I’d like to welcome you personally to KernProse. As our name suggests, this site was created to professional typography, with the professional typographer and graphic artist in mind (serious amateurs welcome).
With the advent of desktop publishing, our working lives were supposed to be simplified. We were told that digital technology would enable just about anyone to have the tools to become copywriters, designers, illustrators and even, supposedly, typesetters. While it’s true that the tools are potentially there, it’s become apparent that talent and skill must continue to play a major role.
It’s been said that good design doesn’t need decoration, and that decoration can obscure good design. This adage applies to all of the creative disciplines. It’s in the very nature of color, for instance, to dazzle the eyes without forcing the designer or the viewer to look deeper. Still, though the potential audience may not consciously realize what it is that bothers (or pleases) them, there nevertheless remains an almost subliminal message that speaks of quality (or the lack thereof).
It’s possible that there isn’t any discipline where this is more true than in the field of professional typography. When I was first hired to set up an in-house type studio at a well-known, award-winning ad agency sixteen years ago, most of the Art Directors were resistant to the idea of setting type on the Mac. They believed that only conventional type houses were capable of professionally spaced typography. In many ways, they were right. At that time, conventional command-line typesetting equipment used individually prekerned tables in ranges based on font weights and broken down by point sizes. The typical Postscript or TrueType font has many unusable or seldom-used glyph and type combinations. I’ve often wondered if it was actually typographers who set up those tables.
As a rule, the speed at which we have all been forced to find creative solutions has not truly allowed for the necessary hand-tooling of letter-pair relationships. By using a program like Quark, many of us have been in a position to attempt to do this manually via the measurements palette. What we’ve found is that we do, in fact, have the ability to adjust our type, but at the expense of time and consistency. With the usual copy changes that happen in the normal production cycle, truly consistent, professional typography is nearly impossible for anything more than a headline.
In addition to spacing, internal typesetting raised the whole issue of grammar, punctuation and typography knowledge that was the standard of professional type houses — and that designers never had to worry about. Now that we were setting our own type, we had to figure out when to use an en dash, which diacriticals were correct, how to size and space a copyright mark, etc.
Well, in time we were able to win the agency over. We discovered that it truly is possible to create professionally typeset documents — and to do it on time and on budget. Our web site is devoted to this almost dying art. We are convinced that the major reason it is dying is essentially that most typographers are not aware of all the tools available to them, and we are committed to sharing with everyone the tools and techniques we’ve learned and developed.
We welcome you to KernProse, and hope we will become one of those tools you can use in producing quality typesetting of your own.