It’s something that nobody really notices, I only just found out about it myself, and even a small mistake can easily go unnoticed. But it makes a huge amount of difference, so much so that when it goes incredibly wrong, it’s suddenly very noticeable. That is bad kerning, when letters are placed together poorly or too close or far apart so that they become hard to read. Often with unfortunate consequences:
The above is probably one of the most well known examples on the web. That and the ‘fuckering lights’ (Google it).
Kerning is mainly a headache felt by graphic designers. If you want to piss of a graphic designer, mention kerning and watch them go mad. But I think it applies to proofreaders too. We proofreaders can recognise when our clients have been a little over zealous with the space bar and will correct it.
I didn’t even notice until now that my part time job involves kerning as well. One of my duties is to change the peg board at the end of the day to show what films are going to be on the next day. I like to think that this is where my skills as a proofreader come into play as the board needs to be checked thoroughly so that it displays the correct films and times. There’s nothing worse then when a customer comes in to watch a film that isn’t even on and is upset when their plans for the evening are ruined.
It’s also important that the letters are spaced correctly so that the board is easy to read. I solve this by taking a few steps back and making sure it looks alright, the same thing I do when proofreading a document.
I went out with my camera to find some examples of kerning (more on my findings on a later date) and found an example of bad kerning only a few doors away from my house!
This sign has bad kerning all over the place. Thank you is two different words, Salvation Army!
What is this film called? I seriously can’t tell.
Is it Gone or G o n e?
The lettering is just all over the place in this one and it looks horrible.
So the film’s name is ‘Adam Sandler is Jack and Jill?’
Not a bad poster, but what is with that sneaky little S?
Here are some of my favourite general examples from around the web:
Aww, I love you too Mum!
Pem’s? Pern’s? Penis?
Now that’s a great ad slogan.