Fun With Fonts—Identifont

by | Feb 11, 2011

If you like typefaces, if you like to play around with your fonts while other kids are off doing piano lessons, if you keep noticing the typefaces on the restaurant menu, you need to know about Identifont.

Identifont is the coolest font site on the web. You might not expect that when you first go there, because it has none of the luscious typography of sites like I Love Typography, Typographica or Typophile. But it’s got something no other typopgraphy site has.

Identifont, the brainchild of David Johnson-Davies was built around Artificial Intelligence (AI) software developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and launched in 2000. The site says it is the largest independent directory of typefaces on the internet. You can see by the updates that new type foundries are being added all the time.

Here’s what you’ll find at Identifont:

  1. Fonts by appearance—This is the heart and soul of Identifont. Through a series of simple, illustrated questions, the AI behind Identifont will help you figure out exactly what typeface is used on that book cover you really like. It takes an average of 15 questions to come to a conclusion, but I’ve found Identifont to be right most of the time I’ve used it. There’s really nothing else like it. Here’s a typical screen from the identifier, where I’m up to question #4:

    Click to enlarge

  2. Fonts by name—Maybe you remember that the font you want has “park” in it, but that’s all you remember. No problem, because Identifont will call up every font it has that gives even a partial match. This is a lifesaver also.
  3. Fonts by similarity—Another terrific utility. Perhaps you want something like the stylish Park Avenue, but not quite. This is a task that could take time to visit font websites and look through pages of samples. Not with Identifont. In a few seconds I had located this lovely Tiamaria, a typeface I had never heard of. Perfect.

    Click to enlarge

  4. Picture fonts—This will amaze you. Try entering anything here, like “dog” or “beach” and see what Identifont comes up with. It has such an enormous database of fonts it’s hard to stump it. Here’s one of the 18 fonts I got with a search on “balloon”:

    Click to enlarge

  5. Designers—Want info on a typeface designer, including links to all their fonts? Just enter a full or partial name, and you have it.
  6. Publishers—A huge collection of type foundries, with links to all their typefaces on Identifont.

There’s also a small collection of free type fonts, with links to download locations, and listings of the most popular fonts on the site in the past week. In addition, there are links to two associated websites:

  • Fontifier where you can turn your handwriting into a font
  • Fontscape, an independent directory of typefaces organized into unusual and useful categories.

If you like fonts, set a timer before you surf over to Identifont, because it’s easy to spend way too much time running searches through their database and marvelling at the sheer variety of the fonts it will return.

Identifont, a great tool and a heck of a lot of fun for type lovers. Try it.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. chris

    I love too. Crowdsourced identifying.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Chris, I also enjoy the terrific enewsletter that’s a regular source of new font ideas and inspiration.

  2. Michael N. Marcus


    Identifont is useful, fun and addicting for a type addict like me.

    I was surprised and disappointed that it could not find Karina — a typeface I got addicted to when I worked in advertising about 35 years ago. The art director I was paired with used it in a headline, and then I adopted it for my own freelance ads, letterheads, business cards and even note pads and tag sale signs.

    After a little effort, I did find “ITC Korinna,” with the pregnant B, lucious curvy C, G, P and U, the turky-plump M, non-traditional N (which was great for my middle initial), cutesy Q, classy/classic W and probably the best-looking ampersand on the planet — which I fell in love with years ago.

    I’ve been searching for Karina recently, but my search was misdirected. My aging mind was confused by Carina — my cover artist, and Karina — my portrait photographer at Sears.

    Thanks for helping my to re-kindle a long-lost love.

    (How many people can love a typeface?)

    I look forward to a Identifont app for my Android smartphone. I’d like to be able to aim the lens at a book cover, magazine ad or a billboard, and have the phone instantly identify the typeface.

    Michael N. Marcus
    — Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series:
    — “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),”

    • Joel Friedlander

      Michael, I’m glad you’ve been reunited with your long-lost (typeface) love. I remember Korinna quite well from the time it enjoyed a widespread popularity, got overused, then was abandoned. Apparently many more people than I ever imagined love typefaces, from the response I get when writing about typography. Who knew?

      And on the Adroid front, you could just swap for an iPhone and use the helpful What the Font? app from which does exactly what you imagine: shoot a photo with the iPhone camera of the type in question, and it runs a search on its server and returns all the possible matches. Truly a bit of mobile computing magic.



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