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Just My Type: A Book About Fonts Hardcover – September 1, 2011
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2011: Simon Garfield’s Just My Type presents an entertaining history of fonts, from font "pirating" dating back nearly as far as Gutenberg to the creation of Comic Sans and Ikea’s font-change controversy. With a variety of recent, news-making examples and font samples throughout, Just My Type explains how and why certain fonts can elicit emotions or gut-instinct reactions. Garfield’s humor and historical anecdotes add to his deep understanding of how something as simple as font choice can speak volumes about our cultural climate--and why it’s so easy to agonize over what font to use on a party invitation. Whether you’re already a font aficionado or can’t tell the difference between Times New Roman and Arial, this entertaining history will give you a greater appreciation of the typefaces that surround you every day. --Malissa Kent
"This is a smart, funny, accessible book that does for typography what Lynne Truss's best-selling Eats, Shoots & Leaves did for punctuation: made it noticeable for people who had no idea they were interested in such things." — New York Times, Janet Maslin
"Garfield takes readers on a rollicking tour of the world of typography." — USA Today
"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
"Charming." — Tampa Bay Tribune
"Deliriously clever and entertaining." — The Boston Globe
"Packed with lively anecdotes" — The Boston Globe, Word Column
"Well-researched." — The Philadelphia Intelligencer
"Garfield's romping history (with multitype text) is zestfully informative." — Booklist
"Deft and downright fun." — PureWow.com
"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." — Shelf Awareness
"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." — Publishers Weekly
"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." — Kirkus Reviews
"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." — Chip Kidd
"There is even a photograph of a quick brown fox literally jumping over a lazy dog. What a clever, clever book." — Lynne Truss
"Did I love this book? My daughter's middle name is Bodoni. Enough said." — Maira Kalman
"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
Top customer reviews
I would not like to read pages set in any of the fonts in one of Garfield's last chapters, "The Worst Fonts in the World." On the list is Papyrus, which caused a stir when it was used extensively in the film _Avatar_. The expensive film used a free (and overused) display font, and font fans noticed. There was also a font war (also known as a "fontroversy") when in 2009 Ikea decided to change its display font from Futura to Verdana. The change inspired passionate arguments in mere bystanders, "like the passion of sports fans," says Garfield, and the _New York Times_ joked that it was "perhaps the biggest controversy to come out of Sweden." The biggest of font wars has had a comic edge to it, and it is the starting point for Garfield's book. Comic Sans is a perfectly good font. It looks something like the letters you see in comic books, smooth, rounded, sans serif, clear. Because it caught on and was quickly overused, there has been a "ban Comic Sans" movement. Even the heads of the movement, which is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, admit that Comic Sans looks fine, say, on a candy packet; but they have also seen it on a tombstone and on a doctor's brochure about irritable bowel syndrome. If you see a font and you wonder which one it is, you can take steps to identify it. Lots of people like to do this. It is especially useful to examine the lower case g. (The other character that reveals a lot is the ampersand, which, maybe since it is not a letter or a punctuation mark, appears in exuberant eccentricity even in some calm fonts.) That g has a lot of variable points; it might have a lower hook or it might have a loop, it might have a straight line on the right, or the upper loop might have an ear that rises or droops, and this doesn't even get into whether the upper loop is a circle, a long or wide ellipse, or has uniform width. Take a look at the g letters shown here, or in your regular reading matter, and you will be amazed at how variable a selection of even only a few can be. If you have your g, you can look it up in font books, but there are so many fonts now that no book comes close to showing them all. There's an application for the iPhone which allows you to take a picture of the letter in question, upload it somewhere, and then get suggestions of possible matches. Or you can go to a type forum and ask there, because there are lots of people devoted to hunting down this sort of thing. And they take it so seriously that, as on many internet forums, they get rather snarky about disagreements.
If you don't pay attention to fonts (and most of them do their work best by not calling attention to themselves), Garfield's entertaining book might get you started. There are chapters about the difficult matter of copyrighting a font, because if you design a good font it is easy to copy it, and there isn't much that can be done about font piracy. Font designers work for love, not money. There's a chapter on "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy white dog" and other phrases that show all the letters, or particular words that display a lot of the letters most important to font design. There's plenty of history starting with Gutenberg and the historical Roman types from which are descended many of the fonts we read every day. Between the chapters are "font breaks" to praise Albertus or Gill Sans and to tell about how they came to be designed, with plenty of anecdotes and other funny or sad stories. This is a delightful, amusing book about a whole world most of us take for granted.
Perhaps, this is not the subject matter for absolutely any reader- and interest or curiosity in the subject matter at hand will definitely be useful, but it does not require one to be a die-hard about type in order to appreciate it. Though the author freely admits his hard-core enthusiasm for type, he does not present information in a way that discourages someone new to the subject from jumping right in. He has definite personal tastes- ones that you may disagree or concur with at your leisure without losing too much stake in the overall book. Your feelings on Comic Sans or Papyrus are left to you without an overbearing sense of judgement- though it is interesting to learn why they hold such notoriety in contemporary society. Overall a nice mix of history and contemporary views, blended with humor and a clear love for the topic. Not structured to be the kind of book that keeps me riveted for its entirety, but rather one that I can pick up at any point and feel enjoyment. A good casual read that I feel leaves you for the better at its end.