This Designer Invented The Ultimate Font Finder

Spector is a pocket-sized gadget that takes the detective work out of identifying fonts and colors.

There are certain celebrity fonts that get so much play, they’re instantly recognizable. (Looking at you, Helvetica, Comic Sans, and Times New Roman.) But it can be frustrating to sleuth the true identities of more obscure fonts spotted in the wild; beyond playing a lengthy guessing game or paging through font dictionaries, there’s no good way for designers–or design fans–to figure out what they’re looking at.


Fiona O’Leary, a recent graduate of the Royal College of Art, recognized this challenge and designed Spector, a pocket-sized prototype gadget that reveals the true identity of type by taking photos and cross-referencing them against a font database. Plus, it can also read a color’s RGB and CMYK values to help designers recreate a hue. Think of it as a visual equivalent to Shazam for graphic designers, as Wired puts it.

In addition to sleuthing a font’s name, Spector also analyzes type size, kerning, and leading. O’Leary’s target audience? Print designers who work on a computer. Recognizing that it’s time-consuming for some designers to judge the scale of words as they will appear on a page when they’re creating layouts, she wanted to build a tool that would eliminate some of the guesswork. Here’s how she envisions one use case for Spector: a designer sees a printed font that matches what they’d like to achieve in their project. The designer places Spector over the text and the gadget then connects to InDesign and matches it to what’s on the screen.

For now, though, Spector is still a prototype under development. According to Wired, right now Spector is only able to distinguish between Apercu, Bureau Grot, Canela, and Founders Grotesk. O’Leary hopes to integrate her prototype with a larger font database in the future.

While this tool is appealing to those without an encyclopedic knowledge of fonts and can help increase visual literacy (if linked to a much larger database), it could also be a boon for small foundries looking for more publicity for their work. In the realm of visual design, lets hope that if Spector ever makes it to market, designers use it to sample–but not outright copy–inspirational fodder.

[All Images: via Fiona O’Leary]


About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.