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My 2-Cents Worth

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Pennie Works Studio Blog

My 2-Cents Worth

My Typographical Thorn in the Flesh

Nov 26, 2017 | Living the Dream

It was ten or eleven years ago. I don’t recall just when I purchased a copy of the application Fontographer. My employer, Oklahoma State University, was solving a pernicious logo problem by adopting a mark as the primary university logo from a pantheon of marks the athletic department was using.

The mark sports a custom typeface embellished with a graphic treatment that looks like bevels on a custom letterform. Those bevels added to the coolness of the font. There turned out to be a lot of applications for that font. So instead of piecing them together in Illustrator, I did a little research to see about font-ifying the letterforms. That’s where the Fontographer comes in.

After working in this program pretty intensively for about two weeks, I produced a reasonably useful font in a small-caps setup with the addition of an ampersand and a pallet of punctuation marks. Adding the bevels was more then I could handle, so I settled on flat letterforms. Still so far so good. The next step is where my check engine light came on.

Kerning is the term for the space between characters within a word. The kerning varies depending on the characters shape. There is a lot of art in deciding on that space between. With 62 letterforms, the numerals, and the punctuation, individual kerning pairs number in the six figures. Yikes. Still, I took a swing at the pairs involved in setting common OSU phrases and pronounced them good enough.

I called the font okSTATEu to indicate its OSU ownership. I gave the font to the other graphic designers in my office with ample warnings to hand kern the type whenever used. I said all that to say this. The okSTATEu font is everywhere. Somehow, the architectural firm that designed both the Gallagher-Iba Arena expansion and Boone Pickens Stadium got a hold of it. It’s all over those buildings in signage of one kind or another. The kerning is almost universally offensive to me, painfully so in some cases.

I call it visual chaffing. I always mentally gird my loins when I go to an OSU athletic event or watch it on TV. Every so often, the irritation is just too much. I have to get away. Around 2010, some blemishes to the “m” and “n” letterforms provoked me to go back into the fonts and make some corrections. Yet, the old ugliness persists. Kerning please!