I was intrigued by van Gaalen’s forthcoming Indie Brands: 30 Independent Brands That Inspire and Tell a Story, recently mentioned with other interesting sounding books on Brand New. I looked for other books by van Gaalen and turned up this, which, sadly, is less interesting than it sounded. It presents, as advertised, 51 rules of typography, with a handful of (mostly unattributed) quips from a wide variety of opinionated individuals, from designers and typographers, to seemingly randomly selected public figures like Stephen Colbert. Most of the rules have arguments in favor of and opposing the rule.
I had two big problems with the book. First, since the quotes are short, and must demonstrate the contributor’s position on the rule, they seldom actually support the position. I frequently had the sense that the paragraphs in the original work following the citations were where the challenging/edifying content resided.
Second, the brevity of the quotations might be less of an impediment if they were the sort of one-liners you can really chew on for a while, but far too many of the “rules” are just restatements of aesthetic principals familiar from other disciplines — “there is no such thing as a bad typeface” is really the same as “there is no such thing as bad art” — or fundamentally an examination of the tension between typography as artistic expression and as a utilitarian craft. (I suppose you can chew on these for a while if you’re so inclined, but I think they’ve already been well and truly chomped.)
On the positive side, the set of selected contributors certainly includes several important voices, and some of those are cited frequently enough that the reader can begin to develop a sense of the contributor’s approach to typography, and whether further study might be called for. And thankfully, the references to Spiekermann and Ginger’s Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works were attributed, and plentiful enough to convince me that’s the book I really should read.
needs more demons? kinda sorta.