Recently, I have been laying out some signs and banners for an upcoming trade show. The headline of each piece includes the number 2010. In each instance, the spacing between 0, the 1 and the o needs to be adjusted because they are too far apart. Typographically speaking, this is called kerning. Kerning is the adjustment of space between two specific characters.
A font usually has hundreds of kern pairs built in, but sometimes, especially in display type, you have to make manual kern adjustments to balance out the negative spaces between some letter combinations. 1′s are very bothersome characters, especially when preceded by a hyphen or flanked by round characters. Take our phone number for example.
It’s not that I don’t like the process of kerning because I really do. I don’t mind the extra time it takes. In fact, I get into it and appreciate a good kerning session. (Plus it’s my job.) In the process, I have become hyper sensitive to un-kerned words. They look like spelling errors to me. Kerning really makes the difference between something that looks professionally done and something that looks “desk-top published”.
As I was doing this I started thinking to myself “I can’t wait until this year is over so I don’t have to worry about accidentally overlooking the kerning on the date anymore”. But then I realized it is going to be the same in 2011. Then I realized that this is actually going to be an issue until at least 2019. That’s nine more years! Just think, though, by the end of this decade, I will have a lot more kerning experience under my belt.