Letter spacing is essential in commercial graphic design – if you want to look professional. This article will demonstrate some common letter spacing techniques in the context of logo design and branding.
I have started with Helvetica (a sans-serif font) here because it’s very easy to work with (especially in caps) as all the latters are pretty much the same width, it’s also very bold. There may be times when this wide letterspacing works for you but with a logo you should always try less spacing as a general rule.
Bringing letters closer together helps to turn the word into more of an image. Reducing the spacing has also made the word much stronger – which is great when you are working with brand identity design. The letterspacing reduction above is extreme but sometimes it might need to be. Overall, less letter spacing works best for most logo designs.
[Illustrator: Window / Character] – For changing the letter spacing.
Now we have swapped Helvetica for Bembo to display how a serif font reacts to the same reduced letter spacing. Immediately you are probably drawn to the centre between the O and the G, after this you notice how tiny the L looks when compared with the other letters. This is to do with the weight, width and shape of one letter in relation to the next. In this case we need to look closer at the spacing of each individual letter.
What you are aiming for is an equal space around the main body of each letter. This doesn’t mean that each letter has a 2mm gap to the right, as your serifs (the bits that stick out) effect how we can actually use our space. Notice that the gap between the G and the last O is wider than the other gaps, and yet the letter G is still touching the letter O. It’s about finding the happy medium. I have also increased the line spacing between the L and the first O, by giving the letter more space it has become stronger and balances much better with the rest of the logo.
This typeface is Bickamp Pro – one of the most commonly used fonts, alongside Helvetica and Bembo. Notice that the letters are joined up, this is going to cause us problems when we alter the letter spacing as the letters won’t join up correctly.
With a line space reduction of -50 you can see that all of the joins are out of alignment and although the effect does have quite a nice grungy feel about – it won’t work for one of your more classier clients. So the question is … “How do we change the letter spacing without ruining the typeface”?
My solution is to use a seperate layer for each letter in your logo, all letter spacing from this point on will be done by eye – which is fine. Now that the letters are seperated some of the joins are missing, and some have changed.
This is a rough attempt but you can see that we have eliminated the alignment issue. To take this appraoch further and get exactly the right effect you would need to rasterize the type and turn it into an image – which will be covered in my next tutorial… ‘Type as an Image’