Eyeball font identification party trick strategies

When I want to recognize a text font without looking it up, one of the first things I do is scan through copy for instances of the italic, because italics are easier to distinguish among. Am I the only one who does this? I always wonder how other folks do it. My identification skill peaked in the mid-2000s, before the number of good new designs exploded, and I don’t bother memorizing sans or script designs. These days WhatTheFont and Identifont have made me lazy.

Beyond that I have a few characters I look for in the Roman that often have distinct features, W U g etc, which I imagine most fontspotters do as well.

Any other tricks? Anything less than obvious?
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  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,511
    For me, font ID has always been kind of a gestalt thing, like recognizing someone's face. Even so, I do rely on certain unique attributes for some typefaces, like that dreadful R in Arial. These tend to arise from trying to distinguish between similar designs.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,901
    edited January 12
    I can’t identify most fonts. But, like Mark, I can always spot the dreadful R in Arial. And the C. And the G. And the S. And a and s. Now I need to take a Xanax.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,954
    You may recognize it, but can you put a name to it?

    The initial-letter prompting strategy for remembering names:
    Go through the alphabet letter by letter, imagining that the particular letter you’re at starts the name you’re searching for.
    (Works for people whose names you’ve forgotten, too.)

    However, this assumes that at some time you’ve seen a name attached to the image.
    (Speaking of prompts, this is how generative AI works.)
  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 963
    edited January 15
    I think most of my IDs are based on a memory of an established set of typefaces (maybe 500?). When I see something I can’t immediately identify, I fall back on the memory (or hunch) of how the typeface may be connected to something from the established set (e.g., designer, foundry, historical period, aesthetic genre), and then I check references (e,g, Fonts In Use, Identifont, FontBook, PLINC, McGrew, Seemann, etc.) that document those connections.
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 662
    edited January 15
    Beyond that I have a few characters I look for in the Roman that often have distinct features, W U g etc, which I imagine most fontspotters do as well.
    Any other tricks? Anything less than obvious?


    I can tell you this:

    The only letter you need to identify an typeface is the uppercase /R
    The /R its the ADN of the full alphabet  There is SO MUCH information there!!

    Why the /R, you may ask?
    Because its the only letters that contains a straight line, a curve, and a diagonal.
    The R is the full combo! R is for Real, Its the real deal!

    Can you see it know? Its all there!
  • Thanks, Pablo, for the insight! I’ll try memorizing a few more cap Rs. I love that Wotzkow book. I bought a copy back in the 90s and especially liked its blackletter stroke endings detail.
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