Book Review: Just My Type


aybe I’m not a typical reader, but in general I like learning something from a book.


I enjoy reading an author’s new perspective on the ancient history of Rome or Egypt; a new take on the financial meltdown; and devour a book like Richard Greenblatt’s The Swerve, How the World Became Modern, which traces the effect the rediscovery of an ancient Greek manuscript in 15th century Europe had in helping to spark the Renaissance.

So, when I picked up Simon Garfield’s Just My Type, I was quiet prepared for an interesting but arcane discussion of fonts, typestyles and printing technology. The reality was far different.

Garfield has the skill and talent to transform this potentially dry subject into a page-turner. In a series of concise chapters, each filled with fact and anecdote, he uncovers the mysteries behind the hundreds of font names we see when working in an application like Word or InDesign.

Gotham was designed for GQ Magazine? Who knew? And Times New Roman was developed for The Times? Logical, I guess, but I would never have connected the dots.

He has a great sense of humor, and more importantly, while he takes the subject seriously, he offers a lighthearted, accessible romp through the history and current state of type, moving with ease from Gutenberg, to the development of readable road signs, to Lucas De Groot, the Dutch designer of Calibri, the most widely used font today, (and which I’m using to write this.)

Now, every time I look at a store sign, subway map or logo, I parse the letters, trying to determine the font. Read it and you’ll do the same.

By Gavin Strumpman

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