Title text: I have never been as self-conscious about my handwriting as when I was inking in the caption for this comic.
In typography, kerning refers to the spacing between consecutive letters in printed material or the process of adjusting said spacing. Examples of bad kerning include text that adds so much space between letters of one word that it appears to be two words, or by including so little space between letters that they run together "A" and "V" might have their slanting sides overlap or "r" and "n" together might look like an "m". (This latter case has resulted in the slang term "keming" for this type of kerning.) Extreme examples of bad kerning can lead to humorous or inappropriate text.
Kerning has been an issue in typography since the early era of printing presses and movable type but has taken on new challenges with digital printing. Typical non-designers using basic word processing software don't pay much attention to kerning. A good graphic designer, however, can compensate for bad kerning by individually adjusting the spacing between problem letters. People who specialize in graphic design or layout (and, thus, who are exposed to digital text on a regular basis) can become hyper-sensitive to bad kerning, seeing it in signs or other printed materials prepared by people without such sensitivity to bad kerning.
In the comic, the kerning in the sign is badly done: the spacing between C and I (in "City"), between C and E (in "Offices"), and even slightly between F and I (also in "Offices") is inconsistent. The space between the C and E is almost as wide as the space between the words. One character is clearly frustrated while the other character doesn't notice the problem at all.
The comic explains that once a person learns what good kerning is, he or she will get irritated by shoddy kerning in the future. And since it is very irritating to be annoyed every time this happens, Randall suggest that you teach this to someone you really hate. Unfortunately, the comic itself has also taught us to be annoyed. Thanks, Randall.
Incidentally, Google Search features an easter egg regarding this very topic: searching for the word "kerning" causes every instance of that word to be badly overspaced. On the other hand, searching for "keming" will cause every instance to be even more badly underspaced.
The title text is written by Randall explaining that as he was writing this comic about kerning, he was very self-conscious of his own handwriting. The act of thinking about kerning (and likely, the act of drawing an example of such bad kerning) made him aware of it in his own writing. He probably hates the one who made him aware of this, although it gave him this idea for a comic (that if he is correct, will make a lot of people hate him now).
- [There is a poorly-kerned sign on the side of a building. Two Cueball-like guys are standing in front of it. The first guy has his hands in fits up in front of him and a black cloud over his head.]
- C ITY OFF IC ES
- First guy: Argh!
- Second guy: What?
- [Caption below the frame:]
- If you really hate someone, teach
- them to recognize bad kerning.
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