For the non-specialist, trying to identify a font from a small sample is a nearly futile exercise, particularly if it is at all obscure. Most of us can manage to pick out fonts that have been overused to the point of banality (such as Times New Roman, or heaven forfend, Comic Sans). Wouldn’t it be nice if you could discover the name of a font given a sample?
A while back I discussed several tools for identifying music given only a few bars of a tune. During my font search, I happened across several resources to help you chase down an intinerant typeface.
Totally Automated Font Identification
WhatTheFont should be your first recourse. You supply it with an image of a few characters of the font (ideally, tweaked to accomodate their usage guidelines). To test it out, I picked a relatively typeface that was installed on my system (Gulim Bold), and uploaded to the WTF website. I was immediately prompted with potentially identifications for each letter, which I then had the opportunity to correct. This was unnecessary, as WTF correctly identified each one.
Next, I was presented with a list of five matches. I was initially dismayed that Gulim Bold did not appear on the list, but upon closer examination, the first suggestion, Prima Sans Bold, is a dead ringer. I’d have to guess that Gulim is a not-very-subtle clone; I’d be very happy with such a close match if I needed to match Gulim for a project.
The next three choices (variants of Fago Ex) were quite close, but the ‘b’s clearly differ. The final choice, Pragmatica Bold, had the right ‘b’, but overall appeared to be a slightly lighter weight. Want to try the search yourself? Go to the WhatTheFont page, and provide it with the URL of the above Gulim Bold sample image:
Choose Your Own Adventure Font
Identifont takes another path. Rather than automatically analyzing an image, it asks you a sequence of questions about the characteristics of the font to be identified, much like a field identification guide for trees or twenty questions. You start by specifying which characters you have in your sample, to eliminate questions that you won’t be able to answer. After each answer you provide, it narrows the field of possible candidates; after you get through its list of questions, it presents you with its choices for the best thirty matches so you can eyeball them to see which looks like the best fit.
Again using my Gulim Bold sample, above, I walked through the series of fifteen questions. I was unclear on how to answer questions about several of the characteristics, so I selected the option indicating I was uncertain. Finally, I was presented with a list of fonts that seemed to have very little to do with each other and not much to do with Gulim Bold. I went back I tried answering the two questions I was uncertain about, but no luck, no matter which way I answered them. Sorting through the list of fonts was a pain, as well, as you have to click on each to view a sample.
My conclusion? All I know is that it didn’t work for one five-letter sample. For a better test, I might try it with a complete Gulim alphabet, or try another font. Regardless, if WTF doesn’t turn up any matches for you then this might be worth a shot.
Pre-Identified Gameshow Fonts
This is getting a bit specific, but if you’re looking for fonts that were used in a particular game show then a lot of your work may be done already. I’ve happened across collections of show title fonts, fonts used to display scores, and of other miscellaneous game show fonts.
(Oh, and Jeopardy!? There’s a simulacrum of the title font called ‘Gyparody‘, the clues are displayed something very close to in a face named ‘Enchanted‘, and player winnings were displayed [from 1975-1993] in Vane Type II. My information is not yet complete, though. I did find some speculations about the current winnings font and the face used to display categories, but nothing conclusive.)