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Friday, 19 August 2011

I went up to the Edinburgh Book Festival this afternoon to a talk by Simon Garfield. He recently published a book on type design called “Just my Type (Profile Books, London 2010, ISBN 978-184 668 301 5). The talk was an anecdotal discussion of some type faces and why they were designed.

First up was Comic Sans which elicited groans from many in the audience. He did a partially successful rehabilitation on what is now considered a joke amongst type faces. In fact it was designed to provide a more cuddly image for some basic easy-to-use software produced by Microsoft. It was never used to put words into Microsoft Bob’s mouth but was used in another piece of simplified software and thus unleashed on the world. A perfectly good type-face for comics and jokes it has no place on more serious applications. As such it made a good introduction to subject of type design and why there are over 100,000 typefaces available.

The life and work of Eric Gill came up. He was a sculptor with a very peculiar life-style and the designer of Gill Sans. Simon touched on the suggestion that Gill Sans was less popular now because of Gill’s proclivities. Another odd type designer was Cobden-Sanderson who designed Dove – a type face that disappeared. Cobden-Sanderson fell out with his partner Emery Walker who was supposed to inherit the type-face when the designer died. To prevent this happening Cobden-Sanderson took the complete letter fund and threw it from Hammersmith Bridge.

A thoroughly enjoyable hour although largely concerned with dispay type-faces rather than body type. Maybe this was because if you notice the body type-face in a document something has gone wrong. I’m looking forward to reading the book

1 comment:

  1. Courtesy of Helen Harrison. Enjoyed your blog post above - but I must put in a good word for comic sans - it's a great font when you teach infants... (Simon, however, hates it and won't let me use it on anything remotely connected with him. Tsch - academics!)

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