What Font Is That? Online Systems to the Rescue

Your client comes to you and says something like, “I saw a font in a Pets Forever ad that I love. I want it for the headline of the promotion you’re working on.”

You have no idea what the font is called or where to get it. All you see is a sans-serif typeface that is thicker than your usual Arial.

Or maybe a client asks you to recreate the font used on their logo or logo tag line, and the original art is no longer available.

What do you do?

Font recognition: not just for font fanatics

All designers are afflicted with a delicate madness. We love fonts. I have over a thousand available to me, but I use the same ones (10 or so) for 98% of my work.

And you’re probably as much of a font fanatic as I am. You see a font in a publication or ad campaign that captures your fancy … and you wonder what it is. And knowing its name isn’t enough. You also want to know how you can get your hands on it.

But when questions about a “mystery” font come from a client, the situation is different. It changes from a personal obsession into a BIG business problem.

You’d love to be able to tell the client, “The font is ‘Agilita,’ and I know where we can get it.”

Lots of luck! You could spend endless hours searching through font books or online. With tens of thousands of different fonts, you’re looking at several days’ work … with no guarantee of success.

Where font-recognition systems can help

Fortunately, the Internet has several solutions to this problem … in the form of online font-recognition systems.

One of the best font-recognition systems is WhatTheFont, developed by MyFonts with the University of Birmingham in England. It finds the closest match for you from a database of more than 50,000 fonts … and it’s free.

All you have to do is scan a sample of the typeface you’re trying to identify and submit it as a file through their website. The scan can be color or black and white, and it doesn’t have to be high resolution (although that helps). Check out the WhatTheFont site for exact specifications and search tips.

If that doesn’t work, you can submit your image to the WhatTheFont Forum, where type enthusiasts may be able to help. You can also view submissions and comments posted by other designers.

WhatTheFont is not the only free font-finder out there. Identifont offers an online system that guides you through some questions on the characteristics of the font you are looking for. Identifont’s system is not as accurate as WhatTheFont’s, but it is still excellent.

Linotype offers a similar service.

Knowing about these font-recognition services can be a tremendous asset for you in your DM design business. And if you’re afflicted with font madness … it is also a lot of fun.

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Published: April 5, 2007

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