My inner type nerd is having a blast in Ed Benguiat’s Designing with Type class at SVA this semester. In this class we dive into the realm of insane letterform and spacing detail that most people in the world probably don’t care about or even notice. But once you learn to appreciate these things you can never look type the same way!
For this week, you start by setting the copy in Helvetica Neue Bold, all caps, 132pts. Here is what InDesign will spit out:
Now let’s say you wanted to set this tighter, so that there is only a hairline of space between the first A and the M. The quickest shortcut would be to adjust tracking (overall spacing amongst all the letters). Closing up the tracking to -50, it looks like this:
It’s not terrible, but can you tell that the kerning (space between each letter) is a little bumpy and uneven throughout? That some letters appear too far apart or too tight? That the hyphen looks too low? That the number 1 looks too thin and short, because it was meant be set next to lower case letters? So you tweak around obsessively for while, even custom-tailoring some letters here and there, until you have something like this:
Click on the picture above to see it at 100%. Right now, the letters look too tight in the thumbnail, because it was not spaced to be read at this smaller font size. Yes, every time you make the font smaller or larger, you need to readjust the spacing!