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A common problem: Designer has spotted a delicious font being used on/offline, but there are no references what is the name of the font. The designer either gets unsatisfactory results from automatic identification services or is unable to provide a digital image of the font.

Question is: How our sad designer should describe the font being used in order to get satisfactory results from vast font databases such as myfonts.com or fonts.com?

  • Is there a good checklist that could be followed?
  • Where in the font I should look at?
  • What defines and categorises the font?
  • How the graphic design professionals/enthusiasts provide answers to font identification questions at here or at other crowdsourcing sites (e.g. Typophile) — is it something else than just memorising a few hundred typefaces?

Multiple sub-questions, but all revolve around the same issue: how to manually identify an unknown font?

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nice question. we need a font guru to make a step by step list of instructions to answer this question :)) –  Flavius Frantz Oct 12 '11 at 11:34
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Mock answer: How to manually identify an unknown font? Post a picture of it on Graphicdesign.stackexchange.com, or in as many online places as posible and ask everybody :)) like this It's probably one of the quickest ways... –  Flavius Frantz Oct 12 '11 at 11:41
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Pardon some reminiscing...When I first started doing desktop publishing, I found at a second-hand bookstore a specimen book that was a comprehensive catalog of what were then the current digital fonts sold by the major type companies. It included complete displays of every character in every weight and style at 12 pt. That book went with me to every job I ever had for over a decade, pulled my butt out of the fire countless times, and survived a few theft attempts. I don't think anyone could make that book again, what with rights and OpenType being so robust. It sits on my bookshelf even today. –  Philip Regan Oct 12 '11 at 12:53
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@Philip fontshop.com/products/fontbook is still published, as an iOS app as well as a printed book. –  e100 Oct 12 '11 at 14:18
    
@e100: That is so cool. Too bad it is sold out (at least there). I've seen other type specimen books elsewhere, but they all look to be outdated. The book that I have was killed, more or less, by a particular type company who shall not be named because of rights issues. –  Philip Regan Oct 12 '11 at 14:30
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4 Answers

Designer has spotted a delicious font being used on/offline, but there are no references what is the name of the font. The designer either gets unsatisfactory results from automatic identification services or is unable to provide a digital image of the font.

so its really hard to help :) and if he spotted this font in a design (Picture) we can make some guess and at-least nearby font or something productive answer can be shared.

1. Is there a good checklist that could be followed?

Ans: yes there is, find these point one by one

  • Do the characters have serifs?
  • What is the position of the upper-case 'Q' tail?
  • What style is the '$' (dollar)? and so on see this kind of questions Here

2. Where in the font I should look at?

Ans : Same site which is mentioned above there is simple test showing which kind of font looks like...and where you have to look.

enter image description here

Find fonts by appearance
Find fonts by name
Find fonts by similarity
Find fonts by picture
Find designers and publishers

3. What defines and categorises the font?

Ans: They also want to know

& see Font Categorization

Based on: Font on which it is based on, if any (example: Bitstream Vera)

Ranges: Unicode group ranges (like Latin, Greek, Greek Extended)

OpenType layout tables: (like Latin, Cyrillic, Devanagari)

Font Family: (like Serif, Sans Serif)

Font Styles: (like Roman, Oblique, Bold, BoldOblique)

License: (like shareware, public domain, Open Font License, GPL)

4. How the graphic design professionals/enthusiasts provide answers to font identification questions at here or at other crowdsourcing sites (e.g. Typophile) — is it something else than just memorising a few hundred typefaces?

Ans. There are so many tool to identify font, and there are limited fonts which are used(i mean mostly everyone use common fonts which we see somewhere everyday) so this make sense. and as all such question got answer on this site, they all are similar in question and they all are similar in answer...there are only few sites who provides such identification answers...


I read this lines in an article "Science sinks millions of dollars into face recognition algorithms, but they’ll never replicate the powerhouse combo of an eye and a brain. Same goes for font recognition—the only thing that can beat a font nerd is a giant horde of nerds. Once again, the Internet provides! Most font sites have helpful forums. Two that merit special mention are the font lovers at Typophile.com and Flickr’s font identification forum. If they can’t find your font, it might not exist."

I would like to add one thing : you know we are the guys who creates automatic services to identify fonts (or to identify anything ), so you have to be sharp enough to see and recognize a font without help of automatic services...We guys made things automatic based on some concept and programs if you know these concept and ways to solve problems, you can be a FONT GURU...

Hope this will help a bit...

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All excellent links and good resources. –  Alan Gilbertson Oct 12 '11 at 22:46
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A good designer should understand type. Once you understand type, you know what to look for to help narrow things down. Pick up a good starter book such as "Stop Stealing Sheep" and get to becoming a type geek.

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Downvotes are a lot more useful when you explain why. –  DA01 Oct 12 '11 at 19:13
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i agree, to the down-voter please explain –  Jack Oct 13 '11 at 7:21
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karmik +1 for the anonymus -1 –  Yisela Dec 6 '11 at 16:01
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As Jack says, Identifont.com is an excellent resource, and there is no substitute for a comprehensive specimen book like FontBook or its app equivalent. This page on FontShop.com contains fantastic resources, too. You might also find the excellent new TypeDNA (beta) font store interface a great way to drill down. As yet, they only have about 7500 fonts online, but you can filter and compare very quickly and easily.

The first step, if I've spotted a great typeface, is to grab a picture of it with a camera, a scanner or a screenshot. The more glyphs the better, of course. Then it's a matter of drilling down. I find it visually easier to identify the big points of structure first, then get into finer details roughly in this sequence:

  • Category (Serif/Sans/Script/Decorative)

  • Period or "style" (renaissance, romatic, "modern", egyptian, geometric, grotesk)

  • Relative x-height and the relative width of glyphs.

  • Strokes (weight, uniform, calligraphed, nuanced).

  • Bowls and counters

  • Apertures

  • Terminals (an instant way to differentiate Arial and Helvetica lowercase, for instance).

  • Stroke positions, such as the tail of a capital Q, the necks of K and R, slant of the lowercase e, middle stroke of uppercase E, and so on.

Somewhere in that sequence you have to start comparing with actual type specimens, and sometimes you have to post a picture on typophile.com and ask. The geekiest of type geeks hang out there, people who live and work with typeface designs all day. And sometimes you'll still lay an egg... :-)

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I'd start from the simplest solution: ask the designer. Seriously – most of the time people don't even take it as a viable possibility :).

My next step would be checking digital document for clues. If it's PDF, chances are, the font or it's subset will be embedded in it with name easy to find in document properties. If it's a website one can hope for finding font name in e.g. css if it's a webfont. If document won't provide answer I'd move on…

…to visual identification. It can be done in two ways: 1 – use font resellers sample preview (self), 2 – present a sample to public (ask for help).

In former case, deciding what group does font belong to, helps to reduce search time considerably. I'd start from deciding if the font is serif, sans serif, monospace, hand writing, other. In each of this groups you could also try to establish subgroup like e.g. "slab serif", but IMHO it's not always worth it. Now go to font browsing of your choosen font stock. Select proper section and make text, which font you'd like to match, your font preview sample. Having that, browse font list visually comparing prewievs with your sample (you should have it visible close to preview area). Sometimes if you've found possible match, but are unsure if it's really is the one, go with it – it means fonts are close enough that most people won't even notice they're not the same.

In second case, broad and clear enough visual sample is a must. It's hard to identify font if sample would contain only a single letter like "o" or "i". Upper and lower case letter would be nice too. Also it's no use to present a preview that's only a couple of pixels wide and tall. Often final decision is based on slight subtleties like direction of one letter serif.

You could also try to search for contemporarily popular fonts. E.g. some time ago Frutiger was quite popular, so chances were you'd seen it in many nice designs. Sometimes it happens with free fonts like Aller or Museo (not exactly free, but one set is available as such). Even "well known" and mostly hated fonts can make a surprise if used skillfully e.g. Times New Roman or Arial.

That's my method.

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