I have never really paid much attention to the font that I use for writing here.
Typepad gives me a list of available ones and I think I chose whatever I did probably just because it was there, however for the purposes of writing about Just My Type - A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield, I have felt obliged to see what else is available because apparently your choice of font will say a great deal about you and I'm amazed at the choice.
So I'm just warning you, writing in Comic Sans, the typeface of ridicule, that this may well be the messiest blog post ever written on here.
Bookhound, having trained as a graphic designer back in the 1970s and loved all the printing aspects of the training is a real lover of the old-fashioned printing press. Caxton had an anniversary whilst he was doing the course so it was a good excuse to resurrect the old methods and he bought me these letters years ago which have sat on my desk ever since.
It's been interesting to handle and hold these weighty letters as I've read this book, and pondered all the intricacies of typesetting then versus now. I have distant memories of a primary school trip to a newspaper and us all coming away with our names cast in metal, which had us all scurrying home to our John Bull printing sets with renewed enthusiasm.
Remember the tiny rubber letters and the tweezers and the hours you'd spend thinking you'd got it all the right way round when in fact it was back-to-front?
And then the excitement surrounding the friend who was lucky enough to have a Dymo machine?
Imagine having a Dymo machine of your own in those days, it seemed like the pinnacle of decent gifts when I was nine, on a par with an Etch-a-Sketch if I have to make comparisons, and how I treasured my name stamped out on the blue plastic.
I'm quite liking this Helvetica, or perhaps I'll swap to Andale Mono, or Book Antiqua, Courier New, Impact, Symbol, Terminal, Trebuchet MS, Verdana, Webdings, Wingdings... in fact who knew that Typepad had been so generous with their selection since I last looked.
Now I'm in a complete mess and can't think where I started, so perhaps I'll go to Georgia which Offspringette always assured me was the font of choice for essay writing, apparently guaranteed to put the marker in a good mood and according to Simon Garfield the most legible and adaptable screen font.
And so here's another non-fiction book, seemingly of little interest which has had... oh no I'm sorry, I'm not liking this Georgia at all... hang on a minute... let's go back to Helvetica, 1957, Swiss, clean, practical and sans serif... serifs the joining bits that lead the eye from one letter to the next, apparently a bit of a cult and Helvetica absolutely everywhere you look, almost impossible to avoid on the signage out there and fulfils all the demands of a modern typeface.
I'm going to head into Comic Sans for a minute because apparently that's the font that has gone wrong, the one not to be seen using if you want to be taken seriously. Designed with strict intentions 'by a man with a solid philosophical grounding in graphic arts' and now the subject of much hate and loathing.
You can't take anything seriously if its written in Comic Sans.
So where was I?
Yes, fonts, how about Courier New,designed to resemble an old-fashioned typewriter,
'the effect amuses for a limited time, leaving cumbersome words that are difficult to read and lack emotion'
and I can see that clearly now, wouldn't work here at all.
Then there's good old faithful Times Roman, the fall-back font, far too familiar.
Tahoma, quite a favourite of mine and bears the seal of approval having been designed by the master of typeface design, Matthew Carter, highly respected in the trade and the man who understood that typefaces were an important matter of taste and preference.
So in the same way that a book about Charles Linbergh and the history of American aviation seemed to hold no allure for this reader and yet proved to be one of my most interesting reads in ages, how incredible that I should find a book about fonts equally fascinating.
I do have very fond memories of Bookhound slaving over the Letraset on his projects. Those sheets of transferable letters that had to be carefully rubbed onto the page with a special smoothing tool, and that was how it was done, very laboriously until the advent of the computer.
And Simon Garfield (Trebuchet) led me through this fascinating and largely unknown world, as if removing a blindfold. Who knew how complicated all this was, or the effort that goes into creating a typeface that will speak for itself. Forgive the pun but a good sign should be something you take as read, should speak silently, anonymously and unnoticed in order to take you where you want to go.
Well until I read this book that's exactly what a sign had always done.
And who knew (we're in Verdana now) that there was a typeface called Doves, created by Edward Prince who had worked for William Morris at the Kelmscott Press. A quirky little number with its 'y' that descends without a curl, the ligature connecting the 'c' and the 't', and that offset bottom bowl of the 'g'. Owned by the Doves Press and considered to be a very beautiful type, the type (all the metalwork) was the subject of some dispute when the company was dissolved in 1908. An agreement was drawn up between the partners; Mr Cobden-Sanderson would own it until his death when it would pass to Mr Walker. Except Mr C-S had second thoughts and couldn't bear the thought of this apparently very beautiful type being used for inappropriate subject matter, so, over a period of three years and one hundred trips later, this frail man in his seventies had thrown the whole weighty lot off Hammersmith Bridge, parcel by parcel, into the mud of the River Thames where it is assumed to have lain ever since.
And that just one of many (Arial) fascinating anecdotes in Just My Type. Such a clever subject for a book and one I have really enjoyed but just beware, you will never ever think any sign is ordinary ever again and be it on your own head if you use Comic Sans for anything at all.