Jeremy asked in a comment on my previous letterspacing post that I do more letterspacing analyses. So here’s goes.

 

 

 

He suggested the Hollywood sign, but I think that’s a bit unfair. Just getting the damn thing up there was hard enough: demanding good lettersapcing from the crew would be just too much. Besides the “letterspacing” changes depending on where you’re standing when you look at it. See how the H and the D behave in these pictures. But Hollywood, in its metonymic sense, is open to letterspacing criticism: for an industry which spends so much money on the look of their films it seems odd to me that they seem to care little about the appearance of lines of caps. Take for example the poster for the archetypical “That’s Entertainment”.

Quite apart from the awfulness of the typeface used in this poster — the best one can say is that maybe someone thought it was entertaining — there’s a feeling of their trying to cram the title into that ugly box while keeping it as big as possible. Come on MGM, make the box bigger, and let the title breathe. It’s not like they always lacked typographical taste. Their old sign was nicely letterspaced, and even had that affected old-style feature of the V in place of the vulgar U.

Photo: sonypicturesmuseum.com

The fact is that certain letters carry their own built-in spacing. The “A”s in the movie poster need to be further from the letters preceding them than from the ones after: that bend to the left appears to push the character away from what’s following. The half-closed-eyes test will show you that the color of the line clumps into black areas and white areas. The aim should be to make for as even a color as possible. Spacing helps this. Of course, with a quirky face like this, letterspacing the line may draw undue attention to the letterforms themselves. Let’s try an experiment.

Here’s a slightly letterspaced version of the word ENTERTAINMENT. I think it looks a lot better, and might be even better if I’d done a more thorough job with my trusty Xacto knife. Somewhat lazily I left the two NT combinations alone, and allowed that to govern the amount of letterspacing I introduced. I think the thing would benefit from a little more letterspace overall. If I’d added a bit of space between the N and the T — this looks especially necessary at the beginning of the word — that would have helped everywhere else. A little extra spacing between the E and the R and on both sides of the M would help too. The spaces before and after the N ought to be the same. Still, all in all, preferable to the MGM version — to me anyway.

The title cards used in the movie use a different typeface.

Can you imagine any less Fred-Astaire-appropriate face than this clunky grotesque? Well, yes, maybe the one used on the poster. But again the letters are smashed together as much as possible: it’s almost like the designers were on bonus for fitting the most type into the smallest space. All of Liza Minnelli needs letterspacing, Most obviously MI but also, slightly surprisingly the LLI at the end. It’s almost as if the designer realized that the shape of the Ls provided their own spacing, so tried to balance the tight spacing elsewhere by reducing the space following L. The letters touch now! Type-blind in Hollywood.