Online publications don’t need to employ elaborate and distracting page turning effects to feel like their paper equivalents — simple and judicious use of typography will have a much greater impact as we discover in this month’s case study on the Law Society of Scotland’s members’s journal.
The Law Society of Scotland’s monthly members’ journal is produced by UK-Based Connect Communications in Edinburgh, Scotland. Published as a long established print edition (download a pdf here) together with a complementary online version, Connect recently redesigned both to create more synergy, and a unified experience that would allow each medium to play more to its strengths. We asked Renny Hutchinson, Connect’s Head of Design, a few questions about the project and his thoughts on the challenges posed by multi-channel corporate publishing.
The Journal’s homepage. Webfonts are used to render live text in headlines, navigation and over the rotating front page images.
Renny, please could you introduce yourself and outline your role within Connect Communications?
I have a degree in Graphic Design and Illustration from Glasgow School of Art and since graduating I’ve seen the the world of communications design change around me, from using a scalpel to amend my designs on sheets of film, to syncing my files in the cloud to proofing multi-state objects on an iPad. With 15 years experience as a magazine and newspaper designer, I have been lucky enough to launch regional, national and global publications, and pick up a few design awards along the way, many of which have been realized in my current role at Connect Communications. As Head of Design at Connect, I lead a team of outstanding designers in the delivery of online and offline communications for our clients.
The Journal Online is the online version of the Scottish Law Society’s printed members’ publication. What’s the history of the Journal, and how has the relationship between the paper and online versions evolved over the years?
The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland has been in print for more than 55 years. It is one of the oldest member publications in continuous circulation.
The Journal’s first foray into cyberspace was in 2004, and since then has developed into a vital tool for member engagement and communication with the wider legal community. It has, very much, developed a strong and dedicated readership over the years.
The design of the online version retains the character of a news sheet, largely thanks to the typographic choices. Could you explain your thinking behind the layout and your use of webfonts?
When our client asked us to redesign the Journal, we felt it was vital that the online Journal partners the design of the offline magazine – clean, authoritative and understated.
Before the advancements in the use of webfonts we couldn’t do this without having to reduce the accessibility of the site (converting all non-standard fonts into images). Now it’s possible to “stream fonts” to a number of systems which wouldn’t have had access to those fonts. And that has opened new possibilities that we’re looking forward to exploring in more depth.
What drew you to Parachute Fonts’ Centro? Could you talk us through your development process please: any system testing you went through, what your selection criteria was.
Ideally, we were looking for something along the lines of Prelo Slab as a webfont. Prelo Slab wasn’t available at the time of development, and we found that Centro shared a lot of typographic DNA with the typefaces we were using in the print magazine. Testing on screen Centro displayed very robustly when compared with using images of Prelo Slab.
To what extent do you assess your target readership’s tech savvy levels? Do webfonts make the online experience better for a broader range of user?
Clarity and consistency is of paramount importance as much of the information imparted on the site is of a technical nature. We need to avoid anything that is distracting to our readership, like images not loading, accessibility issues, and hard-to-read text. Using webfonts definitely has merit in reducing the amount of potential problems and controlling the consistency of the viewing experience.
Nothing ever goes perfectly to plan – did you encounter any technical hitches during development? What did you do to overcome them?
On cross browser testing, the thinnest weight of Centro was pixelating a little in IE browsers. We used a stronger weight of Centro which solved the problem. In order to retain the thinner characters for the masthead, we styled the site to display an image masthead for IE browsers. Our site is about to reach the next development phase, with a transfer to a completely new CMS, and we’re looking forward to doing much more with webfonts.
As a broader issue, what’s your philosophy on the convergence of screen and print? How much can (or should) one replicate the other? Can each complement the other?
Not only can screen and print complement each other, they inform each other. Intuitive editorial design and intuitive digital design are not mutually exclusive.
For example, look at the development of digital publications on the iTunes store. The very best digital publications stand head and shoulders above the “also-rans” because they are informed by great editorial design complemented by a dynamite and intuitive digital experience.
Thank you for your valubale insights Renny, we hope the Journal continues to go from strength to strength.
Connect Communications is one of the UK's leading creative communications companies. Their award-winning reputation has been earned through marrying clear and concise copywriting to eye-catching design, delivering first-class creative communications solutions for clients in defence and aerospace, financial services, manufacturing and local government sectors, amoung others.
About Parachute Fonts’ Centro Pro
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Shown left: PF Centro Serif. Right: PF Centro Slab.
Centro Pro is a system of three complementary font families comprising 40 fonts. It’s an ideal choice for advanced editorial design projects that need a unified visual style across deep hierarchies of information and content. Centro Slab, used here for the Law Society of Scotland’s online journal, is the more characterful of the three fonts, which is why it is such a natural choice for headlines in projects such as this. Centro Serif and Sans, the other two components, are quieter and more invisible — but they’re very much the industrious worker plugging away in the background. With full Greek and Cyrillic language support in addition to an expanded Latin glyph set including copyright-free symbols and icons, Centro Pro transitions easily across languages and scripts, and suits any project that demands unglamorous yet hard-working letterforms.