Why Font Nerds Owe a Debt to Steve Jobs



This caught my attention over coffee and the Sunday paper (I know! Weekend luddite, is what an affectionate — I think — friend calls me) a book entirely devoted to fonts called “Just My Type” by Simon Garfield.

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I was half listening to NPR, which started talking about the book by interviewing journalists about their fave fonts (Garamond figures heavily) when Steve Jobs took center stage.

Garfield launches the book an intro called Love Letters featuring Jobs, and, well, that’s a pretty fitting title.

You’ve probably heard the story of how Jobs, before dropping out of Reed College in Portland, Oregon became so fascinated by school’s handmade signs that he took up calligraphy.

His focus on the humble font — introducing them in the Mac and naming these fonts after the cities of his heart (Toronto, Chicago) — would become a “a seismic shift in our everyday relationship with letters and with type. An innovation that, within another decade or so, would place the word ‘font’ — previously a piece of technical language limited to the design and printing trade — in the vocabulary of every computer user,” Garfield says.

Garfield goes on to talk of the type legacy Jobs created and how other computer companies later tried to catch up.

“…the ability to change fonts at all seemed like technology from another planet. Before the Macintosh of 1984, primitive computers offered up one dull typeface, and good luck trying to italicize it. But now there was a choice of alphabets that did their best to re-create something we were used to from the real world. Chief among them was Chicago, which Apple used for all its menus and dialogs on screen, right through to the early iPods…

IBM and Microsoft would soon do their best to follow Apple’s lead, while domestic printers (a novel concept at the time) began to be marketed not only on their speed but for the variety of their fonts.”

Full excerpt over at NPR


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