Sunday, July 11, 2010

letter spacing (kerning)

Like a team of archaeologists, carpenters uncovered this hand-lettered sign on a building undergoing renovation in Sioux Center, Iowa. The piece was probably made for an auto service station back in the 1940s or early 50s or perhaps as early as the 30s.

Seeing it reminded us a book by Ralph Douglass titled, “Calligraphic Lettering with Wide Pen & Brush” published by Watson-Guptill in 1949.

Here’s a passage found on page twenty about letter spacing that still seems current and appropriate for digital typography:
Spacing is not a matter of mechanics but rather of feeling and taste. The line or page of hand lettering should be so spaced as to present an even tone. If letters are set mechanically and spaced equidistantly, the effect is uneven and bad[.]

For decorative purposes letters are sometimes spread out, but the effect does not promote legibility.

For even appearance and maximum legibility, the white space within and around the letters must be considered and weighed as in any other kind of all-over design. Note again that the average space between words is approximately the width of the small o.

To illustrate and implement good spacing of letters within the words, consider strokes as follows:

The greatest distance is left between straight strokes.

A curved stroke next to a straight one is a little closer.

Two curved strokes are still closer.

Two points are placed as close together as possible.

A point or curve can be tucked under.

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