Just My Type: A book about fonts

by Simon Garfield (London: Profile Books, 2010): 353pp, £8.24 (pbk), ISBN 978 1846683015.

Reviewed by Katherine Thomasset

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If you've ever browsed through the pull-down font menu in Word and wondered about all the arcane and exotic font names that appear there, this is certainly a book that you'll enjoy. The author, who has written a number of non-fiction books, including The End of Innocence, winner of the Somerset Maugham prize in 1995, has had a lifelong interest in type design and is able to pass on some of his enthusiasm to us.

100,000 fonts

Rather than writing a straight chronological history of font design, Garfield has taken a thematic approach, with chapters covering the use of fonts in politics, the development of the ampersand, and the 'worst font in the world' (the London 2012 Olympic font, according to Garfield!).

But through this we also get a real feel for the history of typesetting, from the inky presses of Gutenberg and Caxton, to the artistry of Eric Gill's Gill Sans (one of the first modern sans-serif fonts, used on the covers of early Penguin editions) and to the massive computer-generated boom in font design in the later 20th and early 21st centuries (the FontShop directory now contains more than 100,000 fonts to choose from).

Fascinating nuggets

The book is also full of fascinating nuggets of font trivia. For example, did you know that there's a 'Ban Comic Sans' movement with a strong following? The founders revile the overuse of Comic Sans in inappropriate locations, such as on the sides of ambulances and in Afrikaans language textbooks! Or had you realised that the font Cooper Black, which has become so recognisable in easyJet's logo, was also used for the Dad's Army credits and on the Doors album LA Woman (so that's why it looks so familiar …)?

The book is beautifully laid out with numerous visual examples. Enjoy it!

This article appears in Garamond, developed in France in the 16th century by Claude Garamond, and later used by Dr Seuss and for the US editions of the Harry Potter books.

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