Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Review: Just My Type by Simon Garfield

  • Just My Type

  • By: Simon Garfield

  • ISBN-13: 9781592406524

  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)

  • Publication date: 9/1/2011

  • Pages: 356

  • Source: Library copy

  • Synopsis:

    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.

    My Review:

    Simon Garfield has introduced me to a world that I never gave much thought to and took for granted, the wide world of font and typography. Just My Type is a fun history lesson on the design of many famous fonts today and why those designs are still used in today's world.  For example, Garfield explains why Helvetica is one of the most widely used fonts worldwide and what happened when IKEA switched their font from futura to verdana... gasp!

    After reading Just My Type, I now find myself paying more attention to the font on signs and in books. While I can't tell the difference between most fonts, I do look to see if it is serif or sans serif and how the overall look of the font produces a feeling for what it is trying to express, such as stability or modernity.

    I really enjoyed roughly the first half of the book because it made me keep thinking of all the things I never picked up on in signs or other written word forms, but towards the end I found myself getting bored and wishing the book would soon. After a while, because I'm not a font enthusiast, the list of designers and the types of fonts just started to blur. Then, the book did just end. I don't think the ending of the book really summed up the previous 300-odd pages or made a final point about the world of fonts. Maybe it was just me, but I felt like Simon Garfield just got a little bored of writing it and so he just stopped where he was. I really enjoyed the premise of the book and I learned a lot, but I think the ending could have been better handled, which is why I'm giving Just My Type only three stars out of five.

    P.S. - I changed the font of this post to Arial, what do you think?

    My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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