Type Matters!: Simple Tips for Everyday Typography by Jim Williams (publication date April 10, 2012) is physically satisfying. Seriously. I can’t stop rubbing the soft, flexible front cover, lifting it up and caressing it away from the pages, then hefting the whole book and running my fingers between the two ribbons bound in for keeping my place on two page-spreads at once. There’s also an elastic loop bound-in for holding a group of end pages fast to the back cover. When I smell the pages, they carry a leathery papery smell. The pages are thick and cream-white with red and black ink used intelligently throughout. This book is pleasing to the touch, the nose, the eye, and when actually read, to the hungry mind.
This is a starter book and a wonderful gift idea for someone beginning to develop page layouts, whether on the computer or in print (not that there’s really any other way anymore). Explained and demonstrated are terms such as kerning, leading, ligatures, drop capitals, and many others. This book highlights the most basic history and rules of typography that, when ignored, drive more knowledgeable typographers crazy — crazy enough to yell, “Type matters!”
The author, Jim Williams, is a freelance graphic designer and a senior lecturer in graphics at Staffordshire University. He was asked by a design company in Manchester (England) “to give a series of talks, one of which was about tips that could help its designers with day-to-day typography.” In addition to the material he included in that presentation, he notes that many things “have informed the content of Type Matters!, including what I have learned from the people with whom I’ve worked, the glaring mistakes I’ve seen and the questions I’ve most commonly been asked by students.”
Type Matters! is organized into three parts: (1) Background, (2) Setting Headings and Display Type, and (3) Text Setting. The third part is comprised of quadruple the items in each of the first two parts, and with good reason: most typographic rules relate to text setting. By text here, I mean the words that form sentences and paragraphs, not headings.
The author asks the novice typesetter or book designer learn only enough background as necessary to move quickly into learning basic rules of an historic game, some of which have been in play since before Gutenberg. The industry’s move from hot type to the computer screen has not pushed the rules of typography into oblivion. Sadly, however, the move has enabled too many computer users to ignore their readers’ need for text that subliminally encourages them to keep reading. Too often, the appearance of the text subliminally frustrates them.