Just My Type: A Book about Fonts

( 9 )

Overview

A hugely entertaining and revealing guide to the history of type that asks, What does your favorite font say about you?

Fonts surround us every day, on street signs and buildings, on movie posters and books, and on just about every product we buy. But where do fonts 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...

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Overview

A hugely entertaining and revealing guide to the history of type that asks, What does your favorite font say about you?

Fonts surround us every day, on street signs and buildings, on movie posters and books, and on just about every product we buy. But where do fonts 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 seeming 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

We once thought we were seeing only letters, but now, thanks to the digital age, we know that fonts carry their own meaning. The language of typography, however, never seemed as accessible and amenable as it does in the hands of Simon Garfield. Already hailed as a classic in the UK, his Just My Type makes the tongues of these blocky slots intelligible in unprecedented ways. As one reviewer noted, Garfield's great strength is his storytelling: "His book comprises dozens of lovely vignettes, anecdotes that make a potentially dusty subject utterly compelling." Editor's recommendation.

Publishers Weekly
Printed type is no mere neutral conveyor of ideas but an artistic medium in its own right, with psychological, social, and even sexual overtones, according to this lively romp through the history of fonts. Garfield (The End of Innocence) surveys fonts from Gutenberg's dour Gothic and the elegant classicism of Garamond to the childlike faux-naïveté of Comic Sans, now so widely used for everything from medical brochures to tombstones that a movement has arisen to ban it. Along the way he revisits the sometimes lurid lives of the great typographers—incest and bestiality included—and explores the legibility of highway signs and the subliminal messaging of presidential campaign fonts. There's much pop psychology here—heavy, angular fonts seem male, apparently, while thin, curlicued ones are female—and a lot of engaging connoisseurship that occasionally goes overboard, especially when comparing look-alike modern sans serif fonts: you have to strain at gnats to distinguish the ubiquitous corporate cordiality of Helvetica from the "slightly softer and more rounded tone" of Arial. Regardless, Garfield's evocative prose—Cooper Black is "the sort of font the oils in a lava lamp would form if smashed to the floor"—entices us to see letters instead of just reading them. Photos. (Sept.)
TheAtlantic.com
Deft and downright fun.
Starred Library Journal

"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!"

The Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Charming and informative"
St. Louis Post Dispatch
"You'll find a lot to like in this book....[it] informs as it entertains."
Tampa Bay Tribune
"Charming."
Chip Kidd
"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."
Lynne Truss
"There is even a photograph of a quick brown fox literally jumping over a lazy dog. What a clever, clever book."
Maira Kalman
"Did I love this book? My daughter's middle name is Bodoni. Enough said."
PureWow.com
"Deft and downright fun."
Shelf Awareness
"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."
NPR.org/Books We Like
"Garfield's engaging history of letter design will be eye candy...[Just My Type is] stuffed with fascinating bits of information...lively, richly illustrated "
Los Angeles Times
"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."
The Philadelphia Intelligencer
"Well-researched."
New York Times
"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

"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."
-USA Today

"Garfield takes readers on a rollicking tour of the world of typography."
-NPR.org/Books We Like

"Garfield's engaging history of letter design will be eye candy...[Just My Type is] stuffed with fascinating bits of information...lively, richly illustrated "
-Los Angeles Times

"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."
-The Seattle Times

"Just My Type, is informative, delightful - and essential reading for word geeks everywhere."
-The Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Charming and informative"
-St. Louis Post Dispatch

"You'll find a lot to like in this book....[it] informs as it entertains."
-Tampa Bay Tribune

"Charming."
-The Boston Globe

"Packed with lively anecdotes"
-The Philadelphia Intelligencer

"Well-researched."
-Booklist

"Garfield's romping history (with multitype text) is zestfully informative."
-PureWow.com

"Deft and downright fun."
-Shelf Awareness

"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."
-Chip Kidd

"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."
-Lynne Truss

"There is even a photograph of a quick brown fox literally jumping over a lazy dog. What a clever, clever book."
-Maira Kalman

"Did I love this book? My daughter's middle name is Bodoni. Enough said."
Library Journal
The digital age took what was essentially an antiquarian hobby—the study and identification of typefaces and fonts—and turned it into a flourishing present-day avocation. What font do you select when typing at your keyboard? And which do you prefer for your e-reading? Baskerville? Verdana? How much do you know of the magical history behind your choices? 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. Although billed by its publisher as "fully revised for its U.S. release," it comes to us largely intact from the UK with a few domestic references added. Garfield (Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World) 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. There's a fascinating discussion of the ampersand, references to rock album covers with title fonts that stir the emotions, and a sobering clarification about copyright. 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. VERDICT Highly recommended to all, whether or not you feel predisposed to like this kind of thing! Eye-opening and mind-expanding!—Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal
Library Journal
Typefaces have been around since about 1450, but most of us remained oblivious to their specifics until computers let us play with them. Here, Garfield not only relates the history of typefaces but examines their aesthetic and psychological power, considering what, for instance, our favorite typefaces say about us and how Gotham helped Barack Obama win the presidency. A surprise best seller in the UK that's been edited for U.S. consumption. Watch.
Kirkus Reviews

A thoroughly entertaining, well-informed tour of typefaces, some now 560 years old, some invented within just the last few years.

If you own a computer, chances are good that you have hundreds of fonts available on your machine. Unless you're a typophile, then the chances are equally good that you don't make full use of all those possibilities—or know why Minion is different from Garamond is different from Times New Roman. Enter Garfield, a genial Briton who confesses to "a soft spot for Requiem Fine Roman and HT Gelateria." Some fonts, by the author's account, are dear and necessary—the late-Renaissance inventions of Claude Garamond, for instance, which, adapted by the English compositor William Caslon, "would provide the letters for the American Declaration of Independence," or Sabon, "one of the most readable of all book fonts." Others are an offense to the eye, such as Comic Sans, which started life innocently enough but has been used so overly and wrongly as to constitute a typographic felony. (Garfield defends the font's designer, though, who also designed Trebuchet, "which is a nicely rounded semi-formal humanist font ideal for web design." The author traces the evolution of font families over the several technologies of typemaking and typesetting that have emerged in the last half-millennium, including some of the digital ones that are used today. He is just old enough, too, to pay homage to typography in quite another context, namely the "boastful B" and "dropped T" spelling out "The Beatles" on Ringo Starr's drum kit. He also offers pointers on what fonts work best for what uses, even if some of his profiles should remain lost forever: The world would be a better place without Souvenir Light and Cooper Black.

"When we choose a typeface," asks Garfield, "what are we really saying?" His book offers an informed and pleasing answer, and a lively companion to books such as Robert Bringhurst's essentialElements of Typographic Style(1992) and John Lewis'sclassic Typography: Design and Practice.

Janet Maslin
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…Mr. Garfield has put together a lot of good stories and questions about font subtleties and font-lovers' fanaticism.
—The New York Times
Dennis Drabelle
Reading Simon Garfield's Just My Type can transform your daily life into an endless quest for knowledge of the typefaces in which signs, books, magazines, newspapers, etc. are set…Garfield seems to know everything about typefaces and what is written in them…
—The Washington Post
USA Today
“Highly entertaining … Garfield takes readers on a rollicking tour of the world of typography, from book jackets to road signs, TV shows to computers.”
The Boston Globe
“A deliriously clever and entertaining book”
The Huffington Post

"Irresistible."

Janet Maslin
“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.”
From the Publisher
"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 Starred Review
The Los Angeles Times
"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.”
Seattle Post Intelligencer
“Lively […] intriguing […] a cheeky book about the human side and our reaction to fonts.”
Washington Post
“Reading Simon Garfield’s Just My Type can transform your daily life into an endless quest for knowledge of the typefaces in which signs, books, magazines, newspapers, etc. are set.”
The Atlantic
“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.”
Booklist
“Garfield’s romping history (with multitype text) is zestfully informative.”
The Seattle Times
“Informative, delightful — and essential reading for word geeks everywhere.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592406524
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/2011
  • Pages: 356
  • Sales rank: 238,790
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Simon Garfield is the author of twelve acclaimed books of nonfiction. He lives in London and St. Ives, Cornwall, and currently has a soft spot for Requiem Fine Roman and HT Gelateria.
Chip Kidd is associate art director for Alfred A. Knopf, where his jacket designs have revolutionized the art of American book packaging. He is the author of numerous books, including The Cheese Monkeys.
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Table of Contents

Foreword Chip Kidd xii

Introduction: Love Letters 1

Periodic Table of Typefaces 6-7

1 We don't serve your type 9

2 Capital Offence 22

Gill Sans 41

3 Legibility vs Readability 45

Albertus 62

4 Can a font make me popular? 65

Futura v Verdana 73

5 The Hands of Unlettered Men 77

Doves 84

6 The Ampersand's Final Twist 89

7 Baskerville is Dead (Long Live Baskerville) 97

Mrs Eaves & Mr Eaves 106

8 Tunnel Visions 109

9 What is it about the Swiss? 124

Frutiger 139

10 Road Akzidenz 143

11 DIY 158

12 What the Font? 172

13 Can a font be German, or Jewish? 180

Futura 193

14 American Scottish 196

Moderns, Egyptians and Fat Faces 204

15 Gotham is Go 208

16 Pirates and Clones 220

Optima 233

17 The Clamour from the Past 235

Sabon 251

18 Breaking the Rules 254

The Interrobang 268

19 The Serif of Liverpool 270

Vendôme 284

20 Fox, Gloves 286

21 The Worst Fonts in the World 296

22 Just My Type 313

Bibliography 333

Online 337

Acknowledgements 339

Font and image credits 343

Index 345

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Never Look at Signs the Same Way Again

    "Just My Type: A Book About Fonts" by Simon Garfield is a non­fic­tion book about fonts. After read­ing this book I will never look at signs the same way again.

    The book doc­u­ments the his­tory of fonts and type­faces from Guten­berg to mod­ern dig­i­tized ver­sions. Using humor the author tells of the impact of fonts on busi­ness and cul­ture.

    "Just My Type" by Simon Garfield is a humor­ous and enter­tain­ing book which will change the way you look at the world. Like me, most peo­ple prob­a­bly don't think much about fonts, unless they're ugly, unfit­ting or dif­fi­cult to read.

    As it turned out there are font afi­ciona­dos out there, enough to merit heavy dis­cus­sions on IKEA chang­ing its font and to reli­giously main­tain Inter­net groups. That is not includ­ing those whose liveli­hood depends on fonts (authors, design­ers, adver­tis­ers, etc.).

    f you know noth­ing about typog­ra­phy don't worry, the sec­ond chap­ter explains com­mon terms which you'll want to know because the first chap­ter already hooked you in by dis­cussing font related anec­dotes about Comic Sans. Between chap­ters there are "Font Breaks", which praise fonts, tells of font con­tro­ver­sies as well as great sto­ries about dead typog­ra­phers and inter­views with those who are still among the living.

    The book is a quick tour around the world, not only by look­ing at road signs, but by includ­ing movies, TV shows, album cov­ers, mag­a­zines, movies, com­put­ers and more. What I found even more fas­ci­nat­ing is the mis­use of fonts in movies, fonts that are used in time-period movies but have actu­ally been cre­ated later in history.

    In this lively book you'll dis­cover how fonts are picked for road signs (very impor­tant), how are they tested at high speeds and what do fonts say about prod­ucts and politi­cians. Of course one could make the very legit­i­mate argu­ment that politi­cians are prod­ucts, but that's a dif­fer­ent book.

    Among the many tid­bits in the book you'll find some gems such as how the @ sign is called in dif­fer­ent lan­guages (strudel in Hebrew, escar­got in French), the secrets of Rolling Stone's "R" and why the "T" is low­ered on the Bea­t­les' logo. You'll also read sto­ries about the font mak­ers and their curi­ous lives.

    No book about fonts will be com­plete with­out the "worst of" sec­tion. Mr. Garfield does well by stay­ing away from home made fonts and cov­er­ing only those made by pro­fes­sion­als; oth­er­wise that sec­tion would prove to be unruly.

    Mr. Garfield did a great job writ­ing an intrigu­ing book on, what could have been a very bor­ing sub­ject, the his­tory and analy­sis of fonts. The author com­pleted that feat by writ­ing a cheeky book about the human side and our reac­tion to fonts. An added detail to this won­der­ful book is that most of the font names are printed in that font.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2011

    This Fun Book Should be Everyone's "Type"

    Per Janet Maslin's rave in the New York Times, JUST MY TYPE deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Lynne Truss's EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES -- and for the same word-loving audience, not just (excuse the pun) graphic design types. This is a great, fun, and eye-opening book for anyone who loves the written word.
    I'm someone who generally pays more attention to what words say than how the letters are formed, and yet I found this to be one of the most enjoyable books I've read in years. Might have something to do with the author being from the UK, where clever writing is clearly emphasized and appreciated. For sheer writing quality, and therefore reading pleasure, it was an actual page-turner. To say nothing of the fun of the many witty visual samples (and captions) interspersed throughout.
    As I've previously found with works by Malcolm Gladwell & Atul Gawande, Simon Garfield's book brought both reading pleasure and intellectual gratification in its combination of light-touch prose and behind-the-scenes history. It's not exaggerating to say this book has changed my whole perception of the reading experience from both a tactile and an historical point of view. Indeed it changes my visual appreciation of the world OUTSIDE of books in a way that hasn't happened since my sitting through two semesters of The History of Western Art in college! Immersed while on the crosstown bus, I found myself lifting my eyes to examine every awning I passed, wondering what is that font, how old is it, who chose it for this store or billboard, etc. etc.
    Treat yourself to appreciating the world in a new way, spotting details you may have never paid attention to before, and enjoying a few chuckles (and even a gasp or two) along the way.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2013

    Love it!

    I've been waiting for a book like this most of my life. (Yes, I was a rather odd child!) Informative, funny, and with plenty of pictures & examples of fonts, this book is fascinating. Granted, I'm obviously a geek about such matters, but some of the stories should appeal to the average public (such as the story of the uproar when IKEA changed it's font. ) Also, while I do own a Nook, I did not read this on the Nook, but on a hard-bound copy. Therefore I have no idea of the quality of the pictures & graphic examples as a Nook book. This is an excellent book for anyone interested in the printing world -- past, presentm & future. A fantastic book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 23, 2011

    Kritters Ramblings

    I may not be the girl who notices the small details or differences in ads or commercials, but I do love how the subtle differences in font can change the way something reads. As a bona-fide reader, I can definitely feel a difference between a more manly font compared to a more feminine font. From the history of fonts and typography to where a few fonts were specifically created, this book took a humorous and educational approach to teaching the reader what makes a font a font.

    At times there was a little too much education for me, but I think even your average reader would love to learn about how the art of typography has evolved, even from the production side. How the computer has completely changed how accessible fonts are? And to the job of a font designer - where is the money?

    A book that I am passing onto my sister a graphic designer, craft guru, but also one that I would pass onto my fellow reader. Why is one drawn to a certain font? How does Microsoft dictate what font is default? I think this book answers many questions that the typical reader may have thought from time to time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2012

    I very much enjoyed this book; I now look at signs, menus, books

    I very much enjoyed this book; I now look at signs, menus, books in a much different way. It covers so many different themes and topics that you are not learning only about fonts, but about art and social history. If you liked Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything or At Home, I bet you will enjoy this book. It was actually fun and delightful to read while even being educational and I feel it is one of the best books I've read in the past year.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2011

    Scattered and Dry

    A collection of random thoughts about fonts, loosely tied together and underwhelming

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 5, 2012

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    Posted August 24, 2012

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    Posted November 8, 2012

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    Posted March 9, 2013

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