I blog regularly about designers who should learn how to code, but what about vice versa? Method of Action is a new web-based education initiative whose mission is to teach programmers the basics of good design, and it’s launched a cute little educational game called Kern Type, which is supposed to teach you the basics of that eponymous, particularly subtle typographic discipline.
I won’t lie: "The kerning game" isn’t exactly going to give Halo a run for its money in terms of excitement. Basically you just click and drag letterforms on a baseline until you think they look right, and then the program gives you a score based on how close you came to an ideal kerning job. But that description undersells the experience, too. The game, designed by Mark MacKay, is visually appealing and instantly, intuitively inviting. MacKay sweated the interaction-design details, including keyboard shortcuts and even touchscreen compatibility, so if you don’t want to use your mouse to play, you’re covered. (Casual players will probably enjoy the iPad version, whereas type dorks will want to use the keyboard shortcuts for pixel-specific accuracy.)
Once you’re done, the game displays your kerning job superimposed over the proper alignment, so you can clearly tell how far off you were. And you will be off: You’d be surprised at how close together some letterforms have to be to look right, and how far apart others can drift without disrupting the visual flow. Kern Type falls short as an educational experience by forgetting to explain when and why this is so, but maybe that’s on purpose. After all, even if you flunk every lesson, you can just click the button marked "Hey, my version is better," which will send your attempts to MacKay for review. The best typographers know when to break the rules, after all.
[Top image by M Kasahara]