Let's face it: we're all font nerds now. Every computer application, from mundane Microsoft Word to the most souped-up version of Photoshop, provides hundreds of typographic options. So why do they all make it so annoying to find the right one? You know what I'm talking about: you click on some sliver-thin menu, tediously scroll through screen upon screen's worth of samples rendered in microscopic size, if at all — only to discover the line of text you wanted to reformat actually looks terrible in the font you chose. And then you repeat. Given how irritating this process is, it's no wonder Comic Sans persists: an abomination, yes, but at least it sits near the top of that accursed drop-down list.
Wordmark.it is a tool to end our suffering. It's a free website that scans your computer's installed fonts and displays them in a simple visual grid for easy browsing. You can even change how big or small the grid tiles are. I'm writing this post after midnight, so I boosted the samples up to granny-size in order to give my bleary eyes a break:
As you can see from the image above, Fahri Özkaramanl?'s design offers three simple, obvious, humane features that, for some $#*%ed-up reason, no mainstream application I know of has ever seen fit to include:
- You can enter your own text at the top, so you can see how the fonts actually look before choosing one.
- You can flip the contrast with one click, to see if the font looks better in light or dark.
- You can choose a few options and isolate them to compare next to each other.
Wow, a font choosing interface that isn't an ophthalmological nightmare... As John Baskerville says (courtesy of Wordmark.it):
Özkaramanl? made Wordmark.it in order to help himself design logos more easily, but I think he's created a tool to liberate the masses from their learned helplessness about fonts. Is it fanciful to believe that a more typographically-savvy citizenry might be created by actually making it easy to make informed font choices? If everyone used tools like Wordmark.it, might we one day live in a world unsullied by Papyrus? One can dream.
Be careful, though. Play with the site for too long and your chosen text might dissolve into mental mush from all the repetition. (The phenomenon is called "semantic satiation." At this point I've seen "Co.Design" so much it might as well be scrawled in Sanskrit.)