I've been reading The Elements of Typographic Style avidly since I bought it on Monday. The author, Robert Bringhurst, is not only an acclaimed book designer, he's an acclaimed poet—so the prose is unusually lyrical. It's a beautiful book, even though it's difficult not to come away with a wow, I really have no idea what I'm doing vibe. There's a couple things I'm not sure I agree with – like his advice to set off phrases the way they are in this sentence, with a space, en-dash, space instead of the traditional unspaced em-dash – but on the whole it's lovely and thought-provoking material. (While you may never have even noticed it before, which do you like—that way or this way?)
I've been asked a couple times, in different variants, if good typography is really the sort of thing that gets noticed by people who aren't typographers themselves – particularly in this day and age when a great deal of professional work is resoundingly mediocre. To some degree, no. Not everyone gets bothered by "straight quotes" instead of “typographer’s quotes.” But even when people can't describe why they like one thing more than another, beyond this one is better, many can still make that distinction.
Beyond that, it comes down to taking pride in your work. If you're serious about doing something, you should be serious about doing it well.
I suspect this weekend, if time and energy permit, I'm going to make two "pilgrimages"--one to the San Francisco Center for the Book, and one to the Coyote Point Museum, a place I've been intending to get to since I moved out but never get around to visiting. I don't think either one will be a research trip, even though I'm hopeful I might start making contacts that would help in both book production and finding authors/content. What I'm really looking for, though, is inspiration.
(N.B.: If you're reading this page on LiveJournal, give a look to the version on my home page, which does automatic conversions of some symbols to typographer's symbols. If I do say so myself, I think the overall design of it is pretty cool for a weblog.)