Friday, February 11, 2011

Kern Krazy

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!


  1. GAH! But seriously, I find that awesome. I guess I qualify as nerd too.

  2. nerd! i was squinting around and could barely see what you were referring to.

  3. That's so awesome you're in Ed Benguiat's class - he's a legend! I'd love to take that class. Please post more about what you're learning and how you like the class!

  4. AHHH, Rieko is in type!!! Very warm welcome to the world of type, once you entered it, you will never get out again (it's like the famous rabbit hole)
    Hugs JuJu

  5. Phew, I am so relieved some of you enjoyed this post! As you see I can be quite a nerd about type (though I have so much to learn) and I was afraid I may be alienating most readers! Angie, with your encouragement I am going to try to post everything I do in his class. It‘s a great way to reinforce what I am learning. xox

  6. Good idea! So i can refresh my knowlege at the same time and look at the different approaches every teacher does. :-)