Tips for Identifying Typefaces

People are always asking me how I can identify so many typefaces. (Ok, very few ask. It’s not the most thrilling party trick.) Identification skill is not always a matter of memorization. It’s more about training the eye; making connections to eras, styles, and makers; and having a toolbox of resources at the ready. Here are some ways you can get better at identifying fonts without using an automated service (or when those services fail).

  1. Learn typeface anatomy.
  2. Learn about the ways typefaces vary. Draw them.
  3. Learn the traditional typeface classifications.
  4. Learn about the variations within a classification.
  5. Learn that there is no absolute standard classification system and terms can vary.
  6. Get to know the classics.
  7. Get to know other predigital typefaces. + Specimen Books of Metal & Wood Type Hans Reichardt - All about Printing Types
  8. Get to know the new classics.
  9. Follow new releases through foundries on Twitter, and aggregators like TypecacheProof&Co., and Fresh Fonts.
  10. Pore through foundry sites, printed specimens, and other references like FontBook.
  11. Observe type in the wild.
  12. Write. Describe the typefaces you like and don't like and why.
  13. Be prepared to not have a life.