'Just My Type': Simon Garfield's book on fonts and the people who love them
Simon Garfield's "Just My Type: A Book About Fonts" is a delightful education in the history, art and aesthetics of type fonts.
Special to The Seattle Times
'Just My Type: A Book
by Simon Garfield
Gotham, 356 pp., $27.50
A book about font design and typography — what a snoozer, right? Wrong. "Just My Type," on sale Thursday, is informative, delightful — and essential reading for word geeks everywhere.
Simon Garfield, a prolific British journalist, has a lot to say about fonts, all of it as lucid and unfussy as Calibri Bold (and never as dull as Times New Roman).
He takes us on a brisk trot through history, from the Romans to Gutenberg to contemporary superstars like Matthew Carter (a MacArthur Fellow who designed Verdana and Georgia, possibly the most-used fonts in the world).
There's also solid information for those of us not fluent in the minutiae of typography. Unclear on the difference between serif and sans serif? Not sure what an interrobang is? Don't know what to call that backwards-P-looking thing signifying a new paragraph? Look no further.
The book has some fascinating asides. For instance, font fanatics passionately hate Comic Sans, but its friendly nature seems to help people with dyslexia.
And "Just My Type" has some excellent jokes. We learn, for instance, about The Guardian newspaper's hoax about the little-known island of San Serriffe. It's actually two islands, Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse, and on a map they look like a semicolon. All the towns are named for fonts or typesetters' marks.
But Garfield also has some serious points to make. For one thing, he explores how fonts evoke various emotional responses. He also quotes a designer who makes an analogy with music: The writer's words are the notes, while a font is the sound system — its job is to unobtrusively make things understandable.
One disappointment: There's no mention of non-Roman writing — pictographs (like Chinese or Japanese), Cyrillic, Arabic, etc.
By the way: You're reading this review in Charter, but it was written in an elegant font called Palatino.
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