Akira Says ... Linotype’s Monthly Typographic Tip

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Akira says ...

Typographic Tip of the Month from Linotype’s Type Director Akira Kobayashi!

October 2007: A few words on letter spacing

Optical Spacing Option in Adobe InDesign
In Adobe InDesign, there is an Optical Spacing option available for the spacing between individual glyph pairs, or kerning. The Optical Spacing selection overrides the metrics information stored in the font file itself, or specific values that one enters into the window.

How to deal with large amounts of text
In general, especially when using quality fonts in a setting where there is a fair amount of text, we recommend relying on the Metrics setting, which uses the fonts’ own spacing information, as defined by the type designer or font manufacturer. If a large amount of text, say a paragraph or page or even more text that is meant to be read, is going to be used with a well-made font at a setting appropriate for a book, magazine, newspaper, etc., you should not select the whole block of text and change the kerning settings to Optical. Unless you perhaps hate the font’s spacing altogether!

Text with modified metric settings

Text with standard metric settings

Optical setting for specific glyph pairs
The Optical setting is much more appropriate for specific glyph pairs. If, for instance, you feel that there is too much space &ndash or too little &ndash between the “W” and the “a” in a line of text, and you aren’t sure what specific number you should enter in to correct that spacing, then you could use the Optical setting. In this instance, it may be very good. Let your eye and your intuitions guide you.

Add spacing to strings of all caps or to the small caps, but not with the kerning feature
In traditionally set books, small caps are often found for items like running heads or the first few words or line of a chapter. Small caps, or strings of all capital letters, may also appear in other portions of the text as well. Strings of all caps or of small caps almost always need additional spacing than what is settled upon in the font’s default information (take also a look at the Font feature about the correct use of small caps.

Whole words? Keep your hands away from the InDesign’s text palette’s Oprical setting. It may successfully improve the spacing between two letters from different typefaces, or between two letters of different sizes, but it is not appropriate for a complete word – sometimes, it can make the whole word-image appear false. Only use the Optical setting to improve the spacing between individual letter pairs, not to change the spacing of an entire word!

Fonts used in these examples:
Frutiger® Capitalis
Bauer Bodoni™

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