Just My Type

A Book About Fonts
Simon Garfield

A very interesting, layman's guide to the arcane and sometimes insanely detailed world of the typeface.

Despite the fact that we see many different fonts every day, and are affected by them, I suspect that most people know next to nothing about them.  For example, did you know that, for a "t" to look correct, it has to actually lean slightly to the right (or was it left)?  Or that the dot over the letter "i" is slightly to the left of the letter itself?  The minuscule changes and differences between fonts are all but invisible to me, but to aficionados they are glaring.

I can kind of understand this.  One of my passions is electric guitars and I can tell the difference between any two models very easily.  Most people can't - and, again, despite the electric guitar's centrality in modern music.  You have to be utterly immersed in something to see the details, but you don't need to be to appreciate the final effect.

Garfield covers the history of fonts and typefaces (no, I'm afraid I can't remember the difference) without making the book seem like a history lesson, and discusses many of the individual fonts in detail.  The first chapter covers why Comic Sans is so reviled, and later we find out why Arial provokes so much controversy (it's a near-copy of Helvetica, apparently).

The only thing I didn't like - and this occurred on one of the first pages, which nearly put me off - was when discussing the first computer to offer a range of fonts to users.  It was the original Apple Macintosh - and according to the book, it was "designed by Steve Jobs".  Jobs was certainly influential on its design but to credit him only is poor research.

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