page layout

Page from the Kelmscott Chaucer, printed by William Morris, 1896.

Type composition was about pick­ing the right char­ac­ters. Text formatting was about the visual appear­ance of those char­ac­ters. This chap­ter is about the posi­tion­ing and rela­tion­ship of text and other ele­ments on the page.

In fine print­ing, typog­ra­phers usu­ally get to choose the page size of their doc­u­ments. But you don’t—most of the doc­u­ments a law­yer cre­ates will be on stan­dard printer paper.

That’s no rea­son to tol­er­ate medi­oc­rity. Eng­lish printer William Mor­ris famously rebelled against mech­a­nized, mass-pro­duced typog­ra­phy—in the 1890s. He pro­duced a series of beau­ti­ful books intended to remind read­ers and writ­ers what was pos­si­ble on the printed page, in con­trast to the coarse rit­ual of indus­tri­al­ized print­ing.

Today, the strug­gle con­tin­ues. Word proces­sors beckon us with default set­tings and tem­plates that promise great results with no effort. But you only get out what you put in. Don’t accept the defaults. You can do bet­ter.