Monday, September 05, 2011

Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield

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 everywhere...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.

This book was received through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers...and I liked it so much that I also bought a copy.  Only wish I could buy another for someone special.  Of course, there's always my sister.

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