Alan's Reviews > Just My Type: A Book About Fonts

Just My Type by Simon Garfield
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's review
Feb 25, 2012

really liked it
Recommended to Alan by: The total package
Recommended for: Anyone who's ever yearned to kern...

Hard to believe, perhaps, but this book about fonts, typefaces, the shapes of the letters that make up the text we read every day, is lively and entertaining in a way that defies its only apparently trivial topic. From the reviled Comic Sans, to the historic impacts of powerhouse fonts like Times New Roman and Helvetica, to less common faces (like one of my personal favorites, Zapf Optima), Simon Garfield shares his enthusiasm for type in a series of clear, erudite, and wide-ranging essays. You don't have to know a lot about fonts to start this book; most likely, you'll know a lot more about them when you finish. Each chapter is short (and the specific "Fontbreak" sections even shorter), which makes for a fast-moving and accessible experience. And in contexts ranging from the importance of legible highway signage to the effect the right font can have on someone's election chances, Garfield relates the mundane details of typography to the most pressing of real-life issues.

As one would expect, the book itself, as a designed artifact, has also been beautifully constructed. It has a pleasant heft and size, a good mix of text and illustrative images, and of course the font chosen for the main body of the book is a clean, readable, yet relatively uncommon one called Sabon, about which Garfield says, "It is not the most beautiful type in the world, nor the most original or arresting. It is, however, considered one of the most readable of all book fonts, and it is one of the most historically significant."

I do wish that the particular library copy I read had not been annotated by a blithering (and of course anonymous) idiot. First, of course, one should probably think twice about scribbling in a library book at all... and second, if one must, at least refrain from doing so so badly, merely underlining obvious emphases and doodling redundant letter forms!

Garfield expresses some fairly strong opinions about fonts, though I honestly found none I disagreed with. I don't know how a professional would react to this book—I am no great shakes as a graphic designer, myself—but as an interested amateur, I found it fascinating.
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