DT&G Magazine Editor's Column
The Design Center, DT&G Typography Department: Type, Fonts, Lettering, Calligraphy  
robin williams
We're chatting today with Ms Robin Williams, designer, single mother of three kids, contributing columnist for lots of design magazines, speaker, trainer and all-round wonderful person! You probably know her best through her many popular books, including "Jargon" (now out of print) that explained all the terms for computer users.
      She broke all kinds of records in book sales with The Non-Designer's WEB Design Book (DTG's top pick for the novice designer); her Non-Designer's Design Book, and many others including the "Little Mac Book," and "Mac is Not a Typewriter" book now in its second edition.

DT&G   Robin, it's a tremendous pleasure to have you join us for in &Type!

Robin:   Fred, thanks very much for inviting me!

DT&G   You've been busy - nearly 700 pages of "Jargon," the third edition of "The Little Mac Book, " a couple of "PageMaker" books, "Tabs and Indents," and now, "How to Boss Your Fonts Around!" Everyone wants to know, do you sleep?

Robin:   Ha! Two things about that: I have to let go of something, and I let go of housework and sleep. Until I could afford a housekeeper, this was not a pretty sight, but I can't do everything. I wish I could hire someone to sleep for me. And the second thing - Jargon took me a year and a half to write! That's not cranking it out! PageMaker took me two years! Remember, I also do all the page layout, the design, the editing changes, the entire book, through image setting. I give Peachpit camera-ready pages, so every book takes me much longer than if I just wrote the text. But it's critical to me that the layout on the page emphasize and clarify the words on the page. Some computer writers churn out six books a year! One guy I was on a panel with was bragging about how he wrote a thousand page book in four months. He has no kids, of course. ;)

DT&G   How do you select a font to use on a project?

Robin:   I always choose an old style serif face for the main body copy because that style is the most readable. I always choose some strong, black sans serif to contrast it so the heads, subheads, etc., stand out in the organization of the material.

DT&G   How do you tell if you're going to like a font or not?

Robin:   To decide if I like a font for a project like a book, I use my style sheets and drop in several of my choices, one at a time. I set them with varying amount of letterspacing and linespacing and print up sample pages. Then I choose the one that carries the look I want, the lightness I want, the readability I want. For other projects, I tend to like more distinctive fonts; I love all the wild and playful fonts that are so trendy right now.

DT&G   If you could use but one font for your next project - heads, text, the works - what would it be?

Robin:   Hmm, that's a hard one because I tend to always combine at least two. I think (today I think this, but I am very fickle about fonts) I'd use Formata because it comes in a wide range of weights, and although it's a sans serif, it has true-drawn italics rather than just slanted, or oblique forms.

DT&G   One of your most popular books from Peachpit, "Bossing fonts" took off like gang-busters. I'm told it was the 2nd biggest seller for Peachpit at MacWorld this January. Can you give us a few headlines, for those DT&G readers who don't know about it?

Robin:   The most important part of the book explains exactly what is a bitmapped font, a screen font, an outline font, a printer font, a resident font, a downloadable font, a PostScript font, a TrueType font, etc. etc. etc. And it explains how to install them, but really, once you start buying fonts you *must* get them out of your System Folder. So I explain an efficient way to organize your fonts and how to use Suitcase or MasterJuggler and never again have a problem with font id conflicts or missing fonts or opening two suitcases that contain the same font. Guaranteed. There's also a lengthy glossary and a chapter on cool things to do with Fontographer. But the real point is "manage your fonts." Be in control.

DT&G   Robin, anything else you'd like to pass along to our readers?

Robin:   The Little Design Book, is a book of basic design principles geared to non-designers. The first half covers four clear, concrete concepts that are easy to recognize and easy to apply. I guarantee the reader will never look at a page in the same way again. The second half of the book is how to choose typefaces that work together. I had so much fun doing that book!

DT&G   We've read, and are recommending "The Little Design Book" to anyone beginning in the publications field. Good comments! Thank you, Robin for joining us today.

Robin:   Thank you, Fred, for inviting me!

DT&G   Robin is author of The Little Mac Book (third edition,) The Mac is not a typewriter , PageMaker: an easy desk reference (separate Mac and Windows versions,) Tabs and Indents on the Macintosh , Jargon, an informal dictionary of computer terms (includes Mac and PC,) The PageMaker 5 Companion, all from Peachpit Press, in Berkeley.

  Robin's most recent books:

scarlet font
Check out the "Scarlet" font used throughout Robin's book "Jargon," (and for our "Robin" headline above) developed by Robin's (8-year old) daughter Scarlet

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