Nick Sherman’s brilliant implementation of the variable format to kerning, in his new Franklin
, features kerning axes that represent two different paradigms. That the end-user may now vary the style of kerning incrementally with both these is really quite profound.
Although, in order to make the concept work, Nick has exercised his taste in putting a huge amount of kerning data into the font, it nonetheless puts the onus on typographers to make their own aesthetic decisions about letter spacing.
In effect, we are entering a third era of non-manual kerning.
- No kerning.
- Foundry kerning.
- Typographer kerning.
Any idea that there is some perfect theory and method of kerning that may be programmed into a font is now dead. More power to the typographer and their taste.
Another possibility would be to put two kerning styles on the same axis, so that the users may slide between them. But perhaps the “Tyght” axis already does that.
nb. It has previously been possible for typographers to apply both methods to the same font, by turning off the “Metrics” kerning in a tight-but-not-touching font, and applying “Optical” kerning—but that lacked the variable dimension.
I don’t understand the purpose of being offered continuum choices between two foundry kernings, which are so aesthetically distinct. What is “61.8% ‘normal’ kerning mixed with 38.2% ‘tight-but-not-touching’ kerning” supposed to achieve?
I understand the extreme ends of foundry kernings: The “normal” kerning preserves some kind of rhythm while the “tight-but-not-touching” kerning evokes a particular style and feel, both of which I may or may not agree with the foundry, aesthetically. I tried setting the word “RAVEN” in HEX Franklin—the in-between kerning did not work for me at all.
My old person sensibilities to setting type is using one person's pre-programed (yes, but variable) is...meh. In the present demo I feel that just because it can be done doesn't mean it's automatically a good thing.
Have different type drawers space and kern the same font.
I know of four paradigms/methodologies:
Are there others?
- Tight but not touching
- Tight with overlapping
- Normal for text
The word “RAVEN” is chosen on purpose—it has an awkward “RA”, a diagonal-to-diagonal “AV”, a diagonal-to-straight “VE”, and a mostly neutral “EN”, in quick succession. This is ideal for evaluating how a typeface performs (I could have gone with the more extreme “LAVENDER”).
The in-between kerning does have novelty: Typotheque’s Lava comes to mind. In Size-Specific Spacing of Fonts, Peter Biľak writes “[e]ssentially, we spaced and kerned every font in the family three times, for a small size of about 6 points, a default size of 10 points, and a large size of 48 points […]” In this case, the intention of the variable spacing and in-between kerning is clear—I understand that the interpolated spacing and kerning are related to size.
Nick, I know of 8 paradigms (for proportional fonts) devised by Igino Marini at iKern.
I’d envision Igino’s model as a two-axis variation model (2D design space). One axis is “Text-Display” and the other axis is “Legible-Readable”. Every instance is then represented by an arbitrary point within a 2D square. However, within that square, not all instances are considered. Only the instances in the vicinity of an inscribed circle may have the most practical uses (according to Igino). We get the 8 paradigms by cutting that circle into 8 arcs. This is very similar to a color (hue) wheel.
An interesting observation: Out of the 8 paradigms, only 3 were supplied with illustrations, and these 3 were precisely the ones mentioned by Nick.
In any case, throwing out less-useful instances (omitting the square’s corners and the disk’s interior) kind of supports my opinions toward in-between kernings.