The importance of AV


As you may know here in the UK we’re about to have a referendum to change the way we vote for our elected MPs. It means I have something important to talk about.


Kerning is the “negative space” between a pair of letters. Where the shapes of two adjacent letterforms complement each other, there is a danger of leaving too large a space between them if you space out the letters too rigidly. In the logo above, the A and the V in the first line have been brought closer together compared to the second line. I hope you can appreciate that “Yes to AV” has the better letter-spacing. And if you can’t, GET OFF MY BLOG!

This is the launch of the “Yes to AV; No to A V” campaign. I even have a logo with totally web 2.0 compliant round corners in a shade that isn’t blue.

Any half decent package that allows you to type in text should allow you to adjust the kerning, the spacing between the letters. In Mac OS X the feature has been built into the standard text widget, and hence incorporated into every application that plays nicely, since the dawn of time. I did the graphic in Inkscape which, being an X11 app, does not play nicely, but it didn’t matter. Most of the time you don’t need to hand kern the spacing between individual letters, because the font files that describe the letterforms also come with kerning tables, to adjust the spacing between pairs of letters that comonly need attention. “AV” is not as common as “Ye” or “Wo” but i’d still expect it to be kerned by the font software.

And so it is. It turns out that in my installation of Inkscape I have two Times fonts that I can choose in the pull-down font selector thingy. One called Times New Roman, one called Times.

So in making my “Yes to AV; No to A V” logo, all I had to do was choose Times New Roman for the “Yes to AV” line, and choose Times for the “No to A V” line. I expect Times New Roman is the system font exposed as an X11 font, and Times is some craptastic knockoff supplied with Inkscape that obviously has second-rate kerning tables. Thanks for that.

This article was of course inspired by the leader in The Observer (you will recall the dark ages of the 20th century when people read the news in print; The Observer is a notable Sunday publication from that era):

Weird. The appalling typography almost distracted me from reading the article (another win for that new-fangled web technology). Even weirder: they get their typography sorted on the opposite page.

So the message is clear: “Yes to AV; No to A V”.


4 Responses to “The importance of AV”

  1. Zach Beane Says:

    I was surprised that Times New Roman as shipped with Windows lacks kerning for accented A combined with V. Try pasting ÄV for example.

    • drj11 Says:

      Nothing special about Windows, doesn’t kern ÄV on my Mac either. Hmm. It probably needs less kerning, but it still needs some.

  2. With a surname like mine, I was aware of the importance of writing AV correctly long before I had ever heard of “kerning”. AVE is quite a nice internal string.

  3. On Fedora 14 with inkscape here I notice kerning like:

    A Á
    Y N Trebuchet
    Y N Times New Roman
    y N verdana
    N N WenQuanYi Zen Hei
    Y Y Bitstream Vera Sans
    Y Y Arial
    Y N Liberation Sans

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