The distance of old letters on a coffee mug

emilhedevang's picture

Dear typophiles,

I am going to get my name put on a coffee mug in connection with the celebration of the 25 year jubilee of the Friday bar at the Physics department of my university, and the organisers allow pretty much one to give them arbitrary LaTeX code to render the name. In the natural sciences, especially Mathematics and Physics, quite a few people are fairly well-versed in the subject of good typography, and so I am sure that many people will spend a lot of time designing a name/logo/picture for the coffee mug. Being a lover of typography myself, I of course cannot let this chance pass, and so I am determined to make something elegant.

I like simplicity and minimalistic designs, and I very much like the typefaces of the Italian renaissance, so I have chosen to use the typeface from the 1499 edition of "Hypnerotomachia Poliphili". Unfortunately I don't own a copy from which to scan the typeface, so I had to settle with scanning a print of the title in Edward Tufte's "Beautiful Evidence".

Thus I have cut and pasted individual letters to write my name. I would like to ask you if you have some suggestions to the kerning of the letters in the picture below.

Best regards,
Emil Hedevang

jt_the_ninja's picture

Interesting how you used three different E's to spell out your name...

I personally think it looks awesome.


marcdrogin's picture

My own opinion is that the spacing between letters is far too wide. It looks as though someone was following an overall spacing rule without any consideration for weight or the individuality of letters. I believe it would look far more striking, and readable, if the space between letters was, say, the same distance as the width of the vertical strokes in your "E"s. I also noticed that the base of the first "E" is noticeably lower than the "MIL." It all looks just a bit as though you cut out letters and pasted them safely well away from each other. Which, of course, you did. Great idea, though, and you should follow through with it. Remember too that the end result is going to appear on a curve. The larger the lettering and the further apart the letters the fewer will be seen at any given time. You don't want people circling your mug to make out your name.


emilhedevang's picture

jt_the_ninja: I took the letters of my name in the sequence they appear in the title. See the picture below. I did, however, skip the V from the QV as it appears to me to be too much of a ligature.

marcdrogin: I see your point. I spaced the letters a bit loose to begin with due to the rule of thumb of letterspacing capitals. In the original title the letters are quite close. What do you think of the suggestion in the picture below?

kentlew's picture

Emil -- I think the revised version is too tight. Extra spacing of capitals is a long-standing tradition in setting inscriptions. At the very least, I'd split the difference.

Looking at your second version: The DE are a little too close; try to match the visual space between the NG. The EV are too far apart; look at the large gap in space there.

The thing that's going to drive the fitting* for this setting is the space between AN -- diagonal against straight. You can get those two only so close together, and you don't want them touching. After that, all other spaces -- straight-straight, straight-round, diagonal-diagonal -- are going to need to be balanced in relation to that diagonal-straight AN space. Not strictly equal; visually balanced.

The combination DEVANG creates an almost classic spacing exercise, with its combination of diagonals in the center, surrounded by straights, and bookended with rounds. Get DEVANG spaced nicely first, and EMIL HE will follow easily.


-- Kent.

* BTW, "fitting" or "spacing" are the more appropriate terms for what you're doing here. There is only one instance where "kerning" could technically apply -- the VA combo, where there is actual overlap in the "personal space" of the letterforms. Of course, with everything being digital and virtual nowadays, this is really just semantics.

Solt's picture

your first attempt is much better.

emilhedevang's picture

Hmm, this fitting business is quite challenging (first time, I've tried to fit letters). Below is my third attempt. If there are no objections, I think I'll declare it the final version and have it printed on my coffee mug.

jt_the_ninja's picture

I still think it looks cool, but to reiterate what marcdrogin said, remember that it's going on a mug. Maybe you should think about doing it in two lines, so the letters can still be large and it won't go all the way around the mug.

Heck, why not go Classical on it: remove the space between first and last name, split it into two lines of 6 letters each (or 3 of 4 each!) and make it a block :D


emilhedevang's picture

jt_the_ninja: The block idea is good. I have actually used it before in another setting (3 lines each of 4 letter) but I did not think of using it here. I'm sure it will work out very well for a coffee mug. Thanks for the reminder!

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