In order to have a great design, you need to have great typography. That is a fact. Different fonts say different things about the copy that they’re showcasing: imagine reading an obituary written in Comic Sans MS – that’s just flat out ridiculous and kind of sad (but, unfortunately, not the kind of sad the text was going for).
Of course, Comic Sans is kind of a joke in the design industry by now, but the point remains the same: the font you choose can add to the impact of your copy, but it can also subtract from it.
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That’s why it’s so important to choose a good font for your design. But how can you do that? There are thousands upon thousands of fonts on the Internet, some of which are free-to-use, while others are not. More so, there are more bad fonts than there are good. Even worse, sometimes you just see a great font somewhere, but you don’t know what it is or how to find out.
Here’s where the tools we’re going to talk about today come in. They’re great resources for any designer and can help you save a lot of time in identifying the typeface you’re looking for.
This is a nifty little web-app that can help you identify the font used in an image you upload from your desktop or from an URL. It’s pretty fast and works a lot better than some other apps that claim to have the same functionality and that have been known to have trouble identifying a simple Helvetica typeface when put to the test.
So basically all you have to do is feed it an image of the font you want to know more about, help it identify some of the characters (although it usually gets most of them right by itself) and then it gives you your results, which are usually pretty accurate.
This is by far one of the more impressive tools we’re looking at today. Just drag and drop that big button in your bookmarks bar and then you can click it anytime, on any website, and then you can identify any single font used on a website just by clicking one it. It’s one of the must-have design resources featured in this article and you shouldn’t hesitate to try it out: it’ll definitely make your life easier when trying to identify a tricky font pairing.
Unlike the other two apps we’ve looked at, Identifont does not work starting from an existing font you can see. Instead, it asks you a few questions about the font you’re looking for and then selects a font from its database that meets all the criteria you’ve given it (that or you can search by name, similarity to a font you already know, by symbol contained or by designer).
While this may not help you find out what that pesky font you know nothing of but once saw on a website was, it’s one of the more valuable resources when looking not for a particular font, but for a typeface that meets a specific set of criteria, so you can use it not only to identify fonts, but also to pair various types together.
WhatFontIs is a cool tool that is very similar to WhatTheFont. Like WhatTheFont, it helps you identify fonts from images and has an impressive font library. The way it works is very similar to WhatTheFont as well – feed it an image, help it identify some of the characters and it gives you a list of fonts that match, but there is one main point where the two apps differ.
Where WhatTheFont is a bit more accurate in font-recognition, WhatFontIs has an embedded image editor that allows you to select portions of text from large images that are too complex for it to analyze.
Bonus #1: Typecast
Typecast is a great resource for previewing and testing type, allowing you to work directly in browser with various fonts and comparing styles side-by-side, building HTML and CSS to match your design, testing the way it renders in various browsers and on various devices. It’s really a must-use and we strongly recommend you go and take it out for a spin: you’ll never look at webdesign the same way again!
Bonus #2: Google Fonts
Google Fonts is an open-source resource used to create font pairings. It has over 500 different font families and you can look them up by various criteria – be they letter, word, paragraph, thickness, width or slant.
Bonus #3: Typophile
This isn’t really a tool in the traditional sense, as it’s not automated, but design is much like any other craft, as in design tutorials, high-tech tools and learning by yourself will only take you so far. It’s important to have a community of like-minded people to discuss your work, your strengths and your weaknesses.
That’s where Typophile comes in. They’re a strong community of type-interested people, they have their own typography wiki, they have typography-related news, not to mention a lot of other resources and blogs and, most importantly, a friendly bunch of people ready to help out with all your type-related problems. Don’t hesitate to check them out!