Typography For Photographers

- - Getting Noticed

This website called typography for lawyers is a good read for anyone who sends out printed pieces and especially good for photographers. Art Directors love typography and sending them promos typeset in Arial or other universally disliked fonts is not a great idea.

typography for lawyers

found it on swissmiss.

There Are 15 Comments On This Article.

  1. Simon Crofts

    The article actually misses out completely the two most important aspects of fonts for lawyers. That is kind of interesting for me, as an illustration of the fact that a designer/marketing type may be coming at the issue from a totally different angle than the needs of the client.

    The first is that the font should be extremely clear and easy to read. Lawyers spend a large part of their lives scanning documents late at night and into the early hours of the morning looking for typos – especially ones that may change the meaning of a document. Any font that makes this process easier by being clear and without unnecessary flourishes is worth its weight in gold. To take an example, one of the biggest cases in the history of professional negligence for lawyers was when a tired lawyer failed to notice the two letters ‘un’ at the beginning of a word. As in: ‘this company is incorporated with unlimited liability’ – failing to notice these two letters led to a claim of many hundreds of millions of dollars.

    The second aspect is that the font should be common enough not to cause problems when bounced backwards and forwards between different computer systems. I saw an example, when a loan for around 400 million dollars over 6 years was being made, at an interest rate of (if I remember right) six and a half per cent. Just before the documents were signed and some ungodly hour in the morning, they were printed out on a new printer which unfortunately didn’t recognise the 1/2% symbols, and converted them to bullet points instead. Luckily, I happened to notice it just in time. The consequences of not doing so would have been half a per cent on 400 million dollars over five years :(

    So all this stuff about typography being important for lawyers because it makes them look persuasive and professional – well maybe, but it’s right down the list.

    • @Simon Crofts,

      Did you read through the website in question? It’s not about style.

      Bad typography = confusing, illegible, misleading.

      I’m always trying to explain to clients that working out they typography is not about making the document “stylish.” It’s about making it functional — highly legible and highly readable (which aren’t precisely the same thing).

      However, it so happens that we all find unusable documents ugly and easy-to-understand documents beautiful.

      • Simon Crofts

        @tmac, errr, yes I did read the website in question. That’s how I knew it had failed to highlight the most critical of all (for lawyers) points that I mentioned. Have a read through the sections on “Why is typography important?” and “Why is typography important for lawyers?” sections particularly, and you will see that the website is concentrating on the impression that a font projects, and not on the specifics of proof reading.

        Of course a font should be clear. That is the case not only for lawyers, but also for photographers, politicians, publishers of novels etc. etc. But lawyers have quite specific requirements that are different from everyone else’s, and the website glosses over this. Proof reading at 4 o’clock in the morning neither lawyers nor their clients will give a monkey’s about the matters referred to in “why is typography important for lawyers?”, but they will care about how easily the eye scans a line, how many words to the line, whether the paragraph can be easily jusitified without breaking/hyphenating words, whether percentage symbols unexpectedly change into bullet points, what system of redlining a document is adopted, what the spacing between lines is and whether it allows easy annotations to be inserted (hand written mark-ups tend to be extremely dense on the page, and the ability to do concentrated hand written annotations affects the optimum distance between letters and words etc.), and so on and so forth.

        The article barely touches on all these key factors (the website does touch briefly on clarity of layout and court requirements, but it’s the tip of an iceberg).

        Another extremely important whole area is the way that indentation, layout and paragraph numbering works. Lawyers use layout and para numbering to affect the entire meaning of a document. It’s important that it is clear what level of indentation and sub-sub-sub-sub para the lawyer is on.

        Just to say that a font must be clear and easily legible (which isn’t actually mentioned at all in the ‘why is typography important’ sections!) is inadequate and missing out most of the issue from the lawyer’s point of view. I just thought that it was an interesting illustration of where a lawyer would be coming at something from a totally different angle from the designer.

        • @Simon Crofts,

          Ah … I see your point.

          Perhaps these comments should go on the website in question. I studied typography and all of the things you mention that a lawyer needs are things that a typographer should direct his/her attention to from the outset.

          On re-reading the site, I see it is a little soft — it’s more about presentation. To me typography is about structure and end-user … and I guess this website should focus more on that.

          Thanks for the perspective.

          • Simon Crofts

            @tmac, glad you found the perspective interesting. :) I remember the firm I was at went through a rebranding of their font and page layout and it was really a major deal. They spent (I think) quite a few million dollars on working out a font and layout that was clear, logical, functional and elegant, and getting it adopted in many offices around the world (some of them of course using different alphabets), and running training courses for several thousand people to get them to understand the new para layouts, para numbering etc. I think they were one of the very first law firms – probably the first – to take this so seriously and invest so much in it.

            From the photographer’s point of view, it seems to me it’s a bit like the potential conflict between photographer and website designer. The photographer wants his/her images presenting as effectively, simply and professionally as possible with a minimum of distraction. There can be a temptation for the website designer to be interested in showing off creative web design. The best designers manage to understand the client’s priorities and design accordingly.