Kerning: Space between Letters

Kerning refers to the process of adjusting the space between two individual letters to improve legibility. This gives a typeface its relative tightness or openness.

11 comments

This is post #11 of #BlogchatterA2Z.

This includes blogging every day in April for 26 days, except on Sundays. What’s special about it is that every day’s post will be corresponding to each letter of the alphabet. 

My theme for 2021 is Bookish TriviaIf you liked this post, don’t forget to “roll” me on Blogchatter’s website!

All my #BlogchatterA2Z posts 2021 can be found here.

Looking for a bookish term that starts with K has been a struggle. I searched through lists and glossaries, but couldn’t find anything. The only word that’s somewhat related to books is Kerning. This is a term that revolves around design and typography. In this post, I will only present the basics.

Kerning refers to the process of adjusting the space between two individual letters to improve legibility. This gives a typeface its relative tightness or openness.

Usually, kerning implies reducing the space between letters but it can also mean adding space.

We should know two other elements with respect to creating a typeface:

  • Tracking: the overall spacing between letters/characters
  • Leading: the vertical space between lines of type

Adjustments to tracking and leading should be done before kerning to avoid undoing the kerning adjustments made.

Here’s a short, one-minute video that explains the difference between these three terms:

It’s interesting to note that kerning is the perceived amount of space between letters, and not the actual amount of space.

This means that kerning is an exercise to ensure that the space between letters looks right—and is not necessarily numerically right.

Since each letter has a unique shape, if you place letters at equal distances from each other, they may not look right. They need to be adjusted like the pieces of a puzzle to fit well together.


Types of Kerning

You may not have known what kerning is before you read this post, but I’m sure you knew it when the kerning of a font was off.

Kerning example
Kerning

There are three types of kerning:

  • Metrics kerning – involves using kern pairs provided with fonts.

Kern pairs give information about the spacing of certain pair of letters, like LA, WA, VA, We, To, P., and Ty. These pairs are created to improve the spacing between certain pairs of letters when the normal spacing between letters is not ideal. Most fonts have 200-500 in-built kern pairs.

  • Optical kerning – involves adjusting the space between letters on the basis of their shapes

  • Manual kerning – involves manually adjusting the spaces between letters

Some design apps provide optical kerning as an alternative to metrics kerning so that designers can make necessary adjustments when metrics kerning is incorrectly done.


Why is Kerning Important?

By making kerning adjustments, we can improve typographical design and make text more easily readable.

Kerning is thus more than just mere spacing — it’s a strategic tool to bring in more readers. It is especially important in logos and large signboards.

Helvetica is the most preferred font for readers of English because of its simplicity and the ability to transfer it to anything, like signboards or t-shirts.


Kern Type – Letter Spacing Game

Now that you know what kerning is, would you like to play a game?

Click on the picture below to try Kern Type, a letter spacing game developed by Method of Action and let me know what your score is in the comments!

(I got 64/100 in my first try. I’m not winning any design awards yet.)

Kern Type

References:

  1. https://www.fonts.com/content/learning/fyti/using-type-tools/spacing-and-kerning-1
  2. https://medium.com/gravitdesigner/the-art-of-kerning-be16be25344f
  3. https://99designs.com/blog/tips/11-kerning-tips/
  4. https://www.canva.com/learn/kerning/
  5. https://www.shillingtoneducation.com/blog/kerning/

11 comments on “Kerning: Space between Letters”

  1. Another super video to improve my knowledge. I feel so ‘wise’ in April after visiting blogs like yours:) Cheers.
    Skipping the game as short on time.

  2. If I had been the one doing this post, I would have picked the easy way out and done “K” for Kindle. You have made sure that all of us are going to be very very knowledgeable by the end of this month!

  3. I had no idea that the space between alphabets is known by a term too! Fascinating! Thanks for this ‘bookish’ knowledge, Satabdi.

  4. Wow spacing also had a name. I played the game though it did not reflect a final score individually i gout around 80, 60 54 and even a 0 in gargantuan
    Loved it
    Deepika Sharma

  5. This is interesting. We only think about the words we use- the placement is so important too!
    Couldn`t figure out how to go about with the game- not really tech savvy!

  6. We have to arrange the letters in the middle of the word so that they’re visually appealing. It’s a test of how good your design skills are. 🙂

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