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This Font Identification Aid/Guide is a tool that allows you to use the physical characteristics of 7 key letters to help narrow down the possible choices of Sans Serif text type faces, so that you might be able to easily identify them without requiring knowledge of traditional classification schemes . These typefaces are often classified by various schemes using such terms as Grotesque, Humanist, Block, Geometric, Gothic, Techno, and a variety of other terms that I have always found rather arbitrary and sometimes hard to recognize, particularly with newer typeface designs that often blur and twist the conventional forms. I have emphasized Text typefaces, which I loosely define as types that often contain a Roman and Italic face, often in multiple weights, and that would be used in setting the body copy of books, magazines, newspapers or web sites. This Guide will (presently) not show an Italic face for these families, and may also include some Display Sans Serif typefaces that would normally be used only for headlines and captions, never for body copy. I will expand the number of faces covered as I have time, and as I make or receive samples, but the current set is 980 type families and should be useful. When you consider that each family could include various weights and condensed versions, this number of families might easily equate to 5 or 6 times that number of individual fonts.

This Guide is based on the approach I used for my old Sans Serif Font Identification Aid/Guide. This Guide uses seven key letters (a, e, g, y, G, M, and R) for defining the font characteristics, and ten additional characters are included in the sample to further help with identification. The standard sample will be the nonsense name "MRS Wilfy C Gadget Jr", so there will be 17 letters out of the possible 52. Numerals are not included. The reason for using this 17-character sample is to keep the loading times short by keeping the samples simple, while using helpful letters for identification. I will continue to add samples as I am able to make or obtain them. (Sample donors are welcome, but I am only asking for graphics images, not the fonts.)

My Special Thanks to my good friend from Germany, 'Per Etz', sample donor extraordinaire, who has designed the user interface for this Guide and who has provided many of the font samples in this Guide, as well as in my other Guides. His encouragement, feedback and continued long-term support helped convince me that this ambitious Guide could be attempted. Such generous help, from him and others, such as Jan Erdmann, also from Germany, has made these Guides much more complete than I could have done on my own.

I have focused on Text types, because I think these are the hardest to distinguish from each other. For the purposes of this tool "Text" means that letterforms are relatively conventional and not usually intended to attract attention (ignore letter weight, and just look at the shapes of letters). They can be used in long settings of text in a book or magazine and not seem difficult to read. In my definition "Display" typefaces are those with distortions to lettershapes that are intended to make the type distinctive and noticeable. Compresssed or very wide typefaces belong in this category only if they do not have a "normal" width version. "Handlettered" (or Hand-printed) typefaces will look somewhat irregular, as if done by hand using a pen or brush. (Certain typefaces, including all of the Handlettered ones, also appear in the Script Font ID Guide.)

Sometimes you may notice that the same font will be shown with more than one code. This is done when I think the choice of character is not clear, so I choose both possibilities. This will make it easier for anyone to use the Aid, even if they don't quite see it the same as I do.

[NOTE: If you want to understand the way that the typeface characteristics are generated for the Sans Serif Font List that is the basis of this Guide, then see this page for details about the matrices used for assigning the two Style Codes used by the Guide script.]

How to use this Font Identification Aid/Guide

You only need to have a sample with the following 7 letters to use this Font Identification Aid: a, e, g, y, G, M, and R. The samples returned by the Guide will also include the letters d, f, i, l, r, t, C, J, S and W, which will often also be helpful in identifying Sans Serif fonts. In fact many times, one of these letters will be the key to making the identification.

The Search page has nine (9) selections, including Case, for you to make that will help describe the 7 letters that the Guide uses as the keys to narrowing the font choices. Even if you cannot describe more than a few letters, the Guide can use them to show you fonts that contain letters with the same characteristics. If you have difficulty deciding which letterform choice is nearest to your sample then it may be better to skip that letter, or else try the search with each alternative choice.

When you have made all the selections you are able to make then hit the "Search" button and wait for the Search Results page to show you a list of candidate fonts that should match the font characteristics you selected. In most cases you will see the Key sample (MRS Wilfy C Gadget Jr) using the letters of each font. These samples should make it easier to identify your 'mystery font', if it is one we have collected in the Guide. Even if your exact font is not included, you may find an alternative font that is close enough to be used as a substitute.

When we have no sample image of a particular font you will still see information about the font name, designer and source that you can use to find samples on the web, using Google, or your favorite search tool. If you happen to have the font, and would be willing to donate images for the Guide, I'd be very grateful, and your name would be shown as the sample donor.


Proceed to the Sans ID Guide Search page
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How to find similar typefaces

If you know a font's name and want to see if there are other fonts with similar characteristics, possibly to use as substitutes, you can look up the font name using the Name Search at the bottom of the Search Page.

Free Font Identification Service - If you ever see a "mystery" typeface used somewhere that you would like identified, just send me a sample, or send me the URL of a website that uses the typeface, and I will try to tell you the name of the typeface and where you can buy it. e-mail me your font ID question

HOME | Free Font ID Service | Text version of the Sans List (tab-delimited)
Supplier Codes | Type Providers | e-mail | Contribution$

Date of this page version: 15 October 2011
The Sans Serif Font Identification Aid/Guide is Copyright 2011 by Michael Yanega.
The typeface names and designs are the property of their respective owners.