studiotwentysix2 the art + design of tom davie

Thursday, May 3, 2007

K ERNI N G 1 0 1

Late last night, I was searching through hundreds of old movie posters looking for some typographic ingenuity. After a solid hour of flirting with the Horror and Drama genres, I decided to slide on over to Action. Ah, glorious Action, with your minimal plot lines and over-the-top effects, how I adore you. Within minutes of searching through the Action posters, my focus became clear, find the most bitchin’ Dolph Lundgren poster ever conceived. Why this task, you ask? I can only respond...Why is the grass green? Why do people insist on putting Rosie O’Donnell in front of a television camera? Why does it consistently and unexpectedly thunder and lightning when I’m outside grilling near an exposed flame and open propane tank?

During my quest to identify and crown the king of the Lundgren’s, a terrible thing occurred — I came face-to-face with the Direct Action poster.


Did the photoshopped bruise on Dolph’s left cheek disgust me? No. Was I intimidated by his cross-eyed stare and stone-cold vigilante face? Hardly. Did his Ironman digital watch or shirtsleeve-as-tourniquet trick distract me? Please. Was I irritated by the six-word tagline broken into four separate lines, resulting in a widow* infested pseudo-column? Most certainly. What remaining element struck fear in my heart and offended every design sensibility in my being? The Direct Action logotype — which, my friends, is without a doubt, nothing short of typographic heresy.

Perhaps my reaction is a bit excessive, and those with an untrained eye will say, “So what, it’s just some frikkin’ type?”

It’s true, it’s just some type, but it’s also some bastardized, not-even-attempted-to-be-kerned type. This I can’t ignore. This ladies and gentlemen, drives me absolutely nuts.

Before I even get to the kerning, here is a comparison of the two C’s used in the logotype. I mean seriously, what the hell?


I simply cannot think of one acceptable reason as to why these letterforms are not the same size and shape. What’s even more confusing is that the designer had to go out of his or her way to manipulate the letterforms to achieve this. I can hear the internal dialogue now, “You know, this typeface looks too good as it is, I think it needs to suck more, maybe if I pull and stretch it a little, awww yeah, that’s hot”. It’s a good thing that Eric Gill is deceased, because if he were alive to see his Gill Sans abused like a baby’s diaper, he would probably be rocking in the fetal position, muttering phrases like: Can one man, Lundgren, beveled-edges and Action...ACTION.

Okay, enough with Gill. I need to focus my attention on the aforementioned kerning issue by offering typographic know-how for the greater good. If you are unfamiliar with the word “kern”, it’s a term used in typography that means adjusting the space between letterforms so they appear to be equal distance from one another.

For the sake of example, I have recreated the Direct Action logotype without all the fancy beveled-edges and gritty lava-colored effects (Yes, I am fully aware that I’m a dork). Black and white is the manner in which type should be evaluated, because evil is easily recognized in its purest form. On the left side of the C’s, is a huge gap, large enough to require a Tarzan-like vine to cross it, or spelunking gear to explore it — in other words, it’s wrong. On the right side of the C’s, you will notice the T’s have demanded restraining orders, due to the violation of personal space — different offense, but equally wrong.


Using ten transparent dots, I have flagged the main areas that require adjusting. A quality designer will take the time to reposition each letter, to ensure even visual spacing and letterform harmony. A typographic Pet Sounds, if you will.


The illustration below shows the shifting of the letters. As a reference point, I have aligned the A’s in “Action” from the original and my version. The areas in purple are the original type, the areas in orange with black outline, are my corrections (and the solid pink shows areas of overlap).


Here is the revised logotype that even Dolph Lundgren would appreciate:


Whew! Future catastrophes avoided. Since that’s taken care of, I can now return to the task at hand, showing you the baddest-of-the-bad, the mayor of Lundgrenville — The 1987, Masters of the Universe, French edition movie poster.


I mean honestly, what’s not to love about this poster? Any 24 x 36 inch space that can integrate oodles of hetero and homosexual undertones with the French language, a mullet, a male Speedo / leotard and a gun-toting pixie-sized Courtney Cox, is unquestionably top-notch. Even the style is fantastic. If Star Wars, Mad Max, Fabio and every Journey album cover since 1978, engaged in a night of drinking and debauchery, I’m guessing the illegitimate offspring might look a little something like this. There you have it, Masters of the Universe, Lundgren style.

I’m sorry to say that it’s time we Faithfully go our Separate Ways.

*Widow - undesirable typographic term that refers to a single word (typically eight letters or less) that has been left on its own line of type, causing too much white space or an interruption to the reader’s eye.

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