Spacing for display

Frode Bo Helland's picture

If a typeface is well spaced for use at paragraph sizes, the white inside and between letters should appear — generally speaking — equal. If one goes about spacing the same face for display use, you’ll need to space it somewhat tighter. If you decrease the white between letters, shouldn’t you also decrease the white inside letters? This will most likely be achieved with a display variant. My question is: How do you decrease the internal white? Draw the letters narrower? Where do you take it from? Increase the size of serifs? Lower the x-height? Make the stems heavier?

I wonder, since typically, a display variant would be lighter, have a taller x-height and even sometimes smaller serifs: all increasing the white inside letters, leaving the heavy lifting to width.

Gräfenberg's picture

Maybe the problem is just with the premise, that the white inside and between letters should appear equal?

Display versions are lighter as you say, and they may be spaced very tightly at times... although in recent decades wide spacing hasn’t exactly been absent from the scene!

riccard0's picture

I think that, while for a text face a “rhythmic” alternance of black and white could be beneficial for immersive reading, the notan of a display cut would adhere to different rules.
Not least because the different relationship with whitespace.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

What are these different rules?

As I understand it, the relationship and rythm of black and white — notan, if you like that term — in a text face serves the purpose of creating an even “surface” for the identifying features. Correct me if I’m wrong!

hrant's picture

{To Follow}

riccard0's picture

I like the term just because it’s japanese ;-)
And what I’m trying to say is:

  • For a text face, the optimal relationship between black and white is of an equal rhythm, both horizontally and vertically (every line of text relating to the preceding and following ones).
  • For a display face, that relationship is more akin of that of graphics. And its vertical relationship is with other graphical elements on the page (the whitespace, paragraphs as a whole, etc.).

Black and white relationship doesn’t need to be equal, it needs to be complementary. And a “display” line of text could need a tighter spacing in order to not “falling apart”, because it lacks the support of a whole paragraph. But that doesn’t mean it need to be darker too: a single black dot on an otherwise white page is equally distinguishable, regardless of its size.

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