Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Wednesday Night Lights: Typefaces

I know. You're reading that headline and saying, "Oh yeah! Typfaces baby!" (you gotta say it like Joe from Family Guy) Mm hm. Good stuff. You know, kerning, weights, styles, character sets, ligatures, serifs, etc.

OK, I'll admit that at this point I imagine your eyes glazing over (except Aaron Leis if he's out there). But trust me, this will be interesting. Today I purchased a typeface for the first time. Normally, when looking for new fonts and typefaces, I go to Da Font and download stuff. But today I found a typeface that's pretty amazing, and will only be available for purchase. So I bought it.

The typeface is called Restraint and it was designed through the collaboration of an artist and a type designer. When you go the font's page, you'll see a lot of ornamental, scroll work. That's part of the font. You can see a detailed explanation of the font and how to use it here. So not only do you get a cool font that connects its letters together with "squiggles and curly bits," you also get a whole set of those squiggles to do design work.

I've been interested in branching out design concepts for my publishing life, so I went out and found some typography blogs. I've also been reading Chip Kidd, who is an extremely book cover designer (i.e., JURASSIC PARK and THE ROAD) who has written a few novels. Typographica provides detailed write-ups of fonts and gives reviews of them. This is where I first saw Restraint. I Love Typography is a cool blog that also talks about type and design. Recently there was a post about the process of designing a typeface.

So what's interesting about this? We all use typefaces and fonts every day, and most of the time I'm sure you don't give much thought to the face that someone designed it for a particular purpose. For me, this is the most fascinating thing about Kidd's novels (THE CHEESE MONKEYS and THE LEARNERS, both extraordinary examples of book design). Kidd breathes life into the world of graphic design through his protagonist Happy. Through Happy, Kidd puts his statement out into the world about how much thought goes into, for example, the design of the doublemint gum package. Or the Fed Ex logo (you know there's an arrow hidden in the logo, right?).

So, here's what you do. You're going to have a book discussion. Get a bunch of books with cool cover design. You're not allowed to know anything about the books. Judge the book BY ITS COVER. Then play the game of everyone creating imaginary stories (just quick, like 20 words) to go with the cover image. After everyone's done, vote for the favorite, then read the jacket flap so that people know what the book is actually about. Alternately, you can fly me to your library to give a talk on book design and how the cover image is at least as important as the contents.



  • At 6:33 AM, Blogger Susan said…

    Hey, John is this a case of great minds thinking alike? Check out the link to Liz's recent blog about book covers at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy. OK, I will try to judge my next book by its cover!

  • At 7:48 AM, Blogger Sophie Brookover said…

    I am a huge font nerd, too, so thanks for these links! I love it when a book includes a note about the typeface.

  • At 10:17 AM, Blogger Amy said…

    Yes, well, I love it when books include a fake note about the typeface . . . as in Tim Dorsey's novels, like Orange Crush. Everybody else in the prepress department at work had a good laugh.

  • At 8:06 PM, Blogger Liz B said…

    So I guess I'm not the only one with Helvetica on their nextflix queue? "We use it every day on our computers, we see it on street signs -- and we take it for granted. Now, Gary Hustwit's unique documentary introduces us to Helvetica, whose readability has made it the most popular font in the world. Interviews with designers and artists offer insight into the development, use and universal acceptance of Helvetica as the typeface of choice for everything from writing letters to creating corporate logos."


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