrior by T Rex, and gazing at their sleeves on the bus. That was the beginning of it. A fascination with book jackets soon followed, and then the credits on TV shows, and then computers.
Why are there so many different fonts?
I haven't counted them all, but there are an estimated 100,000 different font designs in the world, most of them available to download on your computer. Of course we don't need them all, but then again we probably don't need all the songs in the world either, or all the paintings. But we will always need to express our emotions in new and modern ways, and we are a creative race, so we need to keep on inventing.
Everyone likes to ask what your favorite font is. I'll go one further: what is your favorite letter? Why?
At the moment (and this tends to change every week), my favorite letter is the lower-case 'i' in the London Underground font. Designed by Edward Johnston almost a century ago, it has a wonderful diamond shape where the dot would normally be, and it brings a smile to my face every time I travel by Tube.
Have you ever attempted to design a font?
While writing the book I thought it was my duty to have a go at designing a typeface myself, and the results were predictably disastrous. Most good type design begins with drawing by hand, but I went straight to Fontographer 4, and I think I abandoned the project at C. It made me realize two things: how hard it is to make even a single letter both original and arresting; and how talented, patient and underappreciated the professionals are.
Serif or Sans?
That's like asking: Chicken or Fish? Rather different things, and their consumption depends on appetite and mood. For my website, serif. In my dreams, mostly sans.
Since you wrote Just My Type are there any other fonts you've encountered that you would like to add to the Worst Fonts in the World?
I think I'm sticking to the original choice – nothing can ever be worse than the London 2012 Olympic font (2012 Headline), surely? What a terrible way to advertise my home city to the world…
What is an interrobang and why was it made? How come I can't find it on my computer?!
The Interrobang is the best way of saying 'What the xxxx?!?!!!!???' without using lots of ! and ?. It combines the exclamation mark and question mark into one simple glyph. It was invented in the sixties, but alas it never really caught on. Some fonts give you the Interrobang as part of the packagelook for it in Microsoft Wingdings 2, and also in Calibri and Palatino.
How did you find out about Doves, the "font that drowned"?
I'm not sure where I first heard of it. The story has entered popular mythology, and I wanted to see if it was true. Fortunately, it was much better than the tale I'd heard: this frail man actually spent many years at the beginning of the 20th century stealthily throwing his creation into the Thames at night, terrified of discovery. My favorite part of the story is that the letters are still there at the bottom of Hammersmith Bridge, slowly forming words. There may be an entire novel down there by now. Of course, you can learn more about it in Just My Type.
It's easy to find fonts on the internet for freewhy should we NOT download those fonts?
Well, don't let me stop you. But be aware that there may be many reasons why they're there, perhaps because they weren't accepted by the many online font shopsperhaps they're too similar to what's already available, or perhaps the letters 'fall apart' at large sizes or at different weights. If you buy clones you're denying royalties to the make/distributor of the original.
What do you think about the programs that can turn your handwriting into a font?
I'd say try one and see how grateful you'll be for Helvetica, Georgia and the rest. It's fun, a bit stupid, not very sustaining.
Were there any fonts that you wanted to include in Just My Type but could not find the room for?
They're all in there, but I wish I'd written more about Festival Titling, the type designed for the 1951 Festival of Britain. It's a truly colorful, confident beauty. I'm using it on my business cards.
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