How to Identify the Name of a Font [Quick Tip]

Have you ever seen a font you liked on a website, in a logo, or in printed materials and wondered what it was called so you could use it in your own projects? As a marketer, designer, or really anyone who works with text, being able to identify fonts is a very useful skill to have.

While expert designers can often pinpoint a font with just a quick glance, for the rest of us it takes a bit more detective work to figure out the name of a typeface. Luckily, there are some tools and techniques you can use to identify fonts and find the perfect one for your needs.

Why Font Identification Matters

Fonts are a key component of design and can have a big impact on the look, feel, and personality of your brand or message. The right font choice can make text more engaging, memorable and effective, while the wrong font can turn readers off or send mixed messages.

By being able to identify and name fonts, you can:

  • Maintain consistency in your visual branding across different media
  • Find complementary fonts that pair well together
  • Communicate the right tone and personality through your typeface choices
  • Emulate the fonts used by other brands or designers you admire
  • Satisfy your curiosity when you spot a beautiful or interesting font in the wild

While most people can get by with the default fonts packaged with their computer or their software of choice, being font-savvy allows you to expand your creative options and take your designs to the next level.

Identifying Fonts Using Online Tools

If you have an image of the font you want to identify, there are several web-based tools that can analyze the shapes of the letters and match it to their extensive font databases. Let‘s look at a few of the most popular and effective.

Identifont

Identifont is a free tool that helps you hone in on a font through a series of questions about its distinguishing characteristics. It will ask you about things like whether it has serifs, the shape of certain letters, the stroke widths, and more.

Based on your answers, it will present a list of possible matches that you can compare against your sample to find the closest one. It‘s a surprisingly fun and effective process, almost like playing "guess who" with fonts.

WhatTheFont

WhatTheFont by MyFonts allows you to upload an image of a font and it will automatically match it against their database of over 133,000 fonts. It uses an AI algorithm to detect and read the text in your image, converting it into a series of glyphs that it can analyze.

Because it relies on a clear, high-quality image of the text, it works best for digital images of fonts rather than photos of printed type or logos. The more text in the sample, the better the app can recognize and match the shapes of the letters.

Fontspring Matcherator

Fontspring‘s Matcherator is another AI-powered font identifying tool that is super quick and easy to use. Just upload a PNG or JPG image of your font sample and it will instantly suggest matches from Fontspring‘s own collection of fonts.

It helpfully provides the confidence level of each match and allows you to click through to see the full character set, details and licensing options for each font. This is a great tool if you want to ID a font and purchase it all in one place.

Other font matching tools worth trying include WhatFontIs, Font Squirrel‘s Matcherator, and Serif Font Identification Guide for a flow-chart approach to classifying serif fonts.

If you strike out with automated tools, try posting a screenshot of the mystery font on forums like /r/identifythisfont or Typophile to tap into the wisdom of the font-obsessed masses.

What to Look For When Identifying Fonts

If you want to train your eye to better recognize and distinguish fonts, it helps to know some key terminology and characteristics to look for. Here are some of the main features that make up a font‘s anatomy and personality:

Serifs

Serifs are the small strokes or flourishes at the ends of letters. Serif fonts like Times New Roman, Georgia, and Garamond have serifs, while sans-serif fonts like Arial, Verdana, and Helvetica do not. Serifs can be described as wedge, slab, hairline, rounded, and more.

Terminals

The shape of the ends or "feet" of strokes in letters like "c", "f", "a", and "j". Terminals may be rounded, straight, or tapered.

Finials

The tapered or curved end of the stroke on letters like "e" or "c".

Spine

The main curved stroke in the letter "s".

Descender

The part of lowercase letters like "g", "j", "p", "q", and "y" that descends below the baseline of the text.

Bowl

The round or elliptical shape in letters like "b", "d", "o", "p", and "q".

Ligature

Two or more letters joined together into a single character, like "æ" or "ffi".

By looking closely at features like these and noting their shape, size, and style, you can more easily narrow down and pinpoint the particular font you‘re trying to identify. Comparing the same letters like the uppercase "Q" or lowercase "g" between different fonts can also help you spot the differences.

Recognizing Popular and Iconic Fonts

Some fonts are so ubiquitous that it pays to be able to recognize them on sight. Here are some of the most iconic and commonly used fonts you‘ll encounter:

Helvetica

Helvetica is a widely used sans-serif font that is a staple of many corporate brand identities and signage. It has a clean, modern, and neutral look.

Times New Roman

A serif font that has been used as a default in many word processing programs and for academic papers. It has an authoritative, traditional feel.

Arial

Arial is often compared to Helvetica and is commonly used for both print and web designs. It has a clean, legible appearance.

Verdana

Designed for on-screen use, Verdana is a humanist sans-serif font that is easy to read at small sizes on screens.

Futura

A geometric sans-serif font that was designed in the 1920s but still looks modern today. It has a clean, stylized aesthetic that works well for logos and headings.

Georgia

A serif font designed for on-screen use, with a larger x-height and heavier serifs that make it easy to read on screens.

Trajan

An all-caps font inspired by the lettering on Roman monuments, Trajan has an elegant, classical look that is popular for movie posters and anything with a stately, timeless aesthetic.

Gotham

A geometric sans-serif font that has been used in a lot of presidential campaign logos and branding in recent years for its bold, authoritative presence.

Bodoni

A dramatic serif font with high stroke contrast between thick and thin lines. It has an expensive, editorial quality.

Lobster

A casual script font that is often used (arguably overused) for lighthearted, retro, or feminine designs.

By no means an exhaustive list, but being able to spot and name popular fonts like these is a good party trick and can also give you a sense of the personalities and genres different fonts convey.

Finding and Using Fonts

Once you‘ve identified your dream font, the next step is tracking it down to use in your own projects. If it‘s a free font, you may be able to download it directly from the source or from a free font site like Google Fonts, DaFont, or 1001 Free Fonts.

For licensed fonts, you may need to purchase them from the type foundry or from font marketplaces like MyFonts, Adobe Fonts, or Creative Market. Keep in mind that you may need a commercial license to use the font in business or paid work. Always check the license details before using a font.

When using fonts, it‘s good to consider not just how they look individually but how different fonts pair together. Aim for pleasing contrast rather than conflict – pair a serif with a sans-serif, or mix a bold, decorative title font with a neutral, readable body copy font.

Pay attention to the mood, style, and personality of the font and make sure it matches the spirit of your message and brand. When in doubt, err on the side of simplicity and legibility over flashiness.

2024 Font Trends to Watch

Font fashions come and go, and staying on top of current trends can help your designs feel fresh and contemporary. Here are some font trends that I predict will be popular in 2024:

Geometric Sans-Serifs
Building on the recent popularity of fonts like Gotham and Proxima Nova, geometric sans-serifs with clean lines, circles, and squares will continue to dominate, especially in web and app design.

Chunky Serifs
After years of minimal, lightweight sans-serifs being in vogue, there will be a resurgence of meaty, substantial serifs – not just for titles but for body copy too. They convey a sense of timelessness and authority.

70s and 80s Inspired
Retro fonts with a 1970s or 80s flavor, like ITC Bauhaus, Futura, Avant Garde, and Blippo, will make a comeback, riding the wave of nostalgia for the funky style of those decades.

Elegant Serif Italics
For a touch of understated sophistication, expect to see the flowing forms of old-style italic serifs like Garamond and Baskerville used for logos, pullquotes, and accent text.

Variable Fonts
Variable fonts are all the rage in the world of digital type design. Their responsive format and flexibility will make them a go-to for web designers who want to create dynamic, expressive typography that adapts to any screen size.

Of course, while it‘s good to keep an eye on trending font choices, what matters most is finding a font that works for your unique message and medium. Classic, time-tested typefaces are classic for a reason!

Fun Font Facts

To wrap up, here are some fascinating tidbits and trivia about fonts and typography:

  • Helvetica is one of the most popular fonts of all time, but did you know it was originally released in 1957 under the name Neue Haas Grotesk? It was later renamed Helvetica, which means "Swiss" in Latin.

  • The first typeface ever created exclusively for a computer was Courierin 1956, and was originally designed for IBM‘s electric typewriters in the 1940s.

  • Vincent Connare began designing the font Comic Sans in 1994 for use in Microsoft Bob, but it was later included as a system font in Windows 95. It has since been labeled "the world‘s most hated font" by some designers.

  • The first printed book to use the Roman typeface was De Aetna, written and published by Aldus Manutius in 1495 in Venice.

  • Baskerville is a font that was designed in the 1750s by John Baskerville. There is a rumor that people thought it could damage the eyes because of its sharp contrasts, so they called it the "Baskerville Curse."

  • CERN, the research center where the World Wide Web was first developed, has an official fontcalled Comic Neue that is an updated and refined homage to Comic Sans.

  • There is a ban on Times New Roman, size 12, double spaced, on college campuses because students were found to be using it to stretch out their papers to meet length requirements.

Who knew fonts could be so intriguing? I hope this deep dive into font identification and appreciation has both enlightened and entertained you. The world of typography is full of visual delights just waiting to be discovered – so get out there and start spotting some stunning typefaces!