(The Blog)

And now for a few words about words (and many other things)...

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Entries in fonts (1)


Steve Jobs, Champion of the (Type)Written Word 

The news this week, ever since Wednesday’s passing of Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs at the age of 56, has been filled with stories and commentaries on “How Steve Jobs changed the way we ______.” You can fill in that blank with almost anything: live, think, communicate, study, shop, listen, learn. Perhaps, even the way we dress (apparently, sales of his trademark black mock turtleneck are soaring). And there is at least one article out there honoring Jobs for his company’s contributions to the game of golf.

And, of course, devices like the iPhone and iPad are changing the way we read books (and magazines and the daily “paper” and everything else) and also the way we write, though not always for the better and sometimes against our best intentions (damn you, autocorrect!). The iPad was even hailed by the book industry as “the Jesus tablet” for its potential to bring e-books to the masses and make them profitable for publishers. And while Jobs is not wholly responsible for the way the rise of the digital age has both burdened and broadened our language, he and his ideas have played a major role and his company has itself added many new words to the English lexicon, not to mention introducing the phenomenon of putting a little “i” in front of just about everything.*

*My wife is an ophthalmologist and a couple years ago I ordered her what I thought was a hilarious T-shirt custom-printed with the word “iDoc.” It dawned on me the other day that she’s never worn it. I asked if she still had it. “Oh,” she said. “Yeah.” That was the end of the conversation.  

However, what I hadn’t fully realized until this week is that Jobs has also had an effect on everything we read, not just on screen, but in books, too, and (physical) magazines and newspapers, on signs and posters, and anything else designed and printed in the last few decades with aid of a computer. Not necessarily the content, but what we see when we look at words. Open any book and you’ll likely notice it somewhere between the copyright and the acknowledgments: the name of the font.

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