Just My Type: A Book about Fonts

Just My Type: A Book about Fonts

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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452634517
Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date: 09/30/2011
Edition description: Library - Unabridged CD
Product dimensions: 6.80(w) x 6.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Simon Garfield is the author of books including The Error World: An Affair with Stamps and Mini: The True and Secret history of the Making of a Motor Car.

With acting credits that span stage and screen, Gildart Jackson is most often recognized for his role as Gideon on Charmed. He has also been featured on Providence and General Hospital, and his theater roles include Trigorin in The Seagull, Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, and Adrian in Private Eyes at the Old Globe.

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

What People are Saying About This

Maira Kalman

"Did I love this book? My daughter's middle name is Bodoni. Enough said."

From the Publisher

"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

Lynne Truss

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

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.”

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."

Jessica Kerwin Jenkins

"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."

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Just My Type 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
"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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
andy475uk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fascinating, always informative read for font geeks, but it does drag in a couple of places as you approach font overload (!)
sanddancer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I do have some strong ideas about design, including the use of fonts. I'm not such an expert as the author of this book or the people in it, but the very fact that I chose to read it at all probably does indicate a level of geekiness. Suffice to say, I found this book fascinating. Chapters look at fonts in relation to different subjects, such as music, politics or transport, or looks at issues including piracy, who to design a font and the world's worst fonts. Interspersed with the main chapters, are shorter sections called "Font Breaks" which focus on an individaul font, its history and usage. The book itself is beautifully designed, with the title written in some unusual fonts, a font periodic table on the inside cover, lots of illustrations and text written in the font being discussed. If I had to pick fault with the book, I would have liked a little more about the DIY fonts the 60s and punk movement, but overall, I found it very informative and surprisingly fun read.
Katya0133 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first chapter of Just My Type is pretty basic, and it had me worried that I wasn't going to learn anything new from the book. However, the rest of the book surpassed my expectations. This book tends to focus more on the human side of typography, which makes it an excellent companion to books that focus more on the technical aspects. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on, the man who designed Comic Sans, the man who threw all his type into the Thames, and the list of the worst fonts in the world.
alexrichman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
How wonderful to find an even more thankless career than sub-editing! Font creators are rather strange (or worse, as in the case of Gill Sans), and this book delivers plenty of colourful vignettes once it gets past the dull but necessary historical introduction of typography.
LyzzyBee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
12 Jan 2011An excellent gallimaufry of information about typefaces, their history, development, variations, etc., with interstitial chapters on particular fonts or families of fonts. I did like that it ended with Calibri, a font of which I've become fond. Only one (bizarre) proofing error spotted in the whole book. Entertaining and informative - I can't really find anything else to say about it, but it was a good read!
hugh_ashton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
That was meant to be a 4.5 star rating, but I'll leave it as 4. Not exactly the world's most technical book on typography, but one of the most entertaining I've read for some time (ever?). Slightly snarky, but basically the right amount of snark when called for, and some rather dry British humour at times. I would have expected it to appeal only to a rather specialist audience, but judging by the number of readers here on LibraryThing, it attracts more than I would have thought - but then LibraryThing members are bibliophiles. Anecdotes about fonts and their creators are jumbled together in a way that should be chaotic, but actually flow better than you might imagine - more of a collection of articles than a book, but linked together in such a way that you can go with the flow without having to jump too strenuously over the joins.This is a book that would never work as an e-book, by the way - the typographical complexities and subtleties would be lost. The fact that I have a hard cover edition (good paper) is also a plus point for me - maybe it's not the sort of book where a first edition will ever become valuable, but it's good to have.Recommended for anyone who has an interest in the shape of the letters that they are reading ¿ in print, or on-screen.
jontseng on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Taxis without ever quite truly taking taking off.
wyvernfriend on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really did enjoy this book, a short history of some fonts, quite readable, a bit idiosyncratic but enjoyable and fun. Simon Garfield has his opinion about some of the fonts, that I don't essentially agree with but it was an interesting read none-the-less. Some of the shennagins about some fonts were mind-boggling. It made me look at some of the usages around me.There was one major thing he forgot. People sometimes are constrained, not only by house styles (and don't get me started) but also by ability to download and opt for other font styles. I know that on my website I was very constrained by what blogger was offering me but also noticed that it looked different on other machines and browsers, so keeping with slightly more bland, more common fonts enabled me to keep the look I wanted!
TheDivineOomba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am apparently not a type fanatic, but this book is still awesome. There is something here for everyone, History, Biography, oddities... Its here. For many of the fonts (Arial, Futuro, Etc), they blended together for me. I really can't tell the difference of any of them. But its good stuff all the same.
NellieMc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This books deserves five stars for a) making something fascinating out of fonts, b) changing the way you'll look at everything that surrounds you, and c) finding an historical subject that no-one else has written about. Very highly recommended even if you have no interest in graphic design -- it will enrich the way you see your surroundings. Oh, but do buy it as a physical book--it's very important to see the fonts as he uses them.
eglinton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Entertaining look at the hige variety of different fonts and types we now use. Which it turns out have proliferated hugely over recent years, as has interest in and awareness of them, now there are so many within our daily desktop reach. The book is written with humour and verve, and covers much, but somehow not in a way that sticks. Perhaps lacks the depth or the gravity or just the breaking down into parts that would educate the reader to create a font (or even choose or recognise one).
alsatia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is okay; it's even quite amusing at times. I prefer the documentary Helvetica, but had I not seen the film first, the book might have been my favorite. If you're at all interested in fonts, take a look at this one. One tip: pick up the hard copy, not the ebook. Many different fonts appear thoughout the book to illustrate what the author is talking about, and you'll miss something if you try to read this as an ebook since that will likely limit the number of fonts you'll see.
RockStarNinja on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A book about fonts should not be as interesting as this book is. I first saw this as an early review book last year and I wanted to win it, because I'd never seen a book about fonts before, but I didn't win it. So when I saw it at the store a few days ago I bought it, and it was SO INTERESTING. I couldn't put it down and when I was done, I was sad because I wanted to keep reading about more fonts. After I started reading I began to actually look at all the fonts around me and tried to figure out what they were. I had no idea, but it was still fun to try.
tapestry100 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Being a graphic designer and a typographer first and foremost, I thoroughly enjoyed Just My Type. For a subject that I think most people would find fairly boring (exactly how much can you really say about type, right?), I found the book to be fairly easy to read and I think most people who are not as familiar with type and design but are still interested in the history behind certain fonts and what went into creating certain typefaces will find this book very approachable.I love playing with type, seeing what can be done when you take words and turn them into strict letterforms and play with the art of the letters and still make something legible out of it. I really enjoyed reading the history and story behind the design of some of my favorite fonts. The one complaint I have with the book is several times Garfield mentions a certain font and what made that font something special for its time or mentions the way a particular letterform is designed, without always giving the reader an example of either the complete typeface or at the very least an example of the particular letterform he's talking about. I think this would have gone a very long way in helping people see what he is talking about. I don't think that it would have been too much to include a larger sized example of the letterform or a page that shows the entire set of glyphs for a particular font. With that one exception aside, I really enjoyed Just My Type and would recommend it to anyone who is interested by type and its history.
GirlMisanthrope on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Clever, intelligent, and humorous account of the development of the fonts we find all around us. The humor throughout juices this potentially dry topic.
SimonMSmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An overview of the world of fonts without ever delving into serious analysis of what makes the good ones good, and the bad ones bad.... Was left slightly disappointed, although I do now look at the world a little bit differently, which is a lot to say for any book.
kraaivrouw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wanted to read and review this book because I love fonts and type. It started when I was a kid and a British friend of my parents gave me this gorgeous calligraphy set. It had pens and nibs, of course, but also about a dozen inks with great labels and beautiful colors. She had purchased it in London for me and it was one of the best gifts I ever had. I got a book about calligraphy so I could play with it and became interested in fonts from that.Later in life, I worked in graphic design and desktop publishing. This was back when dinosaurs walked the earth and production of newsletters and ads and catalogs and on and on required a good eye and a knowledge of Adobe software. Now, of course, various templates have been loaded into various "desktop publishing" programs and everyone thinks they can do without people like me who used to do that. Sadly, most people have little to no aesthetic and thus much desktop publishing is godawful and ugly. It was very fun to do and indulged my interest in fonts and what works where and how readable they are and so on. New Alphabet - Designed by Wim CrouwelThis spread into the early days of the web when I had websites that weren't built on tools like Blogger (those days I don't really miss). Things like font and size and colors are very important on the web and differently important than in print. This is because your brain processes the printed word differently from words on a computer screen.I've also been one of those people who reads the note in the back of a book about the font used. It usually has a little history and I've been known to read up. This is all a long-winded way of saying that this book was right up my alley.If you don't know anything about fonts (or know a fair amount) this is a fun read. It's more popularly oriented than many books on the subject, but is full of lots of essential facts that most people don't even know to think about. Add to that the histories of various fonts and their creators and you get a really fun read.Garfield writes in short chapters covering all the facts, historical and otherwise that you might want to know. He also speaks to what I'd call the politics of fonts - where they were designed, the design influence on the appearance and success of the font, and many other factors including readability and the vicissitudes of font fandom. A fun read for anyone who is curious about the actual words they read and why they look the way they do.
Edith1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author can't write, but the material is very interesting. The author must have had a pretty heavy-handed editor -- seeing how many concepts only get explained the fifth time they are mentioned it is likely that the book got a major overhaul shortly before publication -- but he could have used more. Clunky sentences, lapses in grammar, words that don't mean what he thinks they mean, failure to explain jargon are just some of the glaring annoyances.That being said, he knows about type, and he has good stories about the history and the personalities. I just wish he were a better writer; or had a better editor.
ellynv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There has not been a day since my father¿s death in 1993 that I do not think of him. Reading Just My Type has given me an extra moment to feel loss and nostalgia. I wasn¿t far into it before my first thought was, ¿Wish Dad was still around - I¿ve found the perfect Christmas gift for him.¿ Early in the book Garfield talks about the way concepts that were once reserved for those in the typesetting/printing industry are now in the everyday lexicon. There was a time that ¿font¿ - outside of the baptismal definition - was not a word that most people used. Now third graders discuss fonts while doing homework. (In truth, what they should really say is `typeface,¿ but society has made great progress, so this might not be the time to quibble,)Growing up with a father who had a print shop and graphic design business taught me more than I had realized. (Or appreciated. And that includes his insistence that my sister and I take typing -today it would be called keyboarding - in high school though it wasn¿t recommended for the college bound. Dad found that insulting, since his ability to access those `qwerty¿ skills had provided well for our family. Plus he inquired what `good fairies¿ did we expect to appear to type our papers. )Having access to some of the first applications of desktop publishing equipment and a very early Mac was quite an education. Well, first there was the Letraset - and the ¿Ellyn, be careful with the X-Acto knife.¿ The Alphatype and CompuGraphic was so cutting-edge. The machinations of setting type on these machines (delicate glass discs, type printed on strips of light degradable photo paper, no easy editing of errors!!!) would be laughable to my children, who can now publish assorted school papers, party invitations, or manifestos with a certain design sophistication and ease that my father could only aspire to in his lifetime.All of this preamble is to explain why I was so very excited to receive an early copy of Just My Type. I was not only ready for a sentimental journey but to also build on the foundation that my father gave me. I find much to recommend: the history of typeface design, what constitutes good typography, why some typefaces are both highly popular and equally despised. (Hello, Comic Sans...we¿re talking about you)Those interested in graphic design, publishing, making the most of the work that they produce on their laptops, anyone curious about what they see not just in print but everywhee...Just My Type is a book for all of you. Not just type nerds like me - people who found "Helvetica" to be an exciting movie.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Are you one of those people who reads the typeface information in the back of books? Do you look at the individual letters in the words on posters and signs? Do you frequently change out of the default font on your computer because it's not your favorite? If you said yes to any of the above, this is the book for you. If you didn't say yes to any of the above, this book will get you thinking about all of these things and more. Garfield's very readable history of fonts and typography is fascinating and accessible even to the layman. Main chapters about the development of printing techniques, the evolution of fonts, and the aesthetics of both surround interstitial "fontbreaks" that focus on a story connected to one particular font. The chapters range from examinations of the difficulties with creating new fonts, the politics and meaning that some fonts carry, the issue of intellectual property and piracy, the most used fonts in the world, those that inspire scorn and loathing in the arts world, and the dramas that have occurred when well-known and corporately identifiable fonts have been abandoned in favor of something new. Garfield explains what makes a font successful and only delves into the technical aspect of design very briefly. When he discusses the differences in letters between fonts, the astute reader will notice that more often than not, that particular letter is printed in the font under discussion (however, it is only that letter so the font change can be hard to notice for a speedy reader). Some differences are miniscule so the backstories on why certain fonts were adopted for specific uses and how they were tested out to ensure effectiveness are definitely interesting. The anecdotes make this a fun and informative read. I can now say with confidence that I prefer serif to sans serif and am definitely a traditionalist with regards to my fonts. I don't think I have the aesthetics of a font designer though as each time Garfield asserts that anyone who likes a particular font has no taste, I found the font under discussion perfectly acceptable. Ah well, as long as my books are legible and readable, I suppose I can accept almost any font the designer wants to use. In the meantime, I will now be trying to recognize the more common fonts whenever I come across them thanks to Garfield and his quick and quirky book.
datrappert on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this from the version provided by netgalley.com, which lacked many of the illustrations. In addition, when transferred to my Nook, the formatting was very peculiar, with blocks of text sometimes repeated multiple times. Despite these shortcomings, I thoroughly enjoyed this very well written and interesting book, getting through it in two sittings. Its focus on the people behind the various fonts we have come to love and perhaps hate as well as on the characteristics of the fonts themselves makes it a fascinating read. Garfield also provides a brief overview of the history of typography and he makes us understand how some people can become tangled up in fonts to the point where they can't walk down a street without being distracted or appalled by the use of a certain font. Reading it makes me want to open up Microsoft Word and experiment with a few different fonts. Unfortunately, most of my time in Word is spent at my job for a government contractor--and the government almost always specifies the use of either Times New Roman or Arial. This book makes you realize what a loss that is!
sweeks1980 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Type and fonts surround us, but many people give them little thought. Luckily, there are others like Simon Garfield who are not just fascinated by font and typeface but are willing to share their passion with the rest of us. Garfield¿s interest and enthusiasm for his subject are evident throughout the book. Furthermore, he does a good job making his explanations accessible and engaging for those who do not share his awareness and knowledge of font.¿Just My Type¿ provides a history of typeface and printing starting from Guttenberg up until present day. It also dissects different fonts, such as the much maligned Comic Sans, and provides stories about the fonts and their designers. Garfield also includes lots of graphics and examples from history and popular culture to help illustrate his points, which contributed a great deal to my understanding and enjoyment of the text. In addition to his lively account of the IKEA controversy that arose after the company changed its typeface from Futura to Verdana, I also appreciated his explanations of such issues like the use of period inappropriate fonts (often found in film) as well as the differences between legibility and readability (using the record cover of The Beach Boys¿ ¿Pet Sounds¿).That said, given the myriad of topics included under the general umbrella of font and type, the book can be very uneven, and some chapters undoubtedly will have more appeal to the general public than others. I would have preferred to see more discussion on the use of type in branding and advertising rather than the chapters dedicated to minutiae like the ampersand. However, after the first few chapters, it is easy to go skip around in the book and focus on your interests without sacrificing understanding or consistency.In a similar vein, the text is sometimes so information-rich that it can seem overwhelming for the typeface neophyte. Though I consider myself a fast and avid reader when it comes to most books, I often found myself reading a single chapter and then taking a break from the book to prevent font overload. Garfield does guard against this somewhat by mixing shorter, lighter chapters with the more dense ones, but even then all of the ideas still seem to mix together.The final problem and caution I have about the book has nothing to do with Garfield or the actual text and everything to do with the medium. Although I understand the cost-saving measures involved in providing electronic copies to people for review, this is not a book that lends itself well to reading on a device. The number of graphics and the different fonts used make this book almost impossible to read on most e-readers. I tried reading it on my Nook Simple Touch before realizing the incompatibility between the device and the content.Overall, although this isn¿t the type of book I would read on my own, I was very pleased to have the chance to read such an informative and pleasant treatise on font and typeface. For people who are interested in knowing more about font and print, this would be an excellent starting point (just try to get a physical copy rather than an electronic one!).
overthemoon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
a well-written, quite amusing book studying typefaces through the ages and which has confirmed my typophilic tendencies. On the suggestion of the author I did two online tests "What font are you?" - the first said I was a romantic Edwardian Script, and the second the much more sensible Helvetica, which makes more sense. But to tell the truth, I have always had a penchant for Garamond and Book Antiqua. There is a chapter on "the worst fonts" but it does not mention Erazure, which is my pet hate.