Recently, I was out with a group of InDesign geek friends (yes, we travel in packs) having drinks after a day-long seminar. Mind you, this is a group of some of the brightest — and funniest — guys I know. We’d had a few rounds of debilitating laughter already, so we were primed to laugh easily. As we were sharing keyboard shortcuts (or something like that), a woman from a nearby table came over and struck up a conversation with one of the guys. Soon, she began handing out her business cards. In the dim light, we each looked down at the card she’d handed us, and apparently all had the same thought simultaneously, finally voiced by one of the guys: “Uh, I can’t pronounce your last name.” Loosened up by earlier laughing fits, we all started chuckling. Finally, someone said it aloud: “Well, I think she’s Polish. Or maybe Czech.” That was the last straw, and we dissolved in the final laughing fit of the evening (well, maybe you had to be there…) Let me explain. Here’s a recreation of the card, with the name and company changed to protect the kerning-impaired. Squint to replicate looking at it under subdued lighting.
The professional abbreviation, CITP.CPA, is so tightly set, and so close to the name, that a casual reader reads it all as one unit, seeing “CITPCPA” as the last name. Of course, a careful re-reading decodes it correctly. But after a couple of Bailey’s, it’s fairly hilarious.
Here, I’ve reworked the name and title to prevent such hilarity. The dual professional designations are separated by a slash, and generous kerning before and after the slash makes it unambiguous. See? Good kerning isn’t just a nicety—it’s a must.
Disclaimer: Any resemblance to the business card of a real person, living, dead, or undead, is purely coincidental. Professional driver on closed course. Your kerning values may vary. No offense is intended to Polish or Czech individuals, or any other vowel-limited group.