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Kerning of the apostrophe (in Minion Pro)

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nelpod's picture
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Joined: 20 Jul 2007 - 11:12am
Kerning of the apostrophe (in Minion Pro)
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I'm looking for information on how the apostrophe "should" be kerned in the case of contractions and possessives, like don't, he'd, Pete's and James'. In particular, I'm interested to hear what people think of the very tight kerning in Minion Pro.

The most extreme combination that I have found in Minion Pro is e'd, which is set almost exactly as ed with the apostrophe added afterwards, that is, no extra space whatsoever. To me, this doesn't look very good: for instance, it almost turns he'd/she'd into hed/shed. I'd looks similar.

I've attached a small sample for reference (original font size is 10pt), keep in mind that I'm talking about running text here, not headings and so on. The sample shows metric and optical kerning in InDesign CS3. I've also included four lines set using LaTeX, showing how the different groupings look. (I couldn't do it in InDesign: it seems as if InDesign ignores zero-width spaces when it does metric kerning?) Please ignore that the InDesign text is grey and not black, a mistake on my part.

To me, InDesign's optical kerning looks better in the case of he'd, but not necessarily so in the case of quotation marks. An easy way to differentiate the two would be if different code points were used, for example U+02BC (MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE) in he'd and U+2019 (RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK) in quotes. However, the Unicode Consortium thinks otherwise, stating that U+2019 should be used for he'd and so on, leaving U+02BC for glottal stops and such; see The Unicode Standard 5.0, section 6.2, "Apostrophes".

I'm not sure, but I don't think it is possible using OpenType and metric kerning to encode "conditional" kerning, where the apostrophe is kerned differently depending on whether or not it is a quote, as instructed by the software. Of course, it would be possible to add a'd, b'd, c'd, ..., to the kerning table, leaving the rest as kern-as-in-quote, but that would really bloat the kerning table (or the other way around, if all characters preceding a quote are known).

Obviously, this must have been a conscious design decision by Slimbach, so I really don't feel comfortable just changing it to something of my liking without a second opinion. Having said that, I'd be happy if you could tell me which of the four LaTeX samples (He'd, He{'d}, H{e'}d, He{'}d) you think looks best.

Perhaps the tight kerning is great, and I just have to learn how to read it...

Tried searching the archives, but I didn't find anything.

William Berkson's picture
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Joined: 26 Feb 2003 - 11:00am
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I'm a great admirer of Slimbach, but I agree that his kerning of both apostrophes and quotes is much too tight.

To me, the kerning in the apostrophe ideally would be between your Slimbach and the 'Optical' examples. The second Latex example is in the middle of the space, which looks right, but personally I'd like a little more space.

My feeling is that the apostrophes should ideally be tighter than quotes. I'm going to have to deal with the soon in my font, but I don't know the best way to do it. I'd be interested in others' views.

Right now I'm inclining to the view that one space around the right single quote should be able to serve both as a quote and an apostrophe, without a huge amount of kerning. After all, that's how they did it with metal type, and it worked well enough.

In 'Letters of Credit', Tracy recommends a little more space after the opening quotes than before closing quotes. This tightness would also serve to keep the apostrophe not too loose.

Stephan Kurz's picture
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Joined: 22 Jul 2005 - 2:19pm
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I second William's argument that the LaTeX sample #2 (e{'d}) looks best. I did not try a e\kern.5pt{'\kern.5ptd} variant since I couldn't figure out how to make Minion Pro accessible to LaTeX…

Michel Boyer's picture
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Joined: 2 Jun 2007 - 1:01pm
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Here is is (pdflatex, partial fontinst installation of Minion Pro):

[edit] Indications on how to install Minion Pro for LaTeX can be found here but I never took the time to try. Owens says that his method works well with many other Adobe fonts.

Michel Boyer's picture
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Joined: 2 Jun 2007 - 1:01pm
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Spacing is something that is language dependent. If your text is to contain many languages, changing the spacing in the font itself is thus of no help. LaTeX provides a mechanism that solves that problem, namely the babel package; by specifiying in the input what language you are starting to use, LaTeX uses the appropriate spacing and hyphenation patterns for the input till the next language change. For your question, here is a very basic file myspacing.ldf that does the job. First, instead of kerning by 0.5pt, it kerns by 0.05em, so as to handle all font sizes. If you put the file myspacing.ldf in your working directory and have the following input

\usepackage[myspacing]{babel}
\begin{document}\noindent
\Myspacingtrue
\LARGE he's \Large he's \large he's \normalsize he's\\[0.5ex]
\Myspacingfalse
\LARGE he's \Large he's \large he's \normalsize he's
\end{document}

then the output will be

You can turn on and off at will your spacing convention and adjust the file myspacing.ldf so as to get exactly what you want. All you need to do is to fix in it the line

\kern0.05em\string'\kern0.05em

so as to get the kerning you want.

If someone that knows more about babel is watching, I would be glad to learn how I could improve this little ldf file.

Michel

[edit] There are problems with double quotes and for some reason, this file interferes with "thebibliography". It is thus far from being a "product". I think the idea is interesting though.

[edit++] Of course, the input needs to start with \documentclass{article} and a command to select the font Minion Pro.

nelpod's picture
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Joined: 20 Jul 2007 - 11:12am
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Thanks to everyone who responded, I very much appreciate the input.

Regarding fonts in LaTeX, you should all try XeTeX. I've only used it on Mac OS X, but it gives you direct access to fonts installed in the system, making it extremely easy to try out new fonts. ("Extremely easy" if you're used to (La)TeX font installations, "as easy as you'd expect" if you're not.)

The main drawback with XeTeX, I think, is that it doesn't support the microtype package (protrusion, font expansion and such) and I found direct PDF generation a bit tricky, but it works once you find the right driver.

However, there is an easy way of getting Minion Pro in LaTeX, namely using the MinionPro package (project home page is here). The installation is pretty simple and really fast since they have already extracted the metrics (which in the case of Optical sizes take an eternity). The package also allows easy switching between different figures, see the documentation.

In fact, there is a loosequotes option, which adds 0.03 em around every single and double quote. However, I'm a bit reluctant to use it since I'm quite happy with the spacing in for example f's (= f's), and I want to disturb the original font design as little as possible.

If you don't already have a working LaTeX installation, I'd recommend trying TeX Live. Using the live-DVD you only have to install a small number of files (all in one single directory), the rest is accessed from a mounted DVD image.

Michel Boyer's picture
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Joined: 2 Jun 2007 - 1:01pm
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I just installed the MinionPro package and it was indeed easy. I have both teTeX and MacTex-2007, and I have tried xeLaTeX but, since I require lots of packages for mathematics, I am afraid that xelatex will not serve me much. On the other hand, I felt like using Warnock with opticals, and I am afraid there is no fast way. Thanks.

Michel

Kent Lew's picture
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Joined: 21 Apr 2002 - 11:00am
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I agree, the current Minion Pro apostrophe kerning is too tight for my taste. Interestingly, the original PS T1 kerning was much more conservative.

top: Minion Pro (OT)
bottom: Minion Regular (PS T1)

Michel Boyer's picture
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Joined: 2 Jun 2007 - 1:01pm
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Mike, your tight output with Minion Pro does not correspond to what I got. There are three versions of Minion Pro OT. I realize that with the one coming from "Adobe Type Classics for Learning" (version 001.000) and with the MinionPro package, I get the same tight kerning you do; maybe I was using version 002.000 with my previous trials, which is the last version of Minion Pro. I have no time to check today.

Michel Boyer's picture
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Joined: 2 Jun 2007 - 1:01pm
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I just checked and it appears that my different tracking came more from my own installation than from the fonts themselves. Here are the trackings in the two fonts. First Minion Pro 001.000 otf (directly from the CD)

and now from Minion Pro 002.000 otf

Michel

Michel Boyer's picture
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Joined: 2 Jun 2007 - 1:01pm
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I checked and checked again to make sure, could hardly believe it but yes, in version 002.000 it is even tighter than in version 001.000 of the otf font.

Michel Boyer's picture
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Joined: 2 Jun 2007 - 1:01pm
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I just took the time to look more closely at what is happening with LaTeX and which left me quite puzzled. Here is what I found. When we install the MinionPro package, we download the same TeX virtual fonts, independently of the version of the otf font being used. That means that, so far as I understand, the close tracking I got when I last tested with the MinionPro package had nothing to do with the version of the otf font I installed. If we apply vftovp for instance to the file MinionPro-Regular-lf-t1.vf, we can see that the virtual font kerns a "d" by -0.138 after a quoteright (coded as octal 47). Many other vf files contain that kerning pair, to take care of the various package options. That means that the kerning corresponds to version 002.000 (see picture above), even if I installed version 001.000.

Michel

Matthew Silverstein's picture
Joined: 15 May 2004 - 8:13am
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The kerning of the apostrophe is also too tight in Adobe Jenson, at least to my amateur eyes.

Stephan Kurz's picture
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Joined: 22 Jul 2005 - 2:19pm
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Michel, thanks for the hint to myspacing.ldf. Thanks to nelpod’s and your help, I now have (at least partial, but sufficient for my uses) Minion Pro support in my LaTeX tree. I can now experience for myself that the apostrophe is kerned too tight in Minion Pro ;-) But we have an antidote…

Michel Boyer's picture
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Joined: 2 Jun 2007 - 1:01pm
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Bringhurst's book The Elements of Typographic Style is great, not just for its content, but also for its form which exemplifies the content. The book's text face is Minion Pro. In it's version 3.1, page 34, are given examples of kerning pairs for English, French and German. The first line of the next picture is taken from Bringhurst (with a basic camera), the second line is the kerning as given by my Minion Pro otf v 001.000 file (version 002.000 is still tighter).

>But we have an antidote…

I am afraid that the file mykerning.ldf has too many side effects to be used as an antidote and I have no time to work on it or to learn more about those ldf files. The MinionPro package also contains the source files, and I used them to get the virtual fonts corresponding to MinionPro otf version 001.000 (and I felt that was an improvement, especially for the French apostrophe). The sources also contain a directory to add "missing kerning pairs"; I did not check if it overrides the original Adobe kerning, but that would be my next try.

nelpod's picture
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Joined: 20 Jul 2007 - 11:12am
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Michel Boyer: Thanks for pointing out the defect in the LaTeX package, I had simply assumed that the package was correct in using the same metric for all font versions.

I too have reverted to using the source package. I'd be a bit wary of the --kern switch (on by default) though, according to the README it will "add some missing kerning pairs". This is a bad idea if the designer felt the unkerned pair looked best, but more seriously they appear to overwrite some of Adobe's kerning. (I only checked Regular: T adieresis, V adieresis, W adieresis, Y t and f egrave appear to be different, at least in my version.)

I haven't decided if I should use the additional/changed kerning provided by the package, but to "fix" the 'd-kerning, I decided to add some space between the two (the easiest way is probably to add --ligkern 'quoteright {desired-kerning} d' to the definition of extra_flags in scripts/maketfm, or alternatively -- if --kern is used -- by using a % LIGKERN quoteright {desired-kerning} d line to the suitable kerning/fontname.kern file.)

Michel Boyer's picture
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Joined: 2 Jun 2007 - 1:01pm
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@nelpod. The switch --kern overrites Adobe's kerns. I just added a % LIGKERN quoteright {-85} d (to try) in the file Regular.kern, applied vftovp to MinionPro-Regular-lf-t1.vf and saw in the output that the kern was indeed -0.085. It is still unclear to me why that kerning pair has changed so much from the type1 version to the last otf version and I'd like to know. For the moment, I am just experimenting.

Charles Ellertson's picture
Joined: 3 Nov 2004 - 11:00am
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I took a look for the fun of it. In the Minion Type 1 MM, the "quoteright" - "d" had a kern of -75 units. In my version of MininPro (Opticals, 05/08/2005) the kern is -105 units -- because of the class it is in. BTW, when I used Minion as a Type 1 font, I had changed the kern to -45 units.

Even worse is the kern against the "e", as in "e" "quoteright".

I doubt this is Slimbach's doing -- he may have had a say in the kerning of the original Type 1 fonts, but it is probably some lesser minion doing the class-based kerning now.

For the fun of it, try setting the string "A" "quoteright" "comma" in Warnock Pro. The kerning is so tight that even though a "quoteright" intervenes, the "comma" runs into the "A"

I'm almost to the point where I am going to throw out all the kerning in some of these Adobe fonts & start over -- even though it would be weeks of work if you cover the full character complement. Sigh.

William Berkson's picture
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Joined: 26 Feb 2003 - 11:00am
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>I doubt this is Slimbach’s doing

Really? He is the lead type designer at Adobe, and because type design is such a detail-oriented activity, I can't imagine that he wouldn't catch this if someone else did it. I would guess the other way, that this is the way he wants it.

k.l.'s picture
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Joined: 6 Aug 2005 - 8:41am
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Quotes/apostrophe got more space in the new Arno Pro so they do not glue at the word as in earlier typefaces. I like this.

For the fun of it, try setting the string 'A' 'quoteright' 'comma' in Warnock Pro. The kerning is so tight that even though a 'quoteright' intervenes, the 'comma' runs into the 'A'

Currently kerning is limited to pairs, so it is a tough decision at times: kern less (always!) or take into account that such overlaps occur. (Similar for 'V comma quoteleft' in German where comma/period are inside the quote, not outside of it.)

[Hm, something wrong with the smart quotes?]

Andre Simard's picture
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Joined: 8 Dec 2016 - 12:50pm
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I finally found a way to solve this problem. I switch to a optical kerning with a spacing set à minus 10.