That’s the first question someone asked me when I told them about this project: “who’s this book for?” And, I have to admit, I didn’t know how to reply. Suddenly the wind was knocked right out of my tiny boy boat sails and I began to spiral…
Welp, I don’t think this book is for anyone?
There’s the obvious answer here—and this might be mistaken for hubris—but, um, this book is just for me! I want this thing to exist because I want to read it and I sort of don’t care if another soul picks up the book. Sure, it would be great to make it onto the New York Times Best Sellers list and wash myself with gold and praise forever and turn this tiny boat boy into a giant motorized catamaran but hey this is a book about fonts we’re making here. We’re not going viral with this thing.
But who’s this book for, besides me? That’s a tough question.
Type nerds will likely find this book woefully under-researched and perhaps not representative of the field. They’ll learn nothing new here and, to them, it might read as if I’m simply copy and pasting work that they’ve seen a million times before. This book is going to be about how fonts feel, our emotions when looking at and setting type, so many type designers will likely be put off by that, too. Plus, I won’t be going into any details about how to design type since there’s much better resources for that than I might provide.
So: this book ain’t for type designers.
But it’s not for a general audience either because I want to touch on some of the interesting technical changes on the web and the field in general. For most folks this book might be too technical and I certainly won’t be teaching them anything about how to set type since there are so many great books that do that already, as well.
None of this really matters to me because “who is this for” is the wrong question to ask no matter what project you’re working on.
Instead, every project needs to answer a different question at the very heart of it, their own question. The famous one I think of often is the videogame studio who simply wrote IS IT FUN? on their whiteboard and with each and every day, whenever someone pitched a new mechanic or a new feature entirely, the director would point at the whiteboard: IS. IT. FUN. Everything in the game had to answer that question and, ultimately, because the team was so hyper-focused on answering that question, the game turned out to be one of the best ever made: Super Mario 64.
“Is it fun?” is a much better forcing function than “Is this enjoyable for 34-55 year olds in Sub-Market Segment A?”
So my hunch here is that if you don’t have a great question then you won’t have a great whatever-it-is that you’re making. Regardless of whether that’s a game, a product or, in my case, a book about fonts. So “who is this book for” feels like the wrong question to ask. Who gives a shit if folks read it? If I wanted to optimize answering that question then I’d go write a super toxic book and appeal to linkbait articles and what not. I shouldn’t focus on the audience, but instead I should focus on the question that this book hopes to answer: the question at the very heart of it all.
As I’ve been chewing on that this week, I think I’ve come up with mine:
Why care about typography?
Why should folks continue to make letters? Why should folks care about fonts and letter-making and the history of written language? That, to me, is an exciting question to slap on a whiteboard and try to answer in my own way. This book I’m workin’ on here shouldn’t then be for type designers or a general audience. Instead, this book should be propaganda for the field: a book for folks who don’t know anything about typography or design and want to be introduced to it.
I want this book to be a forceful push for folks on the very edge of becoming typographers or graphic designers. And so maybe this book should be made to convince people to go into the field, convince them to read the research-laden books and watch all the great talks about how to make typography beautiful or how to make typefaces of their own.
But, honestly, to be frank: screw the audience. This book just has to clearly answer that single question—why care about typography?—and do so with an excitable this and this and this!
That feels punk rock to me.
Until next time,