How does everyone identify typefaces?

npgraphicdesign's picture

With Hamburgefonstiv (or any variation of it) as the overall measuring stick of a typeface's design/progress, couldn't you also use it to identify typefaces? As it shows all the stroke variations used throughout a typeface, it should be a pretty good way to discern different typefaces.

I'm curious also how everyone here goes about identifying typefaces. A lot of it is experience, but are there any other tips/tricks that anyone wants to share?

Jan's picture

I don’t know if we need more competition on the Type ID Board (just kiddin’).

It’s experience - looking at a lot of type over years. That will give you a feeling for where to look. Other than that it’s sometimes spotting that glyph that stands out (or gives it away as Yves would say).

Florian Hardwig's picture

A well-organised font (sample) collection, be it digital or print, self-assembled or off the rack.
What the font and Identifont can be a great help, too. Not to forget the various Font ID Guides by Michael Yanega.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Don't forget good old-fashioned books like Rookledge's Classic International Typefinder. :-)

Florian Hardwig's picture

Hamburgefonstiv (or any variation of it) […] couldn’t you also use it to identify typefaces?

Yes, it’s my default in FEX – though actually ‘Rafgenducks’ (found in Willberg’s ‘Erste Hilfe in Typografie’) works slightly better in terms of id-ing, as it features an uppercase ‘R’)
But when going hunting at the Type ID Board, you might wanna adjust that to the respective selection of provided characters. ;°)

Ehague's picture

Sometimes it also helps to learn a few extrinsic facts about a typeface, such as who designed it, or where it's name comes from. It helps to jog your memory a little faster when you're at the "I know I've seen this somewhere before..." phase of the ID.

I started using this method a few years ago to help with my almost pathological inability to remember people's names. While it hasn't really worked in that respect, it's done wonders for typeface IDs.

mosh's picture

A well organized classification system for your own fonts. When that fails, use the whatthefont system.

Jackie Frant's picture

Years (and years) ago, it was the beginning of my learning about type. One art director told me to memorize every R. It is a common letter and can be found in most type samples, and is never quite the same from typeface to typeface.

Then working with type, I learned a lot more. (I wish I had retained it all, but it's slipping away from non-use.)

Catogorizing the fonts and just looking at them day to day is a wonderful exercise. I may not remember the name, but I remember the year VGC put it on their typositor book, or that it started with the letter R and was in the old yellow book around the shop...

More modern times, I have found Font Expert a help -- it is like the FBI with fingerprints. Doesn't always works, but when it does, wahoooo... Yes, identifont is a great tool, and the folks above have it right - Mike Yangega (especially in "line" type) is a great guide.

Take a friend with you into a bookstore and start guessing when you see typefaces you recognize... feels good doesn't it?

P.S. It isn't but...
Make sure the image file is a small file - and it works a lot of the time...

pattyfab's picture

I also find the keyword search at Myfonts extremely helpful.

I wish Identifont was better - I've tried it countless times and could probably count on one hand the number of times I've found what I was looking for.

Stephen Coles's picture

My easy three-step process to becoming a Freak of Type Identification:

  1. Abadon all other social and recreational activities.
  2. Scour all type suppliers catalogs -- online and offline -- as well as reference books like this one.
  3. Read the Typophile Type ID board daily.
laurent's picture

I bought a stewf widget for my dashboard.
Type identification is just easy now.


Jackie Frant's picture

What is a stewf widget?

Miss Tiffany's picture

The tall skinny one on the left after you hit f12

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

The lowercase letter a is crucial to all font ID's. I always look for it.

Mikey :=)

David Rault's picture


I guess just becoming insanely crazy about typefaces is a good start.

I can't walk a street without checking each and every type I see on the shops. I can recognize 90% of them. And when I can't, I take a snapshot with my phone and I basically can't sleep until I know which font it is.

My friends know they'd better not start me talkin about type, I just can't stop. My wife complains about it too.

That's a very high social price to pay, but... I can pick up a Bembo out of 10 garaldes in a glimpse now, what a great reward :-)

David R

Norbert Florendo's picture

My special "Type ID Specs" really help when I put them on.

Linda Cunningham's picture

ROFL, Norbert! I used to have a pair of those, but they don't come as bifocals. :-(

Jackie Frant's picture

Norb -

I only remember those in half frames.... LOL

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

That was great, Norbert! You had me laughing out loud. :-D

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