BIG IDEA: Graphic Design is an art that is all about the details! It’s about perfection! There is no room for error!
This brings us to the minute detail of the spacing between letters—kerning and/or tracking.
Kerning: The visually appropriate placement of the proximity of letters in relation to their neighboring letters in a word.
Tracking: The equal spacing of letters within a word.
Kerning and tracking a word appropriately could mean the difference of creating a calm, sophisticated and serious feeling OR a very stressed, busy feeling.
I’m one for using loose kerning (letters spaced further apart then is normal) for headlines/titles/logos that should be modern or peaceful, like Athleta®. However, for a very active or pressured feeling I will use tight kerning (letters that are spaced very close together then is normal), like FedEx®.
Normal kerning, on the other hand, is your standard spacing where the only thing that you are using to convey the vibe of your company is the typeface you use, like Target®.
One thing to note: When kerning your letters, consider the positive and negative space the letters are creating as they sit next to each other. It is acceptable that the actual spacing might not be equal, the important part is that the spacing should be visually appropriate.
Tracking is good for when you have to cut or even add space in body copy, but a real designer (sorry folks!) doesn’t use tracking within headlines/titles/logos because they are so big that every detail matters.
Not only are these terms important for you to know so that you look really smart when you are amongst other graphic designers, but you WILL need to know these terms when designing with any design program (Adobe Creative Cloud apps recommended!)
More about programs in my next entry.