kerning » Decoding Design Speak #2: What the heck is kerning?

Decoding Design Speak #2: What the heck is kerning?

On Sunday 24 January 2016, social media was abuzz with discussion about Lisa Messenger’s new book.

FYI – Lisa is a publishing rock star in the Land of Oz. She pushed her brand value of openness and honesty further in Breakups & Breakthroughs by candidly revealing the way she navigated a very difficult breakup with entrepreneur Jack De Losa. 

My interest in the book was solely design related rather than the hot goss about the split. 

The kerning on the cover of this book, in my opinion, is ordinary.

I love the aesthetic of Lisa’s publications and love the typeface Faith & Glory which is used in this design. However, I can’t help wonder: ‘Why is this script font Optical kerning rather than Auto or Metrics?’  Yes, I inherently critique kerning. Say that ten times quickly!

What the heck is kerning I hear you ask?

 

Put simply, kerning is the space between the characters of a font. Designers SHOULD kern all work so that the spacing in a form is even and balanced. In Adobe programs, there’s two automatic kerning styles, optical or metrics. Or a designer can kern a word manually. Optical and metrics kerning are an algorithm applied by a program/the font itself. Auto or metrics are better suited to script typography so the characters flow.
kerning

 

So when we take the Breakups & Breakthroughs jacket and quote “Don’t cry because it’s over smile because it happened” into consideration, you can see how each character appears broken. That’s because they need to connect. Brush script is a flowing, connected typography style echoing the 1950’s ticket writing era of advertising. Whereas brush lettering is an all caps or sentence case style that is generally a disconnected style. Meaning you can get away with optical kerning a brush lettered form, and should use metrics or auto when working with a script typeface. 

 

Most designers will agree that a correctly kerned form is not negotiable in good design. Usually The Collective Hub nail design. But this time, I’m left wondering ‘Why would a designer do that? Are they trying to rebel? If so, I believe it’s missed the mark.’

Now you know what kerning is, will you notice poorly kerned words more often?