Seanna and I watched Gary Hustwit’s documentary film about the Helvetica font on the weekend. It’s led me to pose the question, “What’s your font of choice for formal legal argument?”
The movie explains that, aside from being ubiquitous, Helvetica is modern, minimalistic and neutral. I like it for formal legal advocacy for two reasons. One, I feel it’s a good “empty vessel” though which I can impose my own meaning without a font signaling something “off message.” Two, I’ve bought into the idea that persuasive argument is, first and foremost, digestible argument: writing point-first, plain language argument in Helvetica seems to be a good way to accomplish this objective.
Here’s a wonderful clip that gives you a sense of the Helvetica’s essence and advocacy potential.
I admit that my attraction to Helvetica could be misguided. In fact, Matthew Butterick’s excellent Typography for Lawyers website suggests that sans-serif fonts like Helvetica should be avoided in legal argument because they are tiring to read in long documents. Remarkably, he cites a number of American court rules that require documents to be submitted in serifed fonts. Who am I to quarrel? Butterick, a practicing lawyer and former typographer, is an expert. He prefers to write legal briefs in a nice-looking serifed font named “Sabon.”
Do you have a view? Please share it below.
(Hat tip to Doug Jasinski for the introduction to Typology for Lawyers.)