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The Importance of Kerning Type

The Importance of Kerning Type

I have always thought that kerning sounded more like a sport from some far-off Scandinavian country. In reality, kerning is a very important part of a good designer’s, job and it might be what separates a mediocre design from a great one.

What is Kerning?

Kerning is a term used in the design world to indicate adjusting of the space between letters in a typeface, to make them visually spaced correctly. Most font typefaces “out of the box” on our computers handle kerning o.k., but they are far from perfect. When a typeface is spaced via the computer, it will space the letters uniformly. This might sound like a good thing but it actually works against a visually appealing outcome. Letters are made up of varying shapes, curves, lines, etc. Therefore, when they are placed uniformly next to one another, there will appear to be gaps left by these different shapes.

Most design programs used in the industry today also have adjustments built into the programming but nothing – I repeat, nothing – replaces the human eye for interpreting what looks best. With these programs your small body-copy text will, for the most part, be fine, but where you really start to need to adjust is in larger display type. As the letters get bigger the space between the letters will become more obvious. This is the designer’s cue to step in and do some fine tuning.

The short and sweet of it is you need to kern your type to give your piece a finished look, and it’s a step that some designers sadly skip. It can take a simple design from blah to bammo. If you find you need to brush up on your kerning skills, or just want to better understand what kerning is, there is a fun game you can play called KERNTYPE a kerning game. With enough practice you’ll be ready for the next Olympic games.

Here’s my score. Can you beat me?


Jun 19, 2013
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