Nothing can ruin a headline or a logo design more than bad kearning, well okay maybe a spelling mistake. But this fundamental element of design is often neglected by the designer and unseen by the client, so read on and see if you can spot the glaring mistake in the following example.

So now having applied some kerning it no longer says ‘v ast’, but ‘vast’, no driving a truck between the V and A now.

Kerning is the process of adjusting character spacing between character pairs in a font (often wrongly confused with tracking which increases the space between characters evenly, regardless of the characters). In a well-kerned font the blank spaces between the characters all have a similar spatial area. Of course this is an optical alignment because the shape of each character is different, therefore the space around each character is different. A trick I learnt from a creative director in London is to turn the word upside down and look at the spacing that way, this ensures we look at the spaces instead of our brain automatically reading what it thinks.

In the early days of printing, type was set using individual character cast in blocks of metal (like on the old ribbon typewriter). This meant that the character could only be spaced as close to the next character as the block width allowed. Therefore characters such as A and V could not sit close to each other as say an I and H could.
To avoid this problem a corner was notched on one or both sides of a character-piece. These notched pieces were only set against one another, not against unnotched straight sided ones. These corners allowed for a character’s features to reach into the area occupied by the block of the next character (see below).

And it is from this ‘cornering’ that we get the word kerning.

So if you’ve commissioned a new logo or masthead for a publication
etc, have a quick check to see if the designer has taken the time to kern
your job, or if they have just bashed it out in the hope you won’t notice the glaring gaps.

Tune in same jack time, same jack channel for ‘leading’