Does the typeface really matter?

I was reading a book recently, For the Time Being by Annie Dillard. When I got to the last page I discovered a note – right-aligned – from the book designer.

It read:

A Note on the type

The text of this book was set in a typeface called Baker Signet, designed by Arthur Baker for the Visual Graphics Corporation in the second half of the twentieth century. Although usually used as a display face because its lettershapes look handwritten, Baker Signet is suitable as a text face because its underlying structure is that of a classic roman typeface.

Composed by NK Graphics, Keene, New Hampshire

Printed and bound by R. R. Donnelley & Sons, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania

Designed by Iris Weinstein

And to think, I’d read this entire book without even noticing the subtle elegance of the Baker Signet typeface!

And yet, that little note compelled me somehow. It was a signal, fingerprints from the hands that had carried these words from Dillard’s desk to their packaged form in the book I now held in my hands.

How many fingers touch every object we see, each piece of technology that we use on a daily basis?

These fingerprints were so fascinating because they were evidence of care and passion.

Honestly, to 99% of people out there the text could have been set in plain ol’ Times New Roman, and nobody would have known the difference. The typeface is only a vessel for the message, not the message itself.

But the typeface did matter! It mattered because somebody cared. People like Iris cared enough to discard hundreds of lesser typefaces and settle on the the best vessel to carry Annie’s words: Baker Signet.

I bet you have things that you care about as well. You’ve got your pet peeve, or pet passion. You wonder, how nobody else could notice this? How could anyone not care about Pantone colours, native plant species, or the best water temperature for pulling the perfect espresso shot?

How can they even read that book, set in plain Times New Roman?!?

They don’t care, but that’s ok. What matters is that you care enough to pour your passion and wisdom and skill and knowledge into your little corner of the world. Your effort will go unnoticed and unacknowledged, but our world will be a more beautiful place because you care about the details of your piece of it.

Because if you don’t, who will?