Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Book About Type Fonts for the General Reader

There are lots of books about typefaces for professional designers but Simon Garfield (right) has written a book about fonts for general audiences. Garfield has written many non-fiction books on a variety of topics and it is significant that a seemingly obscure topic like the origin and impact of typefaces in our lives is now something general audiences are willing to buy. Just My Type (left) is a book of stories about fonts. It examines how typefaces like Helvetica and Comic Sans became known around the world. The book explains why we are still influenced by type choices made more than 500 years ago and about that key moment in history (1984) when fonts were loaded onto computers and typefaces became part of the consciousness of people beyond type professionals.

The computer's pull-down font menu with names we are starting to recognize like Helvetica, Times New Roman, Palatino Gill Sans, Bembo, Baskerville, Caslon, Bodoni, and Verdana takes the average citizen beyond Gutenberg's printing press and beyond the age of the typewriter. There are more than 100,000 fonts today and typefaces are now 560 years old. This is no longer only the domain of the professional designer. New technologies have put part of the responsibility for clear, concise and compelling visual communication in the hands of average citizens. We have a responsibility to learn to use these tools well and wisely.

Type designer Matthew Carter is one of the recipients of a National Design Award at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum during National Design Week in October.

Click on the heading above to see a motion graphic promoting "Just My Type" that illustrates the thousands of choice we make when communicating with type.

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