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September 26, 2008 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Typography for Laywers. A basic introduction to typography in a clean, well-organized (and still growing) site.

From the intro:

"Even though the legal profession depends heavily on written expression, legal typography is often poor. Some blame lies with the often strict typographic constraints that legal documents must conform to (e.g. court rules regarding the format of pleadings).

But the rest of the blame lies with lawyers. To be fair, I assume this is for lack of information, not lack of will. This website hopes to help fill that void. There are numerous guides on typography for generalists but I was surprised to find none that were specifically aimed at lawyers. So as the only one of the few typographer-turned-attorneys in America,* I figure that if I don’t do it, nobody will."
posted by camcgee (96 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the basic section, and a lesson I'd like to pass on to most of the writers I work with: In a printed document, don’t underline. Ever.
posted by camcgee at 10:18 AM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Typography for Laywers.

Rule 1: Proofread.
posted by spiderwire at 10:19 AM on September 26, 2008 [15 favorites]


Godammit.
posted by camcgee at 10:20 AM on September 26, 2008


Nothing quite softens the blow of a packet of divorce papers like Comic Sans.
posted by adipocere at 10:27 AM on September 26, 2008 [22 favorites]


Somewhat appropriately, I am at this very moment watching a law professor haggle with a tech support guy because he can't get his PowerPoints to display properly. He must drive them nuts, because he drags them in here almost every day of the week we're almost through the first month of class.

Now the prof's just standing there awkwardly, reading his notes, while the tech guy points a remote at one of the projectors, which isn't doing anything.
posted by spiderwire at 10:28 AM on September 26, 2008


And speaking more specifically of typography, white/yellow-on-blue PowerPoint slides should be illegal.

I feel like I've seen that color scheme somewhere before.
posted by spiderwire at 10:29 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have to say I like the bold, readable font on those pages.
posted by crapmatic at 10:38 AM on September 26, 2008


I work at a legal publisher, where cases, briefs, etc. are reformatted and cleaned up for publication in reference volumes. So I see alot of the raw Word .docs that lawyers (or support staff) have prepared.

#1 Cringeworthy Pet Peeve with legal documents:

Tabs. Why learn how to use tab stops when mashing the spacebar gets you there anyway?
posted by cowbellemoo at 10:38 AM on September 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


A question for the typography gurus: Doesn't his butterfly example conflate typography with design?

Also, I'm definitely going with Roscoe S. Feinberg - Anastasia doesn't look like someone I want to meet.
posted by ghost of a past number at 10:41 AM on September 26, 2008


Somebody should send these to the US Courts of Appeals. I can't speak to the particular font and spacing choices, but here are some of the more obvious bad choices:
First Circuit: Courier
Second Circuit: Courier
Third Circuit: underlining
Sixth Circuit: underlining
Eighth Circuit: underlining
Eleventh Circuit: underlining
Federal Circuit: sans-serif font and underlining

The Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, Tenth, and DC circuits all seem okay. (Links go to examples for the more knowledgeable to peruse).
posted by jedicus at 10:47 AM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, I can't link to them because they're behind the PACER paywall, but district courts across the country are awful about using Courier and underlining instead of italicizing.
posted by jedicus at 10:49 AM on September 26, 2008


The funny part is that lawyers purposely use SMALL FONTS ALL CAPITALIZED in huge sections of "fine print" because it is purposely less readable -- so people don't read it and don't argue with its points.
posted by mathowie at 10:51 AM on September 26, 2008


Oh, I can't link to them because they're behind the PACER paywall, but district courts across the country are awful about using Courier and underlining instead of italicizing.

I'd always imagined that this was because of some slavish adherence to historical form -- when the opinions were transcribed on typewriters that couldn't do italics.

That, or they're still using typewriters.

It's also my recollection that the Blue Book style is that the two are considered equivalent as long as you're consistent, but I could be wrong about that.
posted by spiderwire at 10:52 AM on September 26, 2008


Can somebody tell me how to locate the "Use the search and replace function" for Word Document?
posted by nickyskye at 10:55 AM on September 26, 2008


The most amazing thing about the site is that I just learned that there were *three* socialist parties running in the 2000 election. Wow.
posted by i_cola at 10:57 AM on September 26, 2008


mathowie: One legitimate reason to use all caps is to comply with the requirement of the Uniform Commercial Code that warranty exclusions "be conspicuous". The illegibility of all caps, especially in small fonts, is just a bonus.

spiderwire: It's true that the two are equivalent according to the Bluebook, but as the author of the site points out, italics are much more readable than underlined text.

i_cola: Funny thing about the socialists. Gore lost to Bush in Florida by less than the number of votes those socialists got. Arguably we could blame them as much as Nader. (Credit to The Bugle for that observation).
posted by jedicus at 10:59 AM on September 26, 2008


mathowie: One legitimate reason to use all caps is to comply with the requirement of the Uniform Commercial Code that warranty exclusions "be conspicuous". The illegibility of all caps, especially in small fonts, is just a bonus.

More specifically, the caselaw often says that all caps in particular is part of the "conspicuousness" requirement (esp. in the case of warranty disclaimers that jedicus links to) -- it's also supposed to be on the front page of the contract, etc. But font size is harder to put a direct requirement on, so that tends to be what's sacrificed...
posted by spiderwire at 11:04 AM on September 26, 2008


In a printed document, don’t underline. Ever.

Obviously not a lawyer.

Lawyers need to know two things (1) use the font size and font type required by the court in question. (2) If there is no requirement under (1), above, TIMES NEW ROMAN 12pt.

A lawyer's job is to be predictable, boring and logical. Our job is not to write well. Our job is to write persuasively in the legal context. This means writing in a generally boring, predictable and logical manner so that there is no confusion as to exactly what we are saying. Being predictable means using the most boring but accepted font. The judge could give a crap about the "typography" of your motion or brief. They want to know exactly what you are talking about and don't want to be distracted--they don't have time to be distracted.

All my briefs are filed at the Federal Circuit--I follow their 14-point sans serif requirements. The rest of my work I file in various administrative jurisdictions. It is all boring. It is all persuasive. I prefer winning to having cool looking workproduct.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:04 AM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


The judge could give a crap about the "typography" of your motion or brief. They want to know exactly what you are talking about and don't want to be distracted--they don't have time to be distracted.

More to the point, even if there isn't a specific typography requirement, you don't want to look like you're trying to dress up the argument unnecessarily.
posted by spiderwire at 11:09 AM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Let me add one more point--my clients don't want to pay for me working on the typography. I charge by the .1 of the hour. If you were hiring me, would you want me to spend a lot of time making it look cool?

I think not. I think you want to win. I think you want your thousands of dollars to be spent on persuading the judge, not making him or her think "that looks cool."
posted by Ironmouth at 11:10 AM on September 26, 2008


even if there isn't a specific typography requirement, you don't want to look like you're trying to dress up the argument unnecessarily.

Brilliant insight. If a judge sees a "cool" font--he or she is going to wonder why you went to all of that trouble. Was it because your argument sucks?
posted by Ironmouth at 11:12 AM on September 26, 2008


I'm not a lawyer — but this is an excellent read and exactly the sort of introduction to typography I have been looking for.
posted by HaloMan at 11:17 AM on September 26, 2008


Surely lawyers should have to set everything in...
posted by mandal at 11:19 AM on September 26, 2008


A lawyer's job is to be predictable, boring and logical. Our job is not to write well.

There is a big difference between something being well-written and well-composed typographically. Both have their place in readability. Being boring and consistent, while predictable, doesn't make something more readable.
posted by camcgee at 11:28 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


In a printed document, don’t underline. Ever.

Obviously not a lawyer.


Actually, the author is a lawyer, but your points don't rest on that, so fair enough.

Nonetheless, I don't think he's suggesting that lawyers should carefully handpick a font for each case or judge, just that they ought to pick one good font and stick with it. He offers a list of recommended fonts if one wants a shortcut. He also specifically argues that Times New Roman is not a good choice.

In any event, that decision would not be made on billable time.

Most of the rest of the typography suggestions (non breaking spaces, curly quotes, line spacing, etc) are easy to get in the habit of using and would not add substantially to the time of preparing a document. If one is really concerned about not upsetting clients, then just don't charge for the typesetting. Or charge at a different rate.
posted by jedicus at 11:30 AM on September 26, 2008


IAAL. I have spent a fair amount of my own time adjusting my document formats so that they look polished. I use those polished-looking formats when I prepare work for clients. Perhaps some people do not have an objective notion of what "looks professional," but I do have such a notion, and I believe I am not the only one.

For people who don't notice or don't care, my papers are simply easy to read. For people who do notice, my presentation is one more way for me to indicate that I have taken care to do a competent job. If the content of someone's argument was really all that mattered, why would one bother checking spelling? Why, apart from efficiency, would one even bother printing documents? Why not just submit hand-scrawled notes on coffee-stained legal pads?

Good presentation won't save a lousy argument, but poor presentation can kill a solid position.
posted by spacewrench at 11:32 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I use those polished-looking formats when I prepare work for clients.

It seems important to emphasize the distinction between material filed with the court and material prepared for clients. Y'all are talking about different things.
posted by spiderwire at 11:37 AM on September 26, 2008


The judge could give a crap about the "typography" of your motion or brief.
Like the link says -- you polish your shoes and put on a tie for going to court, why not make an equal effort for your documents?

There is a broad spectrum between "whatever Word punts out" and "noticeably 'cool' font". Somewhere in the middle is "unobtrusively elegant and professional", and that is where you should be aiming.
posted by bonaldi at 11:40 AM on September 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


you polish your shoes and put on a tie for going to court, why not make an equal effort for your documents?

For the same reason that you don't wear a tuxedo for your opening argument.
posted by spiderwire at 11:43 AM on September 26, 2008


Actually, the author is a lawyer

Then he might want to check the filing requirements in federal courts. Most mandate when to use a proportionally spaced or fixed width font, and nearly every one mandates 14pt. Some go as far as to require a particular font, usu Times or Courier.

People stick with Times and Courier because they are the least likely to result in arguments over whether they chose an unusual proportional font to get around the page limits.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:43 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel: To that very end, he is compiling a list of the typography-related filing requirements for state and federal courts.
posted by jedicus at 11:48 AM on September 26, 2008


For the same reason that you don't wear a tuxedo for your opening argument.
Are you wilfully missing the point? There is a spectrum between sweatpants and a tuxedo, and you have to make an effort to hit the right note (and to muddy the waters further there are indeed lawyers who make a point of their dress affectations)

It's the same with "typography", at least in the sense the author of the link is using it -- conflating it with design, essentially. You can tab out your document properly, typeset it to avoid rivers and widows, justify it with a sense of reasonable hyphenation and so on, all without screaming "LOOK I DID DONE DESIGN ON THIS UP IN HERE".
posted by bonaldi at 11:51 AM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


...distinction between material filed with the court and material prepared for clients...

I hope you're not saying that it's acceptable to file sloppy, ugly papers with the Court. I have templates for client letters, court filings, patent applications, and administrative documents. I work hard to get a professional, easy-to-read look in every document I produce, regardless of the audience. And that's on top of the work to say the right thing persuasively.

I don't like court (and other) rules that result in ugly documents, but of course I comply with them.
posted by spacewrench at 11:51 AM on September 26, 2008


spiderwire: precisely. The rest of bonaldi's comment explains that the middle ground is the target. That is, the suit. Not sweats, not a tux, but something happily in between that nonetheless communicates elegance, competence, and professionalism.
posted by Picklegnome at 11:53 AM on September 26, 2008


there are indeed lawyers who make a point of their dress affectations

Actually, I believe there are very good, very wealthy trial lawyers who may choose to wear a slightly beaten-up suit for some appearances, or a freshly-pressed Zegna and $700 tie for others.

If something like clothing choice or font choice can give your client an edge, even if -- legally speaking -- it shouldn't, why wouldn't you do it?
posted by spacewrench at 11:58 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Are you wilfully missing the point?

Yes. I think all briefs should be written in goldenrod crayon on the back of napkins.

There is a spectrum between sweatpants and a tuxedo, and you have to make an effort to hit the right note

"Hit the right note" is a tautological definition. If the criteria for the document are purely functional (as in the case that the commenter you were quoting was discussing), then "the right note" contraindicates any sort of "conflating with design" whatsoever and it is to be avoided. If the criteria are at least partially aesthetic, then the statement is self-evident.

I hope you're not saying that it's acceptable to file sloppy, ugly papers with the Court.

I'm saying that if the Court expects vanilla-formatted documents (i.e., plain, not "ugly"), that's what you give them. And as a general rule, clients probably expect/like pretty letterhead and professional-looking design. But the bottom line is that the requirements aren't the same, so you have to specify the purpose of the document before you dive into the rest of the discussion.
posted by spiderwire at 12:06 PM on September 26, 2008


Wow. White-background is more professional looking.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 12:08 PM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think all briefs should be written in goldenrod crayon on the back of napkins.

It's not quite to that level, but you'll love this hand-written divorce petition, then.
posted by jedicus at 12:26 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


If the criteria for the document are purely functional
Design isn't an optional extra that can be discarded for functional purity, it is inherent in the creation of the work. Your document is going to be designed, either with care or by algorithms inside your word processor. The criteria cannot specify "no design" or anything synonymous with that because it is meaningless.

Given that, it will always be worth your while to consider the appearance of your documents -- even if, like spacewrench points out, that is to deliberately make them look like Word-ed shit. But the choice should be a conscious one, as an edge is available to you. Aesthetics matter in all manner of subconscious ways, and it's not as simple as "I don't do any design because the judge will notice negatively". There is more to it than that.
posted by bonaldi at 12:26 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


But the choice should be a conscious one, as an edge is available to you. Aesthetics matter in all manner of subconscious ways, and it's not as simple as "I don't do any design because the judge will notice negatively". There is more to it than that.

That would be an interesting argument if anyone had made it, but you're just defining down the question until your claim isn't self-contradictory anymore.

So how is choosing a plain design in order to communicate more effectively with a judge distinct from your Word example, exactly?
posted by spiderwire at 12:41 PM on September 26, 2008


The judge could give a crap about the "typography" of your motion or brief.

If the typography is done well, he won't have to give a crap.

They want to know exactly what you are talking about and don't want to be distracted--they don't have time to be distracted.

If the typography is done well, they won't be distracted, and likely they won't even notice. Typography is not to impress people. It's to facilitate communication.
posted by kidbritish at 12:44 PM on September 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


So how is choosing a plain design in order to communicate more effectively with a judge distinct from your Word example, exactly?
Just as I said above, you can tab out your document properly, typeset it to avoid rivers and widows, justify it with a sense of reasonable hyphenation and so on.

It's becoming apparent that your resentment here stems from having precious little conception of what is involved in "typography", and are knee-jerk rejecting the area as "irrelevant, because I don't know anything about it".

You can't "choose a plain design". You create a design, and you typeset text word by word, line by line. You make sure you don't have three hyphens at the end of a line in a row. You check the number of spaces between words. You look for sloppy auto-kerning, and you check that the leading hasn't gone out of whack.

There are a thousand ways to do a "plain design", and Word's take on it is one of the poorest around. None of them need be "dressing up the argument unnecessarily".

on preview: what kidbritish said.
posted by bonaldi at 12:51 PM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow, wonderful. The thing that convinced me was the example of one-spaced paragraphs versus two-spaced paragraphs.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:54 PM on September 26, 2008


spiderwire So how is choosing a plain design in order to communicate more effectively with a judge distinct from your Word example, exactly?

This and this, as compared to this or this.

"But that's stupid!" you might say. "What professional lawyer would write up a contract of title in cramped text with no paragraph breaks and no emphasis on the important words ..." Exactly. Leaving aside the linguistic issue, the differences between the 1790 title deed example and the sample acreage contract example amount to typography.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:05 PM on September 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


So how is choosing a plain design in order to communicate more effectively with a judge distinct from your Word example, exactly?
posted by spiderwire at 12:41 PM on September 26


Because Word is objectively bad at typesetting. It's not a tool for typesetting. It's a tool for word processing. If you do not understand the difference between these two things, well: that's why god made you a lawyer.

Don't get all butthurt just because you've been making ugly documents your whole career. Lawyers should take typography advice if it comes from a lawyer with a background in typography and design. Would you represent yourself in a criminal case against you?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:06 PM on September 26, 2008


If one is really concerned about not upsetting clients, then just don't charge for the typesetting. Or charge at a different rate.

Fundamentally misunderstands the industry. Most lawyers aren't Atticus Finch. They don't hang their own shingles out. They sell time-shares to their intellectual ability to argue the law. That's it. And those shares start off at about $200/hr for the fresh-from-law-school 24yo kid next door.

If you charge the same, clients lose money. If you charge less, the firm loses money.

"Typography for Paralegals and Legal Secretaries" might have been more useful.
posted by jock@law at 1:13 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's becoming apparent that your resentment here stems from having precious little conception of what is involved in "typography", and are knee-jerk rejecting the area as "irrelevant, because I don't know anything about it".

On the contrary, my resentment is based on arguing with people who don't know enough about a topic to understand that their knowledge isn't applicable. Literally every claim you're making is either:
  (a) self-evident (because it's axiomatic that you tailor the appearance of a document for an audience);
  (b) inapplicable (because the requirements of the court forbid it);
  (c) incorrect (because the customs of the court would make any deviations notable and inappropriate); or
  (d) self-contradictory (because if we're discussing the rationale, the choices can't very well be anything but deliberate).

[Note the aesthetically-pleasing use of incorrect indentation above]
posted by spiderwire at 1:19 PM on September 26, 2008


Typography is not to impress people. It's to facilitate communication.

I think typography is used for impressing people. That is the exact reason why many folks still use letterpress printers for their wedding invitations. That combined with ornate type function as to draw attention to the formality of the invitation and the event.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 1:25 PM on September 26, 2008


Because Word is objectively bad at typesetting. It's not a tool for typesetting. It's a tool for word processing. If you do not understand the difference between these two things, well: that's why god made you a lawyer.

God made me a lawyer because I suck at design. But that's not to say that I don't understand it...

Look, you're referring to bonaldi's Word example, i.e. this:

There is a broad spectrum between "whatever Word punts out" and "noticeably 'cool' font".

I was referring to spacewrench's example, per bonaldi in the comment I was responding to:

Given that, it will always be worth your while to consider the appearance of your documents -- even if, like spacewrench points out, that is to deliberately make them look like Word-ed shit.

IOW, if your intent is to "deliberately make them like Word-ed shit," then that is, by the terms of the argument, a deliberate design choice, because the goal of the design is to be as non-obtrusive as possible. I'm not sure how that amounts to an endorsement of Word's typesetting. Do people actually make that argument?
posted by spiderwire at 1:30 PM on September 26, 2008


Wow, wonderful. The thing that convinced me was the example of one-spaced paragraphs versus two-spaced paragraphs.

There seem to be three spaces between the sentences in the "two-spaced" paragraph. Is it just me?

I don't find his last point too relevant, since text in newspapers, books, and magazines is usually justified rather than left-aligned, which means the spacing isn't consistent in any case.
posted by trig at 1:30 PM on September 26, 2008


Looking at the source, he's definitely using three space characters. Weird.
posted by trig at 1:36 PM on September 26, 2008


I think typography is used for impressing people.

Especially in the context of lawyers, if people are impressed, that should be a side-effect, not the goal. And it should occur subconsciously.
posted by kidbritish at 1:43 PM on September 26, 2008


It's not quite to that level, but you'll love this hand-written divorce petition, then.

NB: I was referring to the Kent opinion discussed here:
"Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact — complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words — to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats [ . . . ]

"Despite the continued shortcomings of Plaintiff's supplemental submission, the Court commends Plaintiff for his vastly improved choice of crayon — Brick Red is much easier on the eyes than Goldenrod, and stands out much better amidst the mustard splotched about Plaintiff's briefing. But at the end of the day, even if you put a calico dress on it and call it Florence, a pig is still a pig."
posted by spiderwire at 1:44 PM on September 26, 2008


my resentment is based on arguing with people who don't know enough about a topic to understand that their knowledge isn't applicable.

Uh, yes, please give us more of your comments on chromatics, Mr Pot?

(a) self-evident (because it's axiomatic that you tailor the appearance of a document for
an audience);

Except that you appear to be saying that any tailoring beyond typing into Word and hitting print is tantamount to "dressing up".

(b) inapplicable (because the requirements of the court forbid it)
As mentioned above, the requirements of the court can't forbid "typography". Such a notion is incoherent. They can limit it to certain typefaces and layouts, but that still doesn't excuse Word-it-and-print-it.

(c) incorrect (because the customs of the court would make any deviations notable and inappropriate);
Beyond where this even makes any sense in the light of my objection to (b), some of what we're talking about here includes levels of subtlety here that are somewhere below the type of knot you tie in your tie. Overall they will register as an improvement, but still within the customs of the court. Like a well-tied, attractive tie. It's still a tie.

(d) self-contradictory (because if we're discussing the rationale, the choices can't very well be anything but deliberate).
You've tried to make this stick before, but it's not sure it's sticking. Your case appears to be "Abdicate all the decisions (to software) or else". It's a deliberate non-choice, if you like.

Then that is, by the terms of the argument, a deliberate design choice, because the goal of the design is to be as non-obtrusive as possible. I'm not sure how that amounts to an endorsement of Word's typesetting
This means that you think the result of Word's typesetting is "as non-obtrusive as possible", which it objectively isn't. Non-obtrusive is in fact the aim of the type of typography we're discussing.
posted by bonaldi at 1:47 PM on September 26, 2008


I am of the "good typography needn't be distracting" bent, and would be inclined to use better fonts, and proper dashes, and all that, in my legal writing, but here at the firm, we often draft documents collectively, and make heavy use of cut and paste - which means that whatever niceness I might put in a document will be mangled when I pass it to the next lawyer who doesn't share my outlook on fine typography. As a result, we use our system defaults, nobody ever applies styles properly, headings are created simply by bolding, typing in capitals, and maybe changing a font size, and there are differing numbers of spaces between sentences (anywhere from zero to three). I'd love to implement some of his suggestions, but I'd have to have the final draft in my hands well in advance of when it's due, with nobody else wanting to make any changes. Not going to happen.

spiderwire: Somewhat appropriately, I am at this very moment watching a law professor haggle with a tech support guy because he can't get his PowerPoints to display properly. He must drive them nuts, because he drags them in here almost every day of the week we're almost through the first month of class. ... Now the prof's just standing there awkwardly, reading his notes, while the tech guy points a remote at one of the projectors, which isn't doing anything.

That's not Hanson's Corporations class, is it? Because he's been having those problems for years. Still, great class.
posted by dilettanti at 1:53 PM on September 26, 2008


Wow, the letterforms on that site are really blurry and broken up on my Mac, in both FF3 and Safari 3. It looks anti-aliased or something.
posted by lodurr at 1:55 PM on September 26, 2008


If you were hiring me, would you want me to spend a lot of time making it look cool?

No, but I would be impressed if you had taken the time (or hired someone) to create appropriate LaTeX classes so you don't have to bother with formatting and yet get beautiful, professional-looking output.

/ducks
posted by ghost of a past number at 1:56 PM on September 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


That's not Hanson's Corporations class, is it? Because he's been having those problems for years. Still, great class.

hanson isn't teaching corps this term. but im taking it with him in the spring.
posted by jock@law at 1:58 PM on September 26, 2008


Especially in the context of lawyers, if people are impressed, that should be a side-effect, not the goal. And it should occur subconsciously.

Yup. I agree. I read the comment a little more generally than intended, perhaps.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 1:58 PM on September 26, 2008


... and I'm strangely comforted to see that typography still rivals politics in its ability to fan the flames of bombast on MeFi.
posted by lodurr at 2:00 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not going to happen.
Yes, if people are collaborating, someone has to take a final pass over the text. It is virtually impossible to do it earlier in the process. Even if you're using a good automated system (a la LaTeX), it depends on everyone, at every step, being up to speed, which really isn't likely.
posted by bonaldi at 2:01 PM on September 26, 2008


spiderwire, did you read the article? It covers things like non-breaking spaces, using § and ¶ correctly, and kerning. None of those things are going to be noticed as anything except professional, clear, and correct usage. If you feel like making sure "§ 702" doesn't break across lines is too much gussying up, you're not the kind of attorney with a care for detail that I want to either hire or hear arguments from. That's not a conscious decision: If it's easier to read opposing counsel's briefs, I'm going to spend more time looking at them.

Sure, font choice and such may be too blatant. But 80% of the tips offered improve readability without possibly being noticed by someone who isn't looking for it.
posted by Picklegnome at 2:10 PM on September 26, 2008


Uh, yes, please give us more of your comments on chromatics, Mr Pot?

Fail. We are discussing the use of typography in legal documents, not the applicability of law to design. I assume you didn't actually think I was claiming that yellow-on-blue PowerPoints should actually be illegal or that it was a domain-specific argument.

As mentioned above, the requirements of the court can't forbid "typography". Such a notion is incoherent. They can limit it to certain typefaces and layouts, but that still doesn't excuse Word-it-and-print-it.

Limiting to certain typefaces and layouts definitionally excludes "Word-it-and-print-it," which should be your first clue that what you're arguing about isn't what I actually said. For example, if you're required to use a monospaced font (the example in the comment you first responded to), then you're not concerned about auto-kerning (one of your subsequent examples).

Beyond where this even makes any sense in the light of my objection to (b), some of what we're talking about here includes levels of subtlety here that are somewhere below the type of knot you tie in your tie. Overall they will register as an improvement, but still within the customs of the court. Like a well-tied, attractive tie. It's still a tie.

Wrong, but a good illustration of making conjecture about a topic that you don't understand. A court does not read every filing in isolation. Generally, your pleading would be sitting next to a half-dozen others -- all in plain-vanilla default formatting -- and to the extent that it is meaningfully differentiated, it will be noticeable. Putting aside the question of whether that's good or bad, your claim here is facially incorrect.

This means that you think the result of Word's typesetting is "as non-obtrusive as possible", which it objectively isn't.

Even to the extent that I dislike Word's typesetting, this is simply not a true statement for any value of the word "objective."

Non-obtrusive is in fact the aim of the type of typography we're discussing.

Inaccurate. Good typography is indeed non-obtrusive in the sense that it doesn't interfere with your reading of the document, but clearly that wasn't my point. Word's typography is non-obtrusive in the sense that it doesn't stand out from most other documents, because they're usually written in Word.
posted by spiderwire at 2:19 PM on September 26, 2008


spiderwire, did you read the article?

Yup.

It covers things like non-breaking spaces, using § and ¶ correctly, and kerning. None of those things are going to be noticed as anything except professional, clear, and correct usage. If you feel like making sure "§ 702" doesn't break across lines is too much gussying up, you're not the kind of attorney with a care for detail that I want to either hire or hear arguments from.

Well, it seems to me that breaking up a section header over lines, etc., is -- as you say -- simply incorrect usage, not a matter of typography or good design. (I'm not sure how kerning gets into that list.) Granted, the article occasionally conflates the two, but that seems like a failing of the article.

Sure, font choice and such may be too blatant. But 80% of the tips offered improve readability without possibly being noticed by someone who isn't looking for it.

Again, the entire article isn't wrong, but the entire article also isn't about typography. To the extent that the article makes some controversial, law-specific claims, many are highly questionable -- especially font choice. (In particular, demanding a "ban on operating system fonts (especially Arial) and Courier" is nonsense.)

It's not really an issue of "blatancy," but rather that there are strong practical reasons for using standardized fonts and formats that have to be weighed against the benefits of a differentiated design, even if the latter is more readable or aesthetically pleasing. The point is that the considerations at hand are much broader than the author seems willing to admit.
posted by spiderwire at 2:35 PM on September 26, 2008


Being boring and consistent, while predictable, doesn't make something more readable.

Again, I'm not going for readability. I am trying to make my argument transparently clear so that the judge does not lose the argument. Let me give you an example. In a regular document, a writer would mix up the terms he or she uses to describe something. A football might be variously described as a pigskin, a football, the ball, etc. In something I submitted to a court I would never, ever do that. I would consistently, to the point of making it boring, use only one term for something. It is incredibly important that there be no confusion as to what it is I am talking about.

If something like clothing choice or font choice can give your client an edge, even if -- legally speaking -- it shouldn't, why wouldn't you do it?

Because in my experience, drafting dozens of motions and many briefs, judges HATE it when you get all fancy with the typeface. Perhaps there is a judge out there who doesn't hate it, but I do not ask the judge what typeface they prefer. When all of the orders and decisions are in Times New Roman, you bet your ass my filings are gonna be in Times New Roman. They don't want complicated, they want plain.

I do change the typeface when needed. My briefs and filings before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit are all in Arial 14, because that's exactly how the printer, whom I pay to print it does it and that's how ever brief I've ever seen in that court has been written.

But any practioner worth his salt damn well knows that anything other than a boring, predictable font draws attention away from the argument.

As for what I wear and polishing my shoes--I deliberately do not wear flashy clothing when I am making an appearance. That's a rookie mistake. I do wear more flashy clothing for my meetings with clients.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:38 PM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


No, but I would be impressed if you had taken the time (or hired someone) to create appropriate LaTeX classes so you don't have to bother with formatting and yet get beautiful, professional-looking output.

That will be $4,000 please. Still want me to do that?
posted by Ironmouth at 2:40 PM on September 26, 2008


We are discussing the use of typography in legal documents, not the applicability of law to design.

You don't know enough about [typography] to understand that your knowledge [of the courts] isn't applicable to this discussion.

Limiting to certain typefaces and layouts definitionally excludes "Word-it-and-print-it,"

Except you go on to mention something you call "plain-vanilla default formatting", which is precisely what I mean by Word-it-and-print-it.

For example, if you're required to use a monospaced font (the example in the comment you first responded to), then you're not concerned about auto-kerning (one of your subsequent examples).

Oh, of course, because Word won't auto-kern monospaced fonts. Except when it does. Or tries to, hideously.

all in plain-vanilla default formatting -- and to the extent that it is meaningfully differentiated, it will be noticeable.

As you quoted, I have said it will register. It will, indeed, be noticeable. It has to be, at some level, otherwise why bother? But it would only be noticeable to the point where it can be spotted by someone looking for it; and all within a framework of "standardized fonts and formats".

Even to the extent that I dislike Word's typesetting, this is simply not a true statement for any value of the word "objective."

Word will justify spaces on a single line, under certain conditions, even when the text is set ragged-right. It will make some spaces wider than others. That's obtrusive to the eye. All of that can be (and has been) empirically proven and tested. Objectively.

Seriously, you're thinking here that all this is flower, fluff and nonsense, because you don't know what the fuck you're talking about.
posted by bonaldi at 2:53 PM on September 26, 2008


As for what I wear and polishing my shoes--I deliberately do not wear flashy clothing when I am making an appearance.
There is more to typography than "getting all flashy with the fonts", which is a rookie design mistake. Just as with spiderwire's "unnecessary dressing up", there are ways to do design that don't equate to turning up in a tux, or even in a flashy suit.

Sure, you can disagree with the link about making different font choices, and I'm actually with you there. If everything is in Times 12pt, you'd probably be wise to be in Times 12pt.

But if you weren't certain, I'm not sure how many people could spot the difference between Sabon 13pt and Times 12pt at a distance, and goddamn Times is a nasty-ass hard-to-read font. If there were areas you thought you could get away with it, you'd be well advised to switch.
posted by bonaldi at 3:00 PM on September 26, 2008


But if you weren't certain, I'm not sure how many people could spot the difference between Sabon 13pt and Times 12pt at a distance, and goddamn Times is a nasty-ass hard-to-read font. If there were areas you thought you could get away with it, you'd be well advised to switch.

You know, you almost had me thinking you had a point. Until this. You're in over your head dude.
posted by jock@law at 3:06 PM on September 26, 2008


As you quoted, I have said it will register. It will, indeed, be noticeable. It has to be, at some level, otherwise why bother?

Because in many cases you don't want it to register. Look, I assure you that I understand the conventional design issues here. But when the primary design goal is conformity and your audience has lots of other standardized documents for comparison, the usual criteria work in reverse. I'm not sure how to make that more clear.
posted by spiderwire at 3:07 PM on September 26, 2008


Wow, this thread has turned into a bunch of posters just trying to one-up each other with essentially subjective and increasingly petty minutiae. What are you--a bunch of lawyers or something?

Oh. Carry on.
posted by neroli at 3:12 PM on September 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


As you quoted, I have said it will register. It will, indeed, be noticeable. It has to be, at some level, otherwise why bother?

The fact that you state that it will register does not make it so. You see, I know what the judge wants from what the judge provides me in their workproduct. It is forever the same--plain vanilla, crappily formatted stuff. The judges produce their documents in Times New Roman. That's how I know what they want--that and getting a pleading returned if it is in some sort of new-fangled font.

They DO NOT CARE. How do I know? I actually write these things every day. What I'm saying is that whatever the obtrusiveness of my font, usage of another font subtracts far more than whatever alleged advantage I get from having an obtrusive font because judges aren't joe reader that you deal with in your work. They are forced readers--they want the crappy font because that is what they are used to and I am going to deliber.

because you don't know what the fuck you're talking about.

Really? I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about? I'm a lawyer, people pay me money to do this and you live in Scotland. Please tell me about other important things I need to know about my job, which you know nothing about because you've never done it before. Ever had someone's actual liberty in the palm of your hand and they are paying you a huge chunk of their income to prevent them from being jailed? Because, I assure you, nothing makes you pay more attention to your work product than that. Its not some dumb-assed car dealership website I'm working on--it is something upon which someone's life as they know it depends. You can bet I've thought these problems out far, far more than you have.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:13 PM on September 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


You know, you almost had me thinking you had a point. Until this. You're in over your head dude.
Yes, I'm sorry. I meant to explain there that by "areas where you can get away with it" I meant in the sort of client-facing documents some of you are more willing to consider design issues in. I largely agree with others here in rejecting the link's idea of unusual fonts for court documents.

But when the primary design goal is conformity and your audience has lots of other standardized documents for comparison, the usual criteria work in reverse. I'm not sure how to make that more clear.
Understood. I'll try a different tack. There are typographic techniques and methods you can use that will allow you to simultaneously fit in with the herd, but also improve on the quality of what you're producing. There are reasonable arguments to be made that using these techniques will give you an edge without being so obvious or obtrusive as to lead to the prejudicial outcomes that you're all clearly aware of.

Is that any better?
posted by bonaldi at 3:15 PM on September 26, 2008


bonaldi: Seriously, you're thinking here that all this is flower, fluff and nonsense, because you don't know what the fuck you're talking about.

Well, I don't know what he's thinking, but I'm thinking it's terribly interesting that people like you get so outrageously heated up and make so many categorical assertions about something for which they have no empirical support.
posted by lodurr at 3:17 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Really? I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about?
Well, I was talking to spiderwire there, in my post where I was italicising quotations from him, but yes it now seems fair to include you since, despite me already saying I'm with you on not changing the font you're ranting away about how the fonts can't change, don't use another font, etc.

If this is the sort of attention you pay in general, thank fuck nobody's life is at stake here.
posted by bonaldi at 3:21 PM on September 26, 2008


Again, I'm not going for readability. I am trying to make my argument transparently clear

My statement above was responding to your comment that "[A lawyer's] job is not to write well]." I was trying to make the point that typography has nothing to do with writing well or poorly and that just because your goal is not to write well doesn't mean there are no other considerations.

Your example here is again about writing, not about typography. The kind of word-choice variation that you're saying is bad in legal briefs is also bad form in typographic terms.

judges HATE it when you get all fancy with the typeface

That's certainly valid, but there is a lot more to typography than simply a choice between fancy v. nonfancy font.

The majority of the advice the site offers doesn't have anything to do with font choices. You can keep all of your documents in those "boring, predictable" typefaces and still implement the other concepts that will nevertheless enhance the presentation not by simply employing the correct usage of typographic elements. Personally, I don't share his distaste for TNR. And certainly anyone who works on presenting text on the web is well aware of the limits on the fonts there yet there is still good typography and bad typography abound using the same six fonts that everyone uses.

I realize that the majority of people will never know or care about these issues, but I don't understand why advocating for more people to use typographic considerations in a conscious and intelligent manner is so controversial.
posted by camcgee at 3:21 PM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


...enhance the presentation not by simply employing...

FTFM
posted by camcgee at 3:23 PM on September 26, 2008


Well, I don't know what he's thinking, but I'm thinking it's terribly interesting that people like you get so outrageously heated up and make so many categorical assertions about something for which they have no empirical support.
And you assume this why, exactly? The effect of typographic variations on readability has actually been well researched; even more work has gone into the effects of font choice. But I guess checking would deny your insta-snark, so why bother? This isn't homeopathy, here.

But if you want reasons to not bother learning things that could help make you look better, take comfort that most other people don't bother either. It's just that there's a type of person out there who notices shitty typography that's not very much smaller than the class that notices someone who can't work an apostrophe.
posted by bonaldi at 3:27 PM on September 26, 2008


Well, I was talking to spiderwire there

... and I was defending ironmouth's position (in fact, I specifically referenced it) -- which was actually is what you were originally responding to. What's your point?
posted by spiderwire at 3:28 PM on September 26, 2008


What's your point?
That regardless of my at-a-remove take on Ironmouth's position, I wasn't intending to say he didn't know what he was talking about, just that you didn't. Ironmouth's earlier statements didn't lead to the same conclusion, although his later ones do.
posted by bonaldi at 3:33 PM on September 26, 2008


The majority of the advice the site offers doesn't have anything to do with font choices. You can keep all of your documents in those "boring, predictable" typefaces and still implement the other concepts that will nevertheless enhance the presentation not by simply employing the correct usage of typographic elements.

But any concept not directly related to usage changes the overall appearance of the document -- that's the entire point. And among multiple filings, all in the same standardized formats, it'll stand out. That's what you should be trying to avoid.

This problem isn't limited to standardized court filings, either. Different formatting would also stand out among documents from the same firm or attorney, but the author advises that lawyers change their default font every week. How could that not look bad? That's just a boneheaded idea, but it seems typical of much of the advice here -- it's aesthetically desirable, but it's just not practical.
posted by spiderwire at 3:40 PM on September 26, 2008


That's just a boneheaded idea, but it seems typical of much of the advice here -- it's aesthetically desirable, but it's just not practical.

I'm not a lawyer (or a laywer for that matter), so I'm clearly not in a position to comment on the practicality of the advice the site offers in a legal context.

I posted the link not because I thought legal documents in particular needed reform -- I saw it more as instructing and illustrating principles that are quite broad in their application; it's a good introduction to typography that would serve well for general business communication. Honestly I was ignoring most of the law-specific stuff because it was outside of my own context and so I had no sense at all of whether what he was saying was reasonable.

The responses though, have involved some confusion about what typography is, what purpose it serves, and why it's important, which I think is why some of the nonlawyers seemed a bit defensive about the dismissal of the advice whole cloth.
posted by camcgee at 4:01 PM on September 26, 2008


I think it's a good link, and it's much-needed advice in many cases. As far as general guidelines for, say, client memos -- by all means. And by "much of the advice" I don't even mean the majority -- just "too much," meaning a nontrivial amount.

The reason why lawyers are dismissive about this stuff is that there is literally no room for error, and it's actually somewhat irresponsible to lay down strict edicts like this without at least pointing out where you're departing from the established wisdom. It's like telling a client what you think the law should be without telling them what the law is.

There are real consequences in legal writing for just screwing up punctuation, so having someone come along from outside the discipline and say, "oh, you should be doing it this way" is a little bit frustrating. It's not that simple. I mean, I have enough experience copyediting to give good general advice, but if I go around changing serial commas and trying to improve the word choice of a legal memo based on standard copyediting rules, it would be wrong, and whoever wrote the memo would get in trouble for it.

In fact, if I used my copyediting knowledge to convince the writer that their knowledge of the correct legal style/usage rules were wrong, that would be worse, because they'd look like they didn't know the right rules in the first place.

Readability and aesthetics aren't the primary concern here; if they were, we'd just use the rules everyone else uses. But legal writing isn't just expository; it's much like technical writing and you have to follow the rules. You can and should argue against the rules, but you have to acknowledge what they are or you risk misleading people.

The other reason I'm belaboring the point is that I don't disagree with a lot of this stuff. I understand enough about typography, design, and composition to grasp the objections, and that's not even very rare (nothing in the legal world is remotely optimal: you don't have to know much about coding to know that software IP is weird, and you don't have to be an economist to know that "Law & Economics" is kind of bizarre).

I just wish that more nonlawyers would appreciate that when they say, "things should be this way," and I say, "they're not," it's not always because I don't get why, it's just that they're not, and that's that. There's not necessarily a good reason for it, but that's the way it is, and advice to the contrary is counterproductive.
posted by spiderwire at 4:52 PM on September 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


so having someone come along from outside the discipline

I definitely understand that one, and I think it's true of any area of practice: it's usually unpleasant to have people coming from another practice and telling you how to apply their rules to your context.

Since the guy who runs the site is a lawyer and seemingly very much inside the discipline, it's hard for outsiders to immediately discern that one internal position is superior.

If this guy, a lawyer, is advocating these things and another lawyer says it's impractical and perhaps damaging, how do I know which one is being more reasonable?
posted by camcgee at 5:17 PM on September 26, 2008


I just wish that more nonlawyers would appreciate that when they say, "things should be this way," and I say, "they're not," it's not always because I don't get why, it's just that they're not, and that's that. There's not necessarily a good reason for it, but that's the way it is, and advice to the contrary is counterproductive.

I think one difficulty is that there is some very unlawyerly muddling of terms going on here, with people stretching typography to mean just about everything about the document that isn't the content.

Nearly all copyeditors, designers, typographers and typesetters would recognise the dear need for a particular brand of clarity and precision in legal documents. Stories of cases that have hinged on little more than a misplaced comma are legion even among the layperson.

The frustrating part, however, is that an attempt has been made to state the case while also acknowledging these concerns -- it was a lawyer that wrote the link, after all. It's been said more than once here, with varying degrees of politeness and clarity, that there are plausible ways to benefit from proper typesetting without suffering from the drawbacks that can be concomitant with lawyers fiddling with type.

But too often these are dismissed with "hey, we don't change the fonts!" or "I don't turn up in a tux". It comes across very strongly that because of the dangers of Comic Sansing a submission, the whole area has been consigned to the "irrelevant stuff and nonsense" realm, which is unfair.

As aeschenkarnos points out above, the design of legal documents can change profoundly. There is evidently room for evolutionary change, and more at work than "we do it this way and that's that". It therefore surprises me when lawyers, who in my experience vastly excel journalists at the common ability to examine a field alien to theirs and utilise it in their work, are so rapidly dismissive of an entire arena, especially one that could plausibly help them.
posted by bonaldi at 5:21 PM on September 26, 2008


It therefore surprises me when lawyers, who in my experience vastly excel journalists at the common ability to examine a field alien to theirs and utilise it in their work, are so rapidly dismissive of an entire arena, especially one that could plausibly help them.

Speaking for myself, it's generally the same stuff I think about editing:
 (a) I know this stuff -- or the justifications for it -- and it sucks because I can't do anything about it; moreover, if I learn it, I'll get pissed off whenever I can't use it; so there's no benefit
 (b) I don't want to even hear this, because then I'll have to keep it sorted out from the black-letter rules and I might get them confused; that could hurt me or my client
 (c) I wish this person wouldn't say these things to me, because I feel like I'm being hectored about it; it's no fun
 (d) Worse, any lawyer who didn't know differently might believe them, see (b); I should at least tell them to stop


Usually synthesizing knowledge from other disciplines is helpful, and normally it's not a problem. You still have to keep "should" distinct from the "is," and people will always hector you about it, but you usually live with that. (Though it does especially suck to have someone from "inside" the profession give out questionable advice. It happens a lot, of course, but it's a pain in the ass for reasons that this thread makes apparent. If the piece was titled "Typography for Business," that'd be fine.)


I think there are two interacting problems:

 (1) People can be obtusely dismissive of typography and design issues. That's sort of the eternal torment of any designer. So when lawyers are dismissive, I'm sure that's what it sounds like. And likewise, lawyers can often be dismissive of outside opinions, usually because explaining the rationales just takes so damn long. It's just not a good environment for discussion.

 (2) Most of this advice is useful, but much of it only in specific situations (this would work in such-and-such firm but only if you did it in such-and-such way, etc.) -- and if you knew that context, you'd be 90% of the way to the solution already. And most of the advice concerns issues where the pitfalls are significant and the default rules are at least functional -- it's way, way more efficient to say "just do it this way." So in addition to being frustrating it's just really laborious.


If the topic were economics or political science it would be more of a straightforward discursive exchange. Quirky technical issues are just somewhat tiresome.

Speaking of which, I'm off. Salud.
posted by spiderwire at 5:57 PM on September 26, 2008


Analysis of typography advice from Mr. TfL: Summary: This author is a douche. Most of the things on here are wrong, impractical from a lawyer's perspective (it's the document services person's job to pretty up inconsistent quote styles - we do NOT bill the client hundreds of dollars an hour for that shit), or rely on the premise that the lawyer is an idiot. If you don't know the difference between a colon and a semi-colon, you shouldn't have received a high school diploma.

I'm sorry that this lawyer went to a shitty law school and ended up doing the high-stakes equivalent of ambulance chasing, where he deals with a lot of crappy people who happen to barely cling to the title "lawyer," but this website isn't genuinely helpful for almost anyone in my slice of the industry.
posted by jock@law at 9:59 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


But if you want reasons to not bother learning things that could help make you look better, take comfort that most other people don't bother either.

Really! Let's have some citations, then, that illustrate why it's cost-effective to treat what you perceive as typographic "errors" as though they're the most rank apostasy.

It's just that there's a type of person out there who notices shitty typography that's not very much smaller than the class that notices someone who can't work an apostrophe.

Or clauses.
posted by lodurr at 4:47 AM on September 27, 2008


You don't even need a double-blind study for that, lodurr, the article has a reasonable example in the design of the voting paper for the first Bush election. That's ultimately cost trillions.

But, hey, keep making angry marks in the dust, raging and hooting like a monkey-man at the incomprehensiblity of aesthetics.
posted by bonaldi at 5:29 AM on September 27, 2008


It's ... fascinating ... that you don't seem to see the irony of you, bonaldi, complaining about snark from others.

You also do so clearly love to flaunt your talent for mis-stating the argument of others. I wonder why anybody ever bothers to try to have a serious discussion with you. You're clearly not capable of it.

That's what leads me to believe that it's not really about the typography for you. You seem to just love pissing on people, and typography is a sufficiently arcane subject that you've learned it allows you to do so safely, without challenge.
posted by lodurr at 6:25 AM on September 27, 2008


BTW, it's also pretty amusing that you so boldly use such an irrelevant counter-example. After all, the important issue in the butterfly ballot was interaction design, not typography. It's broadly conceivable that typography had a significant contribution to that debacle -- but if it did, it was so far subordinate to the interaction design that it's not even worth considering.

It reads to me like you're just trying to conflate aesthetics with interaction design by implication, without actually bothering to make an argument or cite evidence. Man, that's just sloppy thinking.
posted by lodurr at 6:30 AM on September 27, 2008


lodurr, I think we're more alike than either of us would care to admit -- or at least it feels that way, as I was thinking similar thoughts about you, at least as far as enjoying pissing on people and mis-statements. I don't actually enjoy very much of this, though. Far from it. I've written to the OP to apologise for dragging down his thread, and extend that to anybody else I'm pissing off. I'm going to leave it at this:

BTW, it's also pretty amusing that you so boldly use such an irrelevant counter-example
I don't think it was irrelevant, at least in the context of this thread and link -- where "typography" has come to mean virtually everything apart from word choice, and there are whole areas within this definition that meet the standards you set. But parsing it out further, especially in the light of earlier claims, is just going to be a definitional pissing match, which isn't going to get us anywhere.

I think spiderwire is spot-on about the interacting problems with this type of discussion. Ultimately, I believe the link is a good one, especially as an introduction to the field, but I don't think it's going to have the effect the author desires, at least in the legal establishment. Whether or not it even should is another question, and one I'm leaving well alone.
posted by bonaldi at 7:23 AM on September 27, 2008


Leaving that well enough alone -- what the hell, that's the most interesting part! (Though you're probably thinking about the IANAL stuff.)

Since you're arguing on behalf of your analogy, I'll tell you why I think it's irrelevant, and you'll probably think I'm splitting hairs: I don't think of emphasis and positioning as typography, I think of it as part of the superset of design first and foremost -- and especially w.r.t. interaction design. The fact of emphasis and basic relative sizing seems so much more important than the specific typography to me. And if there's an issue with type being used such that levels of abstraction get confused, again, to me that's primarily just plain design, not typography.

The thing that I keep coming back to in my mind about those butterfly ballots is that somebody at some time thought that was a brilliant piece of design, and was probably able to marshal what seemed like convincing arguments at the time. Every day I see stuff that's heralded as great design that seems to me to be clearly mistaken from a functional standpoint.
posted by lodurr at 7:57 AM on September 27, 2008


Why do I need to use a horizontal scrollbar for this guy's website?
posted by dilettante at 8:51 AM on September 27, 2008


I’m waiting for MetaFilter’s elite cadre of straight-quotes defenders to hijack this thread. They’re the gay barebackers of typography.

Then again, I see that lawyers who never knew the difference in the first place are coping handily at the task of shouting down advice that’s meant to help them.
posted by joeclark at 9:46 PM on September 27, 2008


I'm glad that sites like this are drawing more attention to the good use of typography. They're helpful for everyone with varying levels of type skills.
posted by jkidwell at 12:39 PM on October 20, 2008


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