Typeface Choices: Who Gives a Font?


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Choosing typefaces for your law firm website might seem like a simple process. After all, there are only ten or twelve choices in Word. However for those of us who pay attention to these details, type is an important detail that informs your reader about your style or lack thereof. With a little thought and intention, the right typeface can provide a subtle yet strong influence on your firm’s marketing materials.

Typeface For the Nerd Type

Those who have never worked in the creative fields are often surprised by the science and terms of typefaces. It often sounds like a foreign language when type nerds discuss the use of ligatures and descenders and the history of a typeface as seen in this example:

What if you picked Trajan to illustrate the title graphics of an article about ancient Greece? That would be an unintended anachronism since Greece pre-dates Rome, and Trajan was a Roman emperor.

However you do not need to be an active member of one of the typography journals that review type in order to make wise decisions in your typefaces. When choosing your typefaces, keep in mind a few basic principles.

Dress For The Occasion

Picking a typeface is like choosing an appropriate outfit. Just as with clothing, there’s a distinction between typefaces that are expressive and stylish versus those that are useful and appropriate to many situations. Choose typefaces that are appropriate for the purpose you are using them for. In other words, do not use a large graphic font for the majority of your paragraph text.

There are a few workhorse typefaces that are like comfortable jeans since they seem to go with everything. My particular default choices are: Gill Sans, Myriad, Helvetica Neue, and Interstate among the sans; Garamond, Franklin Gothic, BernhardMod and Perpetua among the serif faces.

The Principle of Decisive Contrast

If you reach a point where you want to add a second face to the mix, it’s always good to observe this simple rule: keep it exactly the same, or change it a lot — avoid wimpy, incremental variations. For example, if you are going to add another font along with Helvetica, it would be much better if you use something like Bembo, a classic Old Style face.

Typography for Lawyers

Defining your law firm’s style should include a review of your formatting choices including typefaces. A great book to review is Typography for Lawyers. The author is the unique combination of a Harvard-trained typographer and practicing attorney. The book covers choosing typefaces as well as line length, keyboard characters and other technical choices related to type. The book is a follow up to his popular website of the same name that offers suggestions for typeface choices, both good and bad.

Additional Resources

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/typoatelier/4574136682/)


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  • Most people pick fonts based on aesthetic value, but there is some science to it. For example, sans-serif text is easier to read as a heading, whereas letters with serifs help create a visual line to guide the reader’s eye in a paragraph.

    No matter what, just don’t use comic sans. It’s used, abused, and almost never appropriate.

  • @Wade I couldn’t agree more! Have you seen this: http://bancomicsans.com/main/ “…like showing up to a black tie event in a clown costume”

  • A. Mays

    I looked around your suggestions for changing typeface away from Times New Roman. I agree that a lot of the other options are easier to read and more distinctive, but do you run into compatibility problems?

    None of the font’s I’d like to switch to are included with a standard MS Word. What happens to my .docx file that I email to another attorney or a client? Will all my formatting get screwed up? Or worse, the client not be able to read it at all?

    Thanks for the advice,
    A. Mays