Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Agreeable Letters

I have spent much of today reviewing student proposals for their client work assignments. These are considered to be legal agreements for design services provided by the student designer, for their individual clients. Each agreement must document the scope of work, outline a set of milestones, a timeline and provide terms and conditions specific to their individual assignment. It is like reality tv for emerging young designers where they each have to acquire a real client and perform design services for pay, trade or public service. I unfortunately am in Donald Trump's role I think, (but at least I'm not wearing a mobius strip on my head).
       Now recommending legal advice is beyond my pay scale and job description, but I feel it is critical for students to have some professional practice. I judge their agreements based not only on content, but on their typographical layout and design, as this best represents their skills. Often it may be the only sample of work a client sees initially, so it better damn well look good (or they're fired). Suitable font selections, hierarchy, and grids all play essential roles and even spelling and grammar counts. All of these details and considerations are dizzying to review, but it is refreshing to see the occasional contract that is nicely designed and refreshing to read. This might mean it is written from the voice of the student, not remixed legalese or textbook jargon with bullet points. I try to encourage students to find a balance between creating a watertight agreement while remaining cordial and professional. Otherwise one risks appearing litigious and this only sets the tone for an adversarial working relationship. It's a difficult balance for all of us. 
       It was by happy coincidence that I stumbled across this old legal document from France today in my files. It is actually a beautifully hand-scribed four-page legal contract from 1738 written on cotton paper and secured with some sort of a natural fiber, and has an official stamp of the provincial authority I presume. With not a misspelled word or error, and hierarchy imposed by variation in size and a heavier hand in some cases—it would be a pleasure to read in any language. This sort of contract may be impractical for most client proposals, but give me that client who would appreciate a letter of agreement like this. I just wish I could scribe such a lovely work myself!

:: From the Letterology Archives

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