Archives for category: Design Commentary

Imagine pouring water over the top of the word. Now imagine the water falling between the letters and flowing out the baseline. If it appears that the water is flowing faster or slower in one area, then it’s time to kern.

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When kerning type, visually divide the letters into groups of threes. This helps by removing the meaning of the word and by focusing your attention on a smaller, more manageable area.

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If you’ve been in the design business for awhile, you probably recognize this little fan book thingy in the photo. Believe it or not there was a time when print jobs were plentiful and a designer had to reference this beautiful tool almost daily. Yet, even with all of those colors at your disposal, none of them seemed exactly right. Once you decided on a general color, say red, an ensuing mental deliberation took place to figure out which red was, The Red. You’d pull out 5 different reds and tape them next to a different color that you were equally unsure about. Once you felt sort of good about your decision then you’d update your digital file and give yourself a hearty pat on the back and go get coffee. When you came back to your desk you’d look at the colors and say, “What the hell was I thinking?!?”

The point is, color selection used to be an art that took a lot of time, thought and study. Now, with the evaporating print market and the ever-booming digital environment, color selection seems to be much simpler. You still have to use color theory, but there just aren’t as many colors to filter through. If you want red, you either pick red, dark red or pink, because those are the colors that will look good on most monitors. There are no longer 30 different varying degrees of red that you have to wrangle over, unless you’re still somehow printing work. But even then, you’re probably picking CMYK colors and not PMS, which is another story for another time.

I guess in the end, the simplification of color selection is a good thing and it makes a designer’s job easier. But, I kind of miss those times when it felt like an accomplishment to crack the color code and come up with something unique and ownable, even if it did take a half day and 3 cups of coffee to solve.