Tag Archives: optical spacing

Typographic Horrors: The Ghost in the Machine Optical Spacing

Part two in our series of gory design:

In an unassuming office building, in Anywhere, U.S.A., a designer sits, her hand on the trigger. Thunder clashes outside, cold rain falls on her keyboard through a leak in the roof . Though the letters beautifully dance together on the page, their individual forms joining in unison to form words and sentences, she needs to fit in just that much more copy. A dark voice in her head whispers, “Just do this so you can go home. It’ll make it fit more easily, the reader be damned!” Temptation overcomes her and she changes the box from “Auto” and starts clicking arrows left and right. Somewhere a typographer dies a little.

In design programs like Adobe Creative Suite, there’s a built-in default for spacing that’s created to go with the metrics built into the professionally crafted font that you’ve purchased. The type designer carefully spaced and kerned the font: a conscious decision based on experience and know-how instead of a mechanical solution. By setting the kerning/spacing to “optical,” you negate the input of the type designer. Though more difficult to do now than the early days of such applications, sometimes people inadvertently end up fiddling with the setting.  So unless you’re a typographer, leave it as is.

“Ghost” in graphic set in FF Pitu by FontFont

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