Gregg Bernstein’s eureka moment came the way so many do: while poring over typeface licenses.
He was designing for a record label, which required buying fonts and then paging through interminable terms-of- service notices restricting how he could uses his purchases.
There’s a reason TOS disclaimers are called “click-through” agreements; we hardly ever stop to read them. Why would we? They’re crammed with dense, confusing legal jargon; they’re devoid of niceties like a table of contents, bullet points or a typographic hierarchy — all of which suggests you’re not actually expected to read them.
“You wouldn’t buy a car from a salesman who speaks in double-talk and hands you an unreadable contract,” says Bernstein. “So why do we accept it from software companies?”
For his master’s thesis at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Bernstein decided to turn a TOS into something a little more digestible. He chose Apple’s 4,137-word iTunes license agreement, since it was such an egregious exception to the company’s commitment to smart design.
He teamed with Robert Bartlett, a University of Georgia law professor who had parsed the document into just 381 words. From there, Bernstein broke it into sections, using numerals, bullet points and indentations to boost readability. Then, he adopted a set display type for headlines and section starts, and eliminated the rampant use of all-caps (“As we know from email etiquette, this comes across as screaming,” says Bernstein).
Finally, he settled on Myriad Pro as his typeface, because a variant of it is used in most of Apple’s packaging (it also displays consistently on Mac and PC). Building a comprehensible revise proved simple enough, Bernstein says, adding that companies have no reason not to adopt an industry-standard template. After all, the easier these contracts are to understand, the more enforceable they become.
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