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Typography for Law Reviews

Author: Anonym/Thursday, November 15, 2012/Categories: Notices

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Starting with Volume 63, the typography of the Case Western Reserve Law Review has received an update. In redesigning the typography and layout of this Law Review, we kept in mind that "[g]ood typography is measured on a utilitarian yard stick. Typography that is aesthetically pleasant, but that doesn’t reinforce the goals of the text, is a failure. Typography that reinforces the goals of the text, even if aesthetically unpleasant, is a success."1 To this end, we chose a new typeface, designed a new layout, and updated the header and footer. Above all, we hope these changes will make reading this and future volumes more enjoyable whether in print or electronically.

I. Choosing the Typeface

A. The Typeface
For the typeface, we chose a variant of Computer Modern, a typeface designed by Donald Knuth, alumnus of this University.2

B. Small Capitals
True small capital letters must be designed in a typeface. As this is not a standard feature, word processors “make” small capitals by using the capital letters from a typeface at normal and condensed sizes. The result is small capital letters with distorted proportions and thinner strokes. The Computer Modern typeface was selected in part because it has a true small capital letter variant. This variant face is used in the headings, headers, title pages, cover, and in bluebook citations.

C. Below the Line Text
The margins of the above the line text permits the proper number of characters per line for optimal reading. As the below the line text is a smaller typeface, this means that at the same margins or very near the same margins there are too many characters on each line of footnote text if the exact same typeface is used below the line as is used above the line. For that reason, proper footnote typefaces are slightly wider. For this reason, the below the line text is the 9 pt variant of Computer Modern, as opposed to the thinner 12 pt variant of Computer Modern used above the line.

D. Mathematical Formulae
One delightful consequence of this change is improved display of numbers as well as the ability to use Knuth’s much beloved software, TeX, for typesetting mathematical formulae. This will be especially helpful in articles containing sophisticated mathematical and statistical analysis of legal issues.

II. Designing the Layout

There are many subtle changes to the layout of the text above the line, and some less subtle changes below the line.

A. Above the Line Changes to the Layout

1. Formatting of Headings
There are slight changes to the headings. All headings now have spacing that is multiples of paragraph text so that paragraph text above the line on a page “backs up” paragraph text on the opposite side of the printed page. Main headings have real small capital letters, as discussed. Otherwise, the main headings are largely the same. Subheadings remain centered. Subsubheadings are now centered as the journal used to have them and are now set in roman type instead of italic to better distinguish them from subheadings. Subsubsubheadings remain left justified and in italic. Subsubheadings and subsubsubheadings are typeset in a smaller 10 point text size to better offset them from the text and better distinguish from the higher level headings.

2. Paragraph Formatting
The paragraphs use 10.5 point sized Computer Modern 12 variant text. Lines are spaced at 12 points. The use of the 12 variant allows for information density comparable to Times New Roman.3  Paragraphs are indented by one quarter of an inch.

B. Below the Line
There are also several changes below the line, including the line. The typeface, as discussed above, is a wider width variant of Computer Modern designed for footnote text. In addition, the footnote text is indented slightly, following the lead of the Yale Law Journal. The result of using a footnote specific typeface and indentation is far more readable footnotes. To allow for better footnote navigation, the footnote references are set as ordinary text set to the left of the footnote. This practice allows the reader to easily locate the desired reference and also better distinguishes when one footnote ends and another begins, especially when footnotes have multiple paragraphs.

III. Updating the Header and Footer

Many of the changes are to elements of the Case Western Reserve Law Review that have changed over the years, but one makes a marked shift not only from the practices of this Law Review but many others as well. Traditionally, even page headers contain the name of the publication, the volume number, and the issue number while the odd page headers contain the year of publication and the name of the article. Page numbers traditionally alternate between left and right alignment. This style works well enough for reading in print, but cause problems when reading single pages at time on computers and handheld digital devices. The new design now longer uses the alternating header style and presents all information in the header and footer of each page in static locations.4

IV. New Paper Size for Digital Distribution

The Case Western Reserve Law Review elected a new paper size for digital distribution. The Law Review elected a new paper size because the standard Letter (8 1/2 by 11 inches) and A4 (approximately 8.3 by 11.7 inches) paper sizes are too wide for single-column text of standard typeface size. To date, the Law Review and other legal periodicals compensated for this excessive width by increasing the size of document margins. This solution creates problems when volumes are read on digital devices because the devices do not excise the extra white space and as a result display pages smaller. This results in far less readable text. The effect is especially pronounced on the smaller text found in footnotes. For other publications, the issues of scale caused by excessive white space are avoided altogether using ebook formats that contain unpaginated and unformatted text. In program that reads ebook formats, the text is automatically sized and displayed on the digital screen according to its size. This ebook solution is unworkable for law reviews because no currently available implementation meets the necessary formatting requirements, for example the capacity to display footnotes along side main text and to display text in small capitals.

To solve this problem, the Law Review selected a new paper size, 6 1/8 by 9 1/4 inches, a size the executive board believes should constitute the new standard size for digital distribution of legal periodicals. Why this size? Digital editions display far more comfortably on popular digital devices such as Apple's iPad without the extra white space. This size has a prestigious pedigree: it is the required document size for briefs submitted to the Untied States Supreme Court. Indeed, only parties eligible to file in forma pauperis may use the standard Letter paper size. Whatever the fiscal straits of today's law schools, their finances do not meet the requirements of in forma pauperis filing, and accordingly their legal periodicals have no excuse to use inappropriate document sizes in the digital age. The Law Review internally refers to the new paper size as "Supreme Court."


We hope that you will enjoy these changes to the Case Western Reserve Law Review.

1. Matthew Butterick, What is Good Typography?, Typography for Lawyers (last visited April 1, 2012).

2. Specifically, we are using the Opentype Latin Modern variant derived from Knuth’s original typeface which was designed in Metafont. See The Latin Modern (LM) Family of Fonts, (last visited Apr. 11, 2012) (briefly overviewing the development of Latin Modern).

3. Times New Roman’s infamous information density is due to its narrow characters designed for use in newspaper columns.

4. One important distinction between verso (even) and recto (odd) pages remains in the digital edition. The first page of individual pieces and individual issues is always a recto page.

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