I would be so brazen as to imagine that most designers and typography enthusiasts share a host of commonality ranging from a casual practitioner to obsession. Without question, once you catch the typographic bug, it is an affliction most welcomed into our daily thoughts. Your once well-touted ambivalence to the communicative world around you becomes a promiscuous romp of letterform analysis. What font was on that billboard? Was the kerning on that coffee cup really .4 pts too broad? Who in their right mind would use comic sans for, well, ANYTHING? There are those who fancy themselves lucky enough to not have dreams of correcting wayward stems and unruly stroke terminations, but for the lucky few of us who can – I know you will relate.
It’s a fairly frequent occurrence and pastime among the crew here at Rocket Pop Media to play the game of “Hey Jereme, What font is this?”. Some designers may begrudgingly swivel out of their chairs and slump over to see what their coworker is struggling with so that they can get back to their magical world of pixel nudging lechery. Secretly, though, if they are of The Order of T.E.W.S.F.T.M.T.F.A.L.* (Typographic Enthusiasts Who Spend Far Too Much Time Fantasizing About Letterforms), they are enthralled to take a peek. With a frenzy most often reserved for Trekkies and Comic-Con veterans, designers love to take a crack at figuring out fonts.
Whether it takes us two seconds or two minutes at our desk with a closer look – it’s often to the amusement of our colleagues that we are able to provide the correct answer. With a geeky swagger, we’ll saunter on back to our desks, happy to oblige the uneducated. Those of us with some shame will know the truth, though. It is not with admiration and pride our co-workers watch our exuberant march to our desks: it’s with inner laughter. How can this individual waste enough of their days staring at type to be able to answer these pointless questions? To be perfectly honest, it’s not that hard.
Okay, so it is.
There are people who dedicate their lives to the creation and study of typography. These High Priests of design work off of a well documented anatomy of what makes type legible, appealing, and able to provide the proper emotional reaction from its viewer. We could go into the ridiculous task of breaking down each anatomical point and its relation to the overall form – but I’d rather you not throw your computer against the wall.
In layman’s terms, there are certain telling characteristics that can help a designer discern which font is being used. There are categories and types of font families which help to narrow down the possibilities. Is the font a serif or sans-serif (is it nekkid or does it have feet thingies)? Is it modern or contemporary (round, sturdy and straight or look like old crap from a book)? Is the stroke consistent and even (is it fat there and skinny here?) How does the stroke terminate? (is it all squiggly like or straight)? Long story short: there is a method to our madness.
For those of us who love a challenge in guessing fonts, there are plenty of resources to play with, some of which I’ve listed below. Those of you who would really rather not deal with it – there are tools online and communities of those sad saps that thrive on figuring out your font troubles for you. The latter of the resources are also listed below for your perusal.
Before you get started, the folks at Canva created a great Illustrated Glossary of typography and font terms that you should probably know. You can check it out here.
In closing, we designers thank you for supplying us with the occasion to flex our nerd muscle every now and then. Most of us have chosen this profession because it is a passion that propels us in our daily life. Lets face it, if we didn’t have an outlet for this obsession in a productive working environment, we’d be at home arranging the magnetic letters on the refrigerator in an effort to impress our pets. Keep em’ coming folks, we kern take it.
Resources for Nerdyness
Resources for Sloths
Resources for Kitties