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InType: Type That Touches

What happens when letters connect…or don’t

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This article appeared in Issue 82 of InDesign Magazine.

Like much in life, good typography is as much about what to leave out as what to include. That special ingredient of space between the letters plays a key role in the way we respond to a message. Often “invisible,” good letterspacing, or tracking, is a key component of readability. It requires contrast between the letters and their background. It’s the background that gives form to the type. While consistency is usually the goal, does that mean consistently tight, consistently loose—or consistently “just right?” And how do we know the difference?

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Nigel French

Nigel French

Nigel French is a graphic designer, photographer, author, and teacher living in Lewes, UK. He is the author of InDesign Type and Photoshop Unmasked, both from Adobe Press, as well as several titles in the lynda.com online training library, including InDesign Typography.
Nigel French

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One Comment on “InType: Type That Touches

  1. If you’re doing book covers, titles for magazine pages, or any other situation where you’ll be using large, highly visible type, adjusting the kerning between letters is a good idea. I just tweak the ones that don’t quite look right until they do. The problems usually arrive with either characters that can overlap slightly, such as “Te” or those are so wide they tend to almost touch, such as “OO.” The default spacing for both may not work well.

    Book covers, being of a fixed size, have a lot of constraints. In some cases you might find that a larger font with tighter spacing works better in the limited space than downsizing the font or pushing the text too close to the edges of the cover. Make it look good since that cover is a potential reader’s first impression. And select a background that offers enough space with an all light or all dark background to fit in that title.

    Given all the book sales that take place online today, it’s a good idea to make sure that title is larger enough and with enough contrast to its background to stand out even as a thumbnail. You want potential buyers to notice it in a long list of search results.

    Do an advanced search of Amazon for a title of “Cats” to see what that means. Some titles are easily read. Others are too small or lost in the clutter of the cover. Remember, that thumbnail may be the first look a potential buyer will get at your book. If it’s unreadable, that may the last look they take.

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