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Typography for Lawyers (and pretty much everyone else)

by Mike Steedle, on Sep 20, 2009 10:47:55 PM

Typography for Lawyers is a website created by Matthew Butterick, a Harvard graduate and lawyer with a background in graphic design and typography. (To his credit, his law firm does have a pretty beautiful website.) He dedicates some of his free time to Typography for Lawyers to help those in the legal profession make better typographic decisions.

I can't think of many industries that do not rely heavily on text, including technical fields, which has been discussed here before. To be clear, typography goes beyond font choice, including size, alignment, case, and anything that contributes to the appearance of text. In Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing, it can take the form of written communication, reports, application design - even your comic sans email signature.

A few basic takeaways from Mr. Butterick's site:

  • Typography matters because presentation matters. Design choices affect how your message is conveyed and how easily it is understood, just as your tone of voice and body language do in conversation.
  • One space - not two - between sentences.  (Evidently, I've been doing this incorrectly for a long time.)
  • Many things are best used sparingly - bold, italics, all caps, exclamation points.
  • Monospace fonts, e.g. Courier, are difficult to read and waste space.  They are only necessary for typewriters to work correctly, which likely has little to do with your work.
  • The most commonly used fonts on our computers are designed to render well on your monitor, not in print.

There is plenty more detail on the site itself, if the subject interests you.  There is likely a void at your company yet to be filled by a typography guru.

For another reading on the topic, see Tufte's paper, PowerPoint Does Rocket Science.




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