Every designer and typesetter at one time or another needs to use one or more of these three symbols: registered, trademark, and copyright. What might seem like a tiny legal detail needs to be typeset thoughtfully in order to be legible, readable, and not draw undue attention to itself. If you just accept the default symbol in the font without paying attention to its size, design, and placement, you can wind up with either a huge, distracting symbol, or a tiny, unreadable one that looks like a smudge. Here are some tips to finessing these tiny, yet important, details.
Registered and Trademark Symbols (® and ™)
The registered and trademark symbols vary from one typeface to another. Some are related in design to the overall typeface, and others, not so much. These symbols are used at so small a size that they should be neutral in appearance, yet clear at the size they will be reproduced at. If their design is too stylized, hard to read, or just plain ugly, you can substitute the symbol from another font for all instances. An uncomplicated sans symbols for text usage (such as those from Helvetica, Arial, or Franklin Gothic) are a good choice, as they tend to be very readable and print cleanly and clearly at small sizes. When setting a headline, more latitude is given with respect to the design, as readability is less of a problem.
Size is important as well, especially since these symbols vary so much in scale from font to font. Therefore, when using a ® or a ™ after a word, the size should be adjusted as necessary, independently from the rest of the text, to look clear and legible, yet unobtrusive. Its proportion next to the neighboring word or glyph depends a lot on the final size of each appearance. A general guideline for text is to make these symbols a little smaller than half the x-height. As the type gets larger, the symbols can become proportionately smaller, especially in headlines. These symbols are legal designations, not exciting graphic elements, and making them too large can detract from the overall design.
Spacing, both horizontal and vertical in relation to the neighboring glyph, will then have to be evaluated. Once they are sized appropriately, you will most likely have to adjust the letter spacing using kerning, as well as the vertical position using baseline shift.
Copyright Symbol (©)
Unlike the registered and trademark symbols, the copyright symbol is most often typeset to more closely match the size of the cap height, which also works for most (but not all) figures. This glyph can usually be used just as it appears in the font, with little or no adjustment. But if it appears before a shorter oldstyle figure (such as an oldstyle 1 as in 1973) or an x-height glyph, it can be reduced a bit if it seems too large. Once sized the way you want it, check the horizontal spacing as well as the vertical position, and adjust with kerning and baseline shift as desired.
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Paying close attention to these common legal symbols will contribute to the overall professionalism of your work. But keep in mind the client’s specs can supersede the designer’s aesthetics.Tags