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Just My Type: A Book About Fonts
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 September 2015
This is one of those books that you had no idea when you first set eyes on it how compulsive it is. I really didn't know and understand that I had much interest in type faces/fonts at all until I found myself devouring this book (although I was delighted that I knew what kerning is) - I am absolutely amazed that there is so much to know - I am definitely not looking at anything in the same way as I did before I read this book.

The author starts at the beginning of printing and shows the evolution of different fonts and the reasoning behind some of the changes. Inserted in the narrative are little snippets of interesting information about one particular font - its history and use. I really had no idea how many fonts there are and nor did I understand that in most cases they are the property of the creator. The book looks at ease of reading, where the dot should go over the i, what an ampersand should look like and why people hate Comic Sans - amongst other things.

I read a paper back version of this book and where the author talked about a font that section was written in it or examples were shown to demonstrate what he was saying. I don't know whether or not this feature is sustained on an e-reader or a tablet - much woudl be lost from the book if it isn't so I advise checking a sample first if you choose to read the book electronically.

An absolutely gripping book, well written, easy to follow and fascinating. Highly recommended for those who like their non-fiction a bit quirky.
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Considerably more fun than typefaces themselves. Incidentally, fonts are properly founts (poured metal). The muddlingly ecclesiastical phonetic spelling, scorned by purists, was introduced in the computer age as an aid to those who'd never poured or handled hot metal in their lives other than a knife and fork. In non-print contexts the word retains its traditional spelling and pronunciation, fount
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on 22 October 2014
I’ve always been interested in fonts (I still have an ancient Letraset catalogue round the house somewhere), but I can’t boast anything even approaching the degree of erudition, passion and obsession which is demonstrated in this book. It has made me far more aware of the fonts I see around me in the street, on food containers etc.

I was fascinated to discover that the producers of historical films do meticulous research on every aspect of the period they are representing only to slip up on a detail like an anachronistic font.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter called DIY, starting with the inky title. The John Bull printing outfit, DYMO tape, Letraset, the IBM Selectric – I remember them all. All of them great fun to use, apart from fiddling with the balls on the IBM typewriter every time you wanted to change from roman to italics to bold and back again. I’d forgotten all about the John Bull printing set – I loved the bit about the tiny letters getting lost in the carpet.

At the beginning of the 80s, I edited a little feminist magazine in Esperanto, of course using Letraset headings. (I loved selecting the appropriate font for each article.) My problem wasn’t the E, but O, which is the noun ending in Esperanto and always ran out long before the other letters.

Anyway, many thanks to Simon Garfield for these happy reminiscences, and also for the rest of this very informative and readable book.
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on 5 March 2014
Just My Type is a book about fonts. It tells the story behind the design of many different typefaces and their designers, and passes judgement on some of the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ fonts in common use.

I have a slightly complicated history with this book. I bought it when it first came out, having seen a number of rave reviews, including a virtually evangelical endorsement from Robert Bound. However, first time round, I didn’t get on with it. I found it dull indeed, and gave up with it after a short while.

Early in 2014, I decided to tackle it again: I could not accept that so many people whose opinion I respect had so highly recommended a book which I found impenetrable. Second time round, I very much enjoyed it, and devoured it in a couple of days. I enjoyed its humour and levity; its facts and figures; its tales of times gone by and anecdotes of contemporary life in the design community. It was a real treat, a pleasure to read. I cannot understand why I found it such a struggle the first time round. Garfield deftly brings the human spirit to a topic which, at face value, lacks any humanity. He brings type alive in the most engaging way.

Each chapter of the book discusses a font trend or another similar topic, including the history of how it came to exist, and how it progressed over time. The second chapter, which discusses the terminology of type, has a lovely quote which sums up the combination of accuracy and levity which the author employs throughout:

In common parlance we use font and typeface interchangeably, and there are worse sins.

Between the chapters, there are ‘font breaks’, in which Garfield typically discusses an interesting story relating to a single typeface. This structure might seem unusual at first glance, but it works well, setting up a predictable rhythm throughout the book. And, as one might expect, the book is peppered with different typefaces, providing illustration of the points discussed.

I found Just My Type to be a lovely book – at least on second reading – and it made me genuinely interested in a topic I’d never considered in great detail previously. It was factual, but with a real sense of fun. I’d thoroughly recommend it.
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on 24 May 2015
This is a non-fiction book about fonts. Its strong point is that it includes plenty of illustrations, and some of the text is printed in the font being described: so, for example, the first paragraph of a discussion of the Albertus typeface is set in Albertus. The print edition of the book is a handsome physical object. I didn't read the ebook, so I'm not sure how well it comes across in electronic format.

For me, the content didn't quite live up to the presentation. The chapters cover the material in a random order (not chronological or any other sensible scheme), and many chapters are just a grab-bag of very loosely connected sections and anecdotes. The whole book is like a giant listicle with a hundred bullet points; the lack of structure makes it feel curiously unsatisfying.

Some of the stories are individually interesting. However, this material is counterbalanced by numerous rather dull sections in which Font X was created by Person Y for Purpose Z, and inevitably these become repetitive.

Throughout, the book pitches itself at the level of a breezy magazine article, with the consequent lack of depth and rigour. A few factoids about typography are sprinkled into the narrative, but there's no real introduction to the key technical facets. The book is fun to read, yet doesn't make you feel as if you've learned very much.
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on 24 August 2014
If, like me, you used to browse Letraset catalogues as a child, then this is the book for you! I have always been fascinated by fonts (or, for the purist, typefaces), but in addition to describing the genesis of some 20 different fonts, it effectively gives a history of printing. Each chapter is a compellingly told story about a font (or two), and is complete in itself.
As others have implied, if the 'Encyclopaedia of Typefaces' (also available from Amazon) is the OED of fonts, and your bible, this complements it as a sort of Fowler's 'Modern English Usage' - a perhaps partial and eccentric account, but brilliantly written and both educational and entertaining in equal measure. I loved it, and read it for the first time almost in one sitting.
NB the 'periodic table of typefaces' on the inside front cover is almost worth it in itself...!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 January 2011
Simon Garfield is a British author who has written non-fiction works delving into everything from the history of AIDS in Britain, to the attitudes of the British during and after WW2. He's a splendid writer who concentrates on - shall we say - somewhat "quirky" topics. Case in point is his current book on fonts (or founts, as they used to be called).

Fonts came into being with the invention of the printing press in the late 15th century. It is shocking to realise that the printing of books for the masses has only existed for a fraction of man's existence. Books are such an integral of our lives that its amazing to think only 600 years ago books were owned only by the very wealthy or religious orders.

Garfield traces the history of fonts from their earliest days, paying special attention to those which we're most familiar with - Helvetica, Gill Sans, Arial, and Akzidenz Grotesk (a favorite of mine, if only for the name). He writes about the artisans behind the lettering, and most interesting, how certain fonts cause emotional responses in the people who view them. Why were some fonts popular for hundreds of years, only to fall from favor? How do fonts determine what consumers buy and what they don't buy? And how boring our lives would be if everything was printed in the same font.

Garfield has a lively writing style and is never boring. He gives a very good reference section at the back of the book, which is very helpful to those readers who want to know more.

By the way, if you're reading this, then be sure to read the review by Rob Hardy in this section. His long and interesting review is spot on - he's a reviewer's reviewer - and Rob's are the gold standard of reviews.
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on 5 August 2014
I'm on my second read of this treasure, sparked this time by a comment from one of the Beatles on the use of a long tee. However when you crack open the covers you then find even more information possibly missed from the initial read or could it be the fact that I now have to use reading glasses. I've always had a passing interest in choice of fonts since giving pride of place on the bookshelf to my Letraset catalogue way back when to the joy of being ordered to use Arial instead of Times New Roman for all letters and technical reports during my latter years at work. However Simon Garfield packs so much more interesting information into a volume and you cannot help but look at the world from a different point of view. A thoroughly enjoyable read but I have to be careful when I occasionally call out something like "Oh look Arnold Bocklin or Comic Sans" as it attracts some strange looks from passers by.
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on 17 January 2011
Like other reviewers I wish I'd thought of writing this book. But the trouble is, my version wouldn't have been half as entertaining as this one! I won't waffle on too much, except to say that Simon Garfield has highlighted a simple truth - everything around us that doesn't form part of the natural world has to be designed, right down to the typefaces/fonts we read every day. Some of these designers are brilliantly teased out of anonymity, including Berthold Wolpe (Albertus) and Edward Johnston (Johnston Sans, as used on London Underground signs). I even learned a few 'interesting' facts about Eric Gill, but that wouldn't put me off using Gill Sans. DIY typesetting is brought back to life with a chapter on Letraset and Dymo. Garfield also nominates his 8 worst fonts in the world, including that designed for the 2012 Olympics, in a gloriously subjective chapter within this fascinating and well-written book. PS: Had to laugh when I read the Kindle version reproduces everything in its default font. This title has to be bought and savoured in 'hardcopy' form - nothing else will do.
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on 11 September 2012
'A book about fonts' - yeah, that sounds like the kind of book that severe and humourless men with titanium-frame glasses are going to read. This is not such a book. It's not really a history, it's certainly not a catalogue, it really is a book about typefaces and it is the best, most enjoyable non-fiction book I have read all year.

Tha main chapters are about specific typefaces: their genesis, history, usage, and an appreciation of their aesthetics and usefulness. All of this in a language that laypersons such as myself can certainly understand, mixed with a lot of humour. For such a dry subject matter, this is both intensely readable but also personal and, above all, fun. Take this on holiday, you will enjoy it as much as any novel, perhaps even more.

Mixed in are little vignettes about, well, other typefaces that possibly don't deserve a whole chapter but are worth mentioning. You will learn a hell of a lot from this, not only about design but about their use. And you will become startlingly partisan about something to which, maybe, you didn't give much thought. How Ariel is just a tight man's Helvetica, for instance. I found myself noticing things differently; on a recent visit to Paris understanding how the logo for the French Olympic shirts was such an epic fail. Of course, the book is lovingly illustrated. The picture demonstrating that EasyJet used the same typeface as the Beach Boys on 'Pet Sounds' (Cooper Black, since you ask) was an early indication that this book was going to be both entertaining and gratifying.

The blurb suggests that this is a book which will change the way that you look at the world, and that is absolutely true. Read this and you will notice so much more about the world around you.
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