Adventures in Kerning

For most, travel is about discovering new cultures, exotic foods, and beautiful landscapes. And we’re all for that, certainly. But for type designers, the secret fun of going abroad is watching a new language in action, with its own particular (or peculiar) behavior. In an oft-repeated moment of type geekery, I snapped this street sign in the Gamla Stan area of Stockholm, with its rare “Yx” pair.

Unanticipated, combinations like this can derail the rhythm of a typeface. Kerning can correct it, but only one pair at a time: it’s an exacting and lengthy procedure. To inform that process, one of our behind-the-scenes projects has been to gather spelling oddities from around the world, lest our fonts get stumped by them. (Really, I wasn’t kidding about being a type geek.) I’ve found, among many many others: Kv in Kvivlax, Finland; Qw in Qwilk and Yb in Ybbsbachamt (both in Austria); and Qq in Qquecalane, Chile. And who knows? They might be nice places to visit too. If you’re visiting any of them and encounter any good signs, send us a photo. We’ve already heard from a designer in Vestfjorden, Norway. —TFJ


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