Garfield's very readable history of fonts and typography is fascinating and accessible even to the layman. Main chapters about the development of printing techniques, the evolution of fonts, and the aesthetics of both surround interstitial "fontbreaks" that focus on a story connected to one particular font. The chapters range from examinations of the difficulties with creating new fonts, the politics and meaning that some fonts carry, the issue of intellectual property and piracy, the most used fonts in the world, those that inspire scorn and loathing in the arts world, and the dramas that have occurred when well-known and corporately identifiable fonts have been abandoned in favor of something new.
Garfield explains what makes a font successful and only delves into the technical aspect of design very briefly. When he discusses the differences in letters between fonts, the astute reader will notice that more often than not, that particular letter is printed in the font under discussion (however, it is only that letter so the font change can be hard to notice for a speedy reader). Some differences are miniscule so the backstories on why certain fonts were adopted for specific uses and how they were tested out to ensure effectiveness are definitely interesting.
The anecdotes make this a fun and informative read. I can now say with confidence that I prefer serif to sans serif and am definitely a traditionalist with regards to my fonts. I don't think I have the aesthetics of a font designer though as each time Garfield asserts that anyone who likes a particular font has no taste, I found the font under discussion perfectly acceptable. Ah well, as long as my books are legible and readable, I suppose I can accept almost any font the designer wants to use. In the meantime, I will now be trying to recognize the more common fonts whenever I come across them thanks to Garfield and his quick and quirky book.
For more information about Simon Garfield and the book visit his webpage or follow him on Twitter.
Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.