Keming, or the importance of not being a click.

Spasimir Dinev / Tuesday, March 8, 2016


This is Important

Let me start with some namedropping, to prove the importance of the subject. Apple just changed the kerning of the word “click“ on the El Capitan website (and tens of articles were published instantly on the topic), because the ‘c’ and ‘l’ were almost stuck together, forming a lovely ‘d’. And no marketing or PR department wants to deal with the consequences.

Subtle, but important kerning decision.

A small step for Apple, but a huge leap for kerning.


Get Comfortable with the Terms

KERNING, in short, is the distance between two letters in a word.

KEMING is a fake term to describe what happens when you don’t kern properly. Most often, two adjacent letters are placed so close to one another that they combine visually to form a third letter, sometimes making you sound like a click.

Keming as a term was first coined in 2008

Keming. n. The result of improper kerning. The term was first coined in 2008 by David Friedman.


Where Do We See Keming?

It’s everywhere - on websites, packaging, custom lettering, posters, menus, signs.

Most of the times it's just a small illegibility issue that bothers a handful of designers.

ST OP, in the name of love.

Often times, though, keming can cause confusion and mockery for your brand.

Spam Restaurant? img source


Or it can be really, really bad.

Again with this click...


Bonus: Diesel being Diesel, is being brave by breaking all the rules:

Diesel - Only the brave. image source

Now that we’ve seen that even Apple can make this mistake, here are some other beautiful examples we should watch out for:

  • pom
  • burn
  • pen is
  • therapist

Keming can produce bad results both when sticking the letters together(ex. burn = bum) and when making gaps in the middle of the word, separating it in two meaningful parts (ex. therapist = the rapist). Check out some more “fun“ images here and here.

Here are some kerning tips to improve the look and feel of your design and not frustrate marketing and PR.


How to Avoid Keming:

1. Use trusted fonts. Every font has built-in kerning, and the free, cheap, poorly designed fonts can play expensive tricks on you.

2. Whenever you have to use auto kerning, double and triple check the end result

3. For print. Make sure that when you send print files over to a printing house, all your fonts are in curves. Always.

4. For print. Adobe’s Creative Cloud has the “optical“ option for kerning letters that automatically "makes typography great again“. Learn more about kerning in Illustrator

5. For web. Use either automatic kerning with CSS, or go the extra mile and use lettering.js, kerning.js or a similar library

6. Check again. Read the whole text. Give it to as many people as possible to proofread.


Fun and Games

How keen is your eye when it comes to kerning?

Play "Kern Me"

And lastly

Show me you give a FLICK about kerning and share your thoughts & some examples in the comments section.