How Typography Can Save Your Life

By May 25, 2016Design, User Experience

Hyperbole aside, ProPublica has a great look at how words are presented can make a huge difference.

Recently, the National Weather Service (NWS) has made the move from all-caps in weather bulletins to good ‘ole sentence case:

Now that the weather service can use ALL CAPS sparingly — as a tool to highlight real danger — the public is more likely to pay attention.

“We realized we could still use ALL CAPS within products to add emphasis, such as ‘TORNADO WARNING. TAKE COVER NOW!’” said Art Thomas, the weather service meteorologist in charge of the project. “We hope that using all caps for emphasis will get people’s attention when it matters and encourage people to take action to protect their safety.”

And, if you’re curious as to why your Terms of Service agreements, contracts, or NWS bulletins are in ALL CAPS, the article concludes:

So why do we use all caps instead of bold or italic or even highlighted? Because back when lawyers used typewriters, the only simple way to emphasize anything was to use ALL CAPS. And while today our fancy post-typewriter machines could certainly render the text in other “conspicuous” ways, tradition is hard to break. Just ask the weather service.

The answer is Lawyers. Because, of course.