Last night, around 1:30 I finally finished Simon Garfield's Just My Type.
I'm kind of sad it's over, but looking forward to a reread probably in the somewhat near future.
It's stuffed to the cover with anecdotes, facts & puns. Black & white photographs of type designers, signs, specimens. There's little did-you-knows hidden around every crease. It's a great collection of stories, of moments in history - how letters have shaped our highways, our store fronts, our computers. Its the book you should read in college because you want to. It's inspiring & insightful. It's just lovely and if you haven't read it you should. Even if you're not a designer. It will shift your perception of the importance of type, if you haven't already recognized it.
It's hard for me to highlight just one take-away from this book, but I'll give you a brief synopsis of one of my favorite chapters of the book; '10: Road Akzidenz'. This chapter covers a duo of designers; Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert. Calvert kind of fell into type design because Kinneir recognized her potential at a visit to her art school. She ended up working with Kinneir to essentially guide most of Britian - by designing it's highway/interstate + road signs.
This kind of design always fascinates me. The fact that these two were tasked with helping thousands if not millions of people through their travels, is amazing. The coolest part is that they developed their face Transport specifically for word recognition - the realized that the priority for designing these signs is legibility at speed. And as humans, we pay attention to the first letters and last letters of words; word recognition, skimming. So Transport's upper & lowercase letters catered to this idea.
Well, actually, what I find even cooler is that at one point they were competing with another type designer to redesign all of London's street signs. Both designers submitted proposals. Things got heated.
"The battle was really between the old world and the new, the serif and the sans."
They each created their proposed signs; Kinneir + Calvert's sign using san serif upper & lowercase lettering), vs the other designer's ( David Kindersley) sign using all uppercase serifs. And had a group 'test' them out at an Airport field. Sign vs. sign. I won't give away the ending though, but I loved this story of competitive typography.
So, in addition my favorite chapter, here's a couple of my favorite quotes;