In search of a good read, and some help with kerning

v-six's picture

Hi All,

Work has been keeping me away from typography & design all year, and I finally jumped in to something and realized that it's unfortunately not like riding a bike. Specifically, I found that my eye for kerning is in atrophy. {Okay, so maybe my eye for kerning, composition, and color are all in atrophy.} I haven't really been able to tell where adjustments need to be made — hopefully it will come back to me. I have attached a title slide that I had put together, in hope that someone could point out a few spots where the kerning could use some tweaking. Maybe with some help I can begin to start seeing things the way I used to.

I am also hoping that someone would recommend some light reading about typography. I'm in desperate need of motivation and/or inspiration.


Adam Wilson.png16.22 KB
Reed Reibstein's picture

I'll give it a go, although I'm not 100% confident of my kerning ability either.

Close up the space on both sides of the "o" in Louis; both sides of the first "d" in Mildred; the whole word Adam needs help, but especially closing up the space around the "d"; and tighten the space around the "w," "s," and "o" in Wilson.

As for light reading, I can suggest some things to read, but I'm not sure if much of what I've read about type would be considered light (although I read it for my enjoyment).

I've always been enamored with Bringhurst, so if you haven't read that, go for it. Even though reading something akin to a style guide/type speciment sounds dry, it's gripping as far as I'm concerned.

I'm in the middle of Counterpunch, which is quite good so far. I wouldn't have thought a book largely about the mechanical side of type would be interesting (I've never been much for this kind of stuff), but in fact, Smeijers explains it so clearly that you feel like a master punchcutter reading it. The beginning part also has some thought-provoking points to make about the Renaissance revival of classical letterforms.

Ah-ha! Two good, lightish type books: 79 Essays on Design and Made with FontFont. Michael Bierut talks about design in general, not just type, but he has some entertaining things to say about both graphic design and typefaces (check especially his essay "I Hate ITC Garamond"). FontFont is useful for introducing oneself to the highlights of the FontFont library. Some of the essays are fascinating (Martin Majoor's I remember), while others are less so and are outdated. A number of the type specimens are brilliant as well (the one for FF Unit contains a hilarious story by Twain, and I the one for FF Nexus, I believe, is absolutely incredible).

ebensorkin's picture

You know about the old conventional wisdom that you should be able to 'pour the same amount of water' between each letter - yes?

Have you read Jan Tschichold already? I think it's interesting to look at his ideas about spacing vs Herman Zaph's.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

some light reading about typography

There's no such thing... it's all heavy, intense reading. ;-P

[EDIT] Okay, to add some usefulness to this comment, I will recommend a few books... (And Counterpunch, already mentioned above, is supposed to be quite good. Same goes for the one by Michael Bierut, a thoughtful, articulate designer).

Anatomy of a Typeface, by Alexander Lawson (cited on hundreds of threads here on Typophile, I know!)

Revival of the Fittest, edited by Philip B. Meggs and Roy McKelvey, if you can find it.

Unjustified texts, by Robin Kinross

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Casey, I just had a look at the PNG...

Kerning aside, I am not a big fan of letterspacing "ADAM WILSON"... (Just my opinion, of course -- no one asked me.)

But back to the kerning: one thing that jumps out is the lack of space between T and h in "The Porchies"...

dsb's picture

the space around the o in L o uis, and the space around d in AD AM, are the ones that jumped out to me too.

blank's picture

Rhyme and Reason, a Typographic Novel by the eminent Herr Spiekermann certainly fits the bill. Made With Fontfont: Type for Independent Minds is packed with relatively light—compared to Bringhurst, Tracy, or some of John Hudson’s posts—reading about type, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

John Hudson's picture

I recently read Robert Bringhurst's collection of talks, _The Tree of Meaning_, which I can recommend. Very little of it is explicitly about typography -- a short postscript to one of the talks, and occasional references elsewhere -- but in a sense the whole book is about typography in that is is about the things that make typography matter.

timd's picture

A good light read is Typographers on Type an anthology which can be dipped into and put down.

For kerning, I suggest looking at it upsidedown and squinting looking for light and dark areas, I don’t mind the Th joining but I would look at the spaces adjacent to curved characters and AWV.

>Rhyme and Reason, a Typographic Novel by the eminent Herr Spiekermann
Could have done with a proof reader here.


akma's picture

Oh, no!

Endre Berentzen's picture

If you are ACTUALLY looking for LIGHT reading on typography; Stop stealing sheep by Erik Spiekerman. However I think you are probably at a higher level and should dive into some of the before mentioned books.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Endre, I'm glad you said that! I feel the same way about Stop Stealing Sheep -- it is a very good book, but clearly intended for a non-designer audience. Few people ever point this out when recommending it, or when comparing it to other books on typography.

v-six's picture

Thanks for all the input everyone, I'll have to give another look to the kerning and the points mentioned. I may jump into Anatomy of a Typeface. I had been meaning to take a look at that, so there's no time like the present!

ChuckGroth's picture

i heard a funny story aboout "stop stealing sheep"...

Endre Berentzen's picture

I'm waiting Chuck;-)

blank's picture

i heard a funny story aboout “stop stealing sheep”...

The one about the Welshman?

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

The one about the Welshman?

And did it take place in medieval times?

Nickel's picture

Mmm Stop Stealing Sheep was the first typography book I read years ago, good book indeed for a quick introduction into the world of type.

litherland's picture

In addition to the aforementioned Stop Stealing Sheep, you might also appreciate Ellen Lupton's Thinking with Type and this refresher course on kerning. And reading Bringhurst is always time well spent.

v-six's picture

Ah, my eyes are beginning to open again, they hadn't been used in way too long. I should have been more specific about what I meant with by light reading. Something like Bringhurst's Solid Form of Language that you can read in one sitting, and then read five more times and still absorb more. Hopefully Lawson's title will be a "quick" 432 pages...

Re, Eben:
Which Tschichold title were you referring to, Form of the Book? A revisit to that is always time well spent. If you had something else in mind, please let me know and I'll be in line at the library in a matter of seconds.

Re, Ricardo:
Revival of the Fittest
"If you can find it." I'll be looking, thanks.
Unjustified Texts sounds interesting, I may look into that.
P.S. Thanks for the note about the letterspacing, like I said, it's been too long.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Hopefully Lawson’s title will be a “quick” 432 pages

All three of the books I mentioned are broken up into chapters or essays, so they are easy to put down and pick up again as the mood or time strikes you (similar to what Tim said about McLean's book). But 400+ pages in one sitting -- yeah, that's a tough one. ;-D

On the other hand, Lupton's book is easily read in just a few days, and has plenty of substance (not that the others don't, of course).

About Revival of the Fittest -- I think it rapidly went out of print, because it goes for lots of dollars on Amazon, hence my comment... but you can still find copies in antiquarian book stores. And there is always your friendly public library.

ebensorkin's picture

RE: Tschichold

I meant

The New Typography: A Handbook for Modern Designers

I mentioned it in part because it seems to me that Bringhurst's ideas about caps spacing especially are more Zaph oriented ( the tighter model ) and were also ideas that I was confident you would run into. Whereas Jan's ideas ( wider ) are less common. I don't suggest either one per se - I just think they both have merit and are worth mulling over.

My current idea about it in case you want to know is that the forms of Caps aught to be a factor in your approach. Some cap forms really benefit from wider spacing. I feel like Gil/Johnston style or English style caps fall into that category. With other forms it's reversed. In any event it's about cultivating & trusting your eye. Being able to modify forms can help too if the forms will be big it's and a tricky word like OCTOBER or LAWYERS.

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