What your font says about you

Adobe Calson lower case a, via Wikipedia.Derek H Kiernan-Johnson has just put his paper “Telling Through Type: Typography and Narrative in Legal Briefs” on SSRN (hat tip Law & Humanities Blog). He notes that Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook has (pdf) deprecated

bad typography, home-brewed by lawyers just because word-processing software allows you to bypass professional printers. Unfortunately, … [lawyers] have not gone to printers’ school. Desktop publishing does not imply a license to use ugly or inappropriate type and formatting — and I assure you that Times New Roman is utterly inappropriate for long documents despite the fact that it is the default in some word-processing programs. It is designed for narrow columns in newspapers, not for briefs.

In my post Typography for Lawyers, I briefly referred to the website of the same name maintained by Matthew Butterick (interviewed here; reviewed here) as a remedy for these ills. Indeed, Dan Michaluk on Slaw expressed his preference for Helvetica the movie as well as the modern, minimalistic and neutral font.

In Kiernan-Johnson’s view, however, typography has the potential to go very much further: the

shapes, the spacing, of letters and of words can reinforce, compliment, and independently create narrative meaning. Or, intentionally or unintentionally, it can cut against it. It can do its work honestly and ethically, or inappropriately and subversively.

I wonder whether the font on this website reinforces or undercuts my posts. Answers in the comments please (but not in Times New Roman).