DT&G Magazine Editor's Column
The Design Center, DT&G Typography Department: Type, Fonts, Lettering, Calligraphy  

This was sent in by a Design Cafe subscriber titled simply: "Choose Your Fonts Wisely" and we just couldn't resist passing it along to you.

The type face is Handle Gothic, and when used in all caps, it needs just a little more space than one might allow for other sans-serif type styles.

Choose your fonts wisely

This was found at an unnamed web site with the caption:
"Mega Flics" taken in New Port Richie, FL last weekend. Megaflicks is a video store but their sign is advertising something far other than videos. This sign had me rolling -- 2 for $5.99! At that price, I'll take a baker's dozen!"
and it was signed Christopher.

Christopher, whoever you are, thanks bunches for sending this in for a real-world lesson on selecting type faces, and then spacing them correctly.

A lesson in Kerning

Originally the term "kern" referred to portions of a letterform, cut in lead or wood, which extended beyond the body of the actual slug. (Slug being the body of metal on which the raised letter sat.) The typographer would use a "kerning" knife and actually cut away parts of the slug so the overhanging portion of the letter could overlap into the next slug.

Today the term "Kerning" refers to the adjustment of space between letters to make them sit closer together. This is not to be confused with "letterspacing" which is actually adding space between characters.

The key to good kerning is found in the type style and letterforms themselves. Always look at the font and ask if it is suited to tight kerning. Fonts like Handel and Avant Garde can take heavy kerning, however it must be done very carefully and NOT using the software's automatic spacing.

Look for angular or round characters. These are the ones you can safely "kern" when they appear with another angular or round character, or one that when used will leave an overly large dead space in the word. And, reserve kerning to headlines of 30 points and higher:

Ye   to   Wo   Te   oo   Fo   Va   Pa

and many others. Letterforms with holes at either side can be kerned. High quality fonts will sometimes have hundreds of "Kerning Pairs" build into the coding of the font. This allows your computer to automatically set those specific character sets more tightly. An obvious difference between high quality fonts, and those without much care in their creation. (See our "Good, Bad & Ugly" article.

Obviously, with the Handel font, it was a mistake to tighten the space between the "L" and the "I" -- leading to the humourous and perhaps negative results we see above.

Good day.

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