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Finding vs Drawing a Font

Discussion in 'Logo Design' started by The Hobbyist, Dec 21, 2019.

  1. The Hobbyist

    The Hobbyist Member

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    The biggest problem in sign making seems to be trying to identify FONTS. Too often, someone will have a business, and their sign or logo with a specific FONT was created five years ago by their niece, using some obscure graphic design software or some quirky FONT from a $2.00 "World's Greatest FONTS" Cd purchased from some flea market somewhere.

    Too often, when someone comes to me and says, "Can you make a sign like this?" they hand me a crumpled business card with some special FONT on it, and that is ALL they have. The very first question I always ask is, "Do you know the name of this FONT?" If they give me a puzzled look, the price immediately TRIPLES.

    Large corporations keep track of things like the FONTS they use, and any modifications made to the original FONTS, such as scaling height, applying a lean to the text, stretching the width, etc. They will usually have camera ready art that you can use to reproduce the sign. What happens when they want different words using the same FONT, but they cannot tell you the name of the FONT, or how their original run of letterheads, envelopes and businesses cards was created?

    If they cannot name the FONT, and they are a small business like a local handyman, or a lawn care service, or a restaurant, I ask them if they are MARRIED to the FONT they used to create whatever they handed to me. More often than not, they are not particularly concerned about the exact FONT. They just want it to look similar. That makes it a bit easier, but I still double the price, because I know I am going to invest a few hours into searching for "something close."

    To reproduce the same thing they give me, I can sometimes scan the image, and simply redraw the
    FONT. If the name is just "Barbara's Salon" I only need to draw the B,a,r,b,S,l,o and n. I can recreate the sign with those eight images.

    Do yourselves a BIG favor and always ask the most important first question with any sign containing TEXT:

    "Do you know the name of this FONT?"


    .
     
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  2. GAC05

    GAC05 Major Contributor

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    I use a different question when in this situation.
    My prime question:
    Do you know the name of the sign company down the road?
     
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  3. visual800

    visual800 Very Active Member

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    When a customer tells me they already have a logo and they usually send me a low res jpeg that they created online from vistaprint (as the latest customer did) I tell them I need high res art in an ai or eps format OR can I recreate something a little more "legible" for them. If they are married to the logo but cannot reproduce high res they can walk.

    There are too many sources for people to create their own logos unfortunately these sources do not offer the ability to present them with ai or eps formats. I try my best NOT to do a sign package with a crappy a$$ logo that you created online. And please, do not ask my opinion of what your logo looks like, you will get an honest answer
     
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  4. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    First of all, why are you writing the term "FONT" in all caps? Second, with me being an older Gen-X type, I think of the term "font" applying to a specific size and weight of a typeface from the old metal press days -such as 24 point Helvetica Black. That's a font. Of course with computers we're used to handling font files. That term is used because it's easier to say than typeface files. And the term typeface is more broad in its coverage. Helvetica Now is a new typeface. It has a bunch of different weights of font files in its Display, Text and Micro ranges. Oh well, it's all semantics I guess. But I tend to use the term "typeface" when I have to ask a customer what was used if I can't immediately identify it.

    IMHO, it's not all that difficult to identify typefaces. I'm pretty good at identifying many of the foundry-quality commercial typefaces. And then there's online tools like "What the Font" at the MyFonts web site. It's a little more difficult trying to identify the typefaces from freebie/open source font sites. If I'm just plain stumped and I don't have time to scroll through lots of potential matches at MyFonts I'll post a sample here. Very often I'll get a correct reply pretty fast. This web site is a great resource for identifying specific font files. There's lots of fellow sign makers who like the challenge.

    That's your policy and it's fine if it works for you. I don't expect average people who home-brew their own logos and graphics to do everything right, much less know what they used to arrive at the finish line. If we have to re-create the artwork we'll charge a standard, per-hour rate (with a minimum charge) to convert little low-rez JPEG "logos" into something usable. It's a pretty rare thing for customers to use typefaces in their DIY artwork we can't quickly ID. They typically use font files that easily available; often very common defaults -like freaking Arial. We almost never see a small business with home-made art using a typeface they actually purchased.

    Large corporations often do not use stock commercial typefaces. They often have the lettering in their logos, word-marks, etc created from scratch. If they're based on a certain typeface the version they use is often customized. For instance the version of Helvetica that Target uses in its advertising is not the 1957 cut of Helvetica, it's not the 80's Helvetica Neue or even Helvetica Now from this year. It's their own custom version. Just look at the tail on the lowercase "a" as an obvious example; none of the commercial versions of Helvetica look like that.

    Another thing large corporations don't do is they don't squeeze, stretch and skew the type to force it into a given space. That nonsense occurs either with amateurs who don't know better or experienced people lacking in talent or just not caring at all about what they do with type. I have a very harshly negative opinion of distorted type, particularly when it is applied to default typefaces like Arial. The results look horrible and it shows a "designer" just rushing his way through a project and not giving a $#!+. Forcing a default typeface into a confined space by squeezing it or stretching it is one of the fastest ways to make a graphic design look like amateur hour trash.

    Anyway, if we're doing work for a really big company they usually have vector-based files with all the type converted to outlines already. No need to install a particular font file. They usually also have brand guidelines (color specifications, white space requirements, etc). And if they can't immediately send over something the big companies usually have lots of PDF files posted online with vector logos that can be extracted easily, just to get the process started.
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2019
  5. Andy D

    Andy D Very Active Member

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    You're making this way too hard, invest $50 and buy "find my font", it's hand down the best $50 I have ever spent
    on the business! You will find an exact match or something very close in 45 seconds, 99% of the time.

    https://www.findmyfont.com/
     
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  6. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    I guess it all comes down to your experience and amount of knowledge in the trade. Most sign guys/gals don't know each and every typeface out there, but when you get a kooky one, either come here, like mentioned, or upsell them to something that'll work. If it's that bad that you can't find it for less than 2 minutes, it's probably some real rinky-dink style. Either get paid for doing your job or pass it to the shop down the street. Not worth stressing out about..... at least not from somebody coming in off the street that doesn't know squat about their own identity.

    Had one about two weeks ago, the lady had her whole card done by vistaprint, so she couldn't get any information. The typestyle was no problem, none at all, it was her stupid hands holding a house that was the problem. It was so small that as soon as you blew it up to a workable size, there was absolutely no definition at all, plus it was all earth tones.... bowns, tans and so on, so it was hard to distinguish fingers, fingernails and so on. She said go ahead and re-create it, so I did. Took about 5 minutes. Looks better now, then before.
     
  7. The Vector Doctor

    The Vector Doctor Very Active Member

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    As mentioned by Andy above invest in findmyfont, or utilize the experts on here or try whatfontis.com and whatthefont.com to find a match or something close. You should not be spending hours looking for an exact match or something close with these 3 sources.

    I don't spend any more than 5 minutes looking for a match when recreating logos. If I cannot find a font match I give my customers 3 options.

    1. Find out the font from the customer if they know it.
    2. I trace each letter one by one.
    3. I pick a similar font and typeset those letters to provide something close
     
  8. The Hobbyist

    The Hobbyist Member

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    I really do admire people who memorize the various font names by sight. I cannot do that, as I have a failing memory at the tender young age of 61. I know if I have seen a font before, but I cannot even name the most basic fonts unless I compare them to some sample chart. It is something I have lived with my whole life.

    I generally give the customer those same three options. Either they give me the name of the font used, or the name of the person who created their sample art work. Sometimes I can call the creator and discover the font with a few questions, or they may still have a file on their PC and that makes it easier. Otherwise, I ask if they are married to the font, and if not, I do what I can to find something close.

    I can trace a font fairly easily using my software, but if they want another word using that font and the exact letters do not appear, then I am creating an "R" based on a "P" or a "W" based on a "V" or a "G" from an "O," etc.

    I have had mild success with the font identification sites, but they are not perfect. I suppose that is more a result of a poor sample image submitted, than their software analysis and detection capabilities. $50 is not a lot, so I will look into that site too. I'd like to test it first if possible.

    As they say in Kentucky ... "All y'all have a very Merry Christmas!"

    Joe
     
  9. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Active Member

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    These days, "font" is synonomous with "typeface." In modern usage, that usually refers to all the styles of that font (regular, bold, medium, italic, etc.). For most people, a font is a digital file that can be used with a computer to produce documents.

    You can skip all the references to foundries, sorts, and glyphs (the historic definition of "font" may be interesting to academicians, but is no longer relevant in todays production environment).

    There are a number of font search engines on the internet. "WhatTheFont" on the "MyFonts" website (Monotype) works well. In many cases you will need to submit a sample to the forum, but the results are usually fast and exceptional (don't forget to spend a minute looking at other recent "open" cases - the more you contribute the better and faster your results might be).
     
  10. Jeff grossman

    Jeff grossman Living the dream

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    i got the opposite- double sided DVD for a banner ,Took a good 3 min. to open the file. 4x25 banner for a band in the rose bowl parade.came out great but huge file
     
  11. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    Welcome to the wonderful evolution of language.

    I don't think it's so much a function of generational differences though as most generations (that are still around) will typically go with the flow for the most part. Now, individuals from a particular generation, maybe not so much.

    I belong to that wonderful limbo generation known as Cuspers or Oregon Trail generation (depending on who you talk to, I prefer Oregon Trail generation (the nerd gamer in me), ironically got Oregon Trail and Galaga for Xmas, but I digress) and I'm a hold out on some things.

    In my world, we have fonts (lettering that is done on the fly via keyboard) and we have alphabets, already digitized patterns that happen to look like letters, but everything is done manually, one letter at a time. People (even in the older generation) and software vendors use those terms interchangeably and they are not.

    It permeates into other areas as well. Another one that makes my cringe is "begging the question". How many people think "begging the question" means that you say that and follow it up with a question? That's not what it used to mean.

    Sometimes just have to roll with it.
     
  12. The Hobbyist

    The Hobbyist Member

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    In a perfect world ...

     
  13. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    That's a remarkably uninformed video that doesn't touch on the primary roadblock to such an undertaking. That roadblock being user support.

    27 years ago, my company developed an app to identify fonts which we named FontFinder. It was based on a "fingerprint" of simply the height to width ratio of each character in a font. Measurements could be taken by hand and typically three characters was sufficient to get a correct ID. If the letters were stretched, squeezed or slanted, a built-in adjustment could be applied to correct for it. It only failed to work when the letters were distorted, arched or rotated.

    The app was reviewed quite favorably and received the support of most major type manufacturers including Adobe, Agfa, Monotype, Bitstream and URW. It was advertised in all the sign industry trade journals and shown at the NESA International trade show in Washington DC. Among enthusiastic purchasers was the professional document examiners community including the FBI, the Secret Service, the CIA, dozens of police departments and dozens of independent forensic document examiners. Less enthusiastic was the sign, print and graphic design community who generally didn't recognize typeface identification as a problem they needed to solve.

    Ultimately, FontFinder failed to produce a profit and was removed from the market in favor of a more user friendly product out of Switzerland named FontExpert for which we became the North American distributor for a couple of years. It ran into the same fate with its main intended market.

    Today there is the Find My Font app which is quite good at typeface ID and priced at an easy to justify price of under $50. My guess is that it may be suffering the same fate as its predecessors.

    Maybe it's time for the sign, print and design community to embrace a product the solves a wide spread need in providing professional capabilities.
     
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  14. Andy_warp

    Andy_warp Member

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    From a printing perspective...if you have the font in a pdf or ai...and it is missing, you can place that file in Illustrator and use the "flatten transparency"
    Just check the "convert to outlines"

    It is hack-y but can give you vector files to work with, albeit messy files.
    A lot of times you can download collateral from the end users website that will have it.

    It can be problematic if the end user makes changes frequently to their logo...a lot of times it can just be kerning or adding weight to something.

    I love typefaces but set type like a fiend.
     
  15. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Active Member

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    I use the "flatten transparency" trick often, but occasionally it will result in outlines of whatever the default substitute font is. I have tried to covert to outlines using a similar command in Acrobat, but get no results with those errant fonts that refuse to cooperate. I'd say it works 95% of the time, but when it doesn't I can't help but think there is something I'm missing. Any clues?
     
  16. GAC05

    GAC05 Major Contributor

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    I wonder if Dan Rather was one of the leaders in opposition to these types of programs.........
     
  17. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    The flatten transparency trick with PDFs in Adobe Illustrator is handy, but I use that feature most often with PDFs from major companies. Most of the time it's pretty easy to extract useful artwork from PDF files. Major brands tend to strip away lots of superfluous details, effects, etc and go for flat colors. It's rare that I run into logos or other elements in PDFs featuring a mess of clipping masks, rasterized effects, etc. When I do the Vector First Aid plug-in from Astute Graphics works pretty well at eliminating a lot of issues in PDFs.

    Clients from smaller businesses don't tend to provide PDFs with embedded fonts in their logo or other artwork elements they want us to reproduce. We're usually getting the artwork in the form of a JPEG image or some other pixel-based format. Too many freelance "graphic designers" out there only feel comfortable designing logos and graphics in Photoshop, or some other pixel-based image editing application.

    That situation often leaves us in the position of having to reproduce the logo in vector format -which obviously leads into the task of identifying typefaces used in the artwork. It's going to take far less time to place a new text object set in the desired typeface rather than attempt to reproduce that type over the top of a placed JPEG image.

    I've been fascinated by type since I was a kid. When my father was in photo-journalism school at Syracuse he had to take a couple graphics & page layout related classes. One item he acquired was a Letraset type book; this was a 1980 edition and I still have it (along with a few later editions). The book is interesting for showing what kinds of type were popular in that era and for some typefaces that don't appear to be available in digital form at all. I'm usually the guy at my workplace who is asked to ID fonts. But even I get stumped (and ask for help here occasionally).
     
  18. The Hobbyist

    The Hobbyist Member

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    :rolleyes: Yes, some programs have been written to try to identify fonts, and predictably, they SOMETIMES are successful at matching a sample to a correct font, or more often returning something that is only very close, and then, only if the submitted sample isn't something obscure, or minimally or greatly altered from its original design.

    However, when you have a letter that has some feature such as edges that curl out, or whatever, measuring the exterior dimensions of the letter alone will not return a reliable match with a success rate worthy of paying for such software. I would not purchase a piece of software that only returns it's "Best Guess.". Imagine trusting your freedom to a crime fingerprint database that "matches" your fingerprint to a dozen crimes based on how "close" it is to the actual fingerprint found at the crime scene! CLOSE ENOUGH is not good enough.

    Current font identification offerings can only GUESS at fonts that are close, because it does not do a forensic examination of the X/Y coordinates that constitute the actual nodes of each letter to establish the specific fingerprint of that letter. One cannot argue that letters identified by a mathematical calculation of the positions of nodes on a grid is a LESS accurate means of identifying a specific letter than simply measuring its exterior dimensions.

    My remarkably uninformed video :D addresses the issue of our current inability to accurately, reliably and repeatedly identify a font by submitting a sample. Easy fonts can be found using this method ... Arial, Helvetica, Times Roman, etc., but in the real world, small mom n' pop companies are more apt to use some fancy font found on a $3.00 DVD of "The World's Greatest Art Fonts" from the discount bin at Wally World that they used on a home computer to create a unique look, without any adherence to traditional sign design practices, than they are to approach a professional sign design firm for a professional presence. Mixing serif fonts with sans serif fonts is a prime example.

    The fact remains that every font identification program I have found or tried has only been successful about 50% of the time. This forum is chocked full of requests to identify fonts, and that is a testament to the high failure rate of such programs as they are currently written.
     
  19. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    The percentage of success is much greater than what you claim. Your notion of a fingerprint based on node positions falls apart when you throw in the common variables of slanting, stretching, squeezing etc. encountered and dealt with a large percentage of the time. All those nodes would be shifted to different positions. But most amazing in your commentary is the notion that anything short of perfect performance is not worth using or supporting. How do you explain the strong support given by the professional document examiners to my FontFinder app as well as every other app out there?

    Do you know something they don't? Or do they, perhaps, know something you don't?

    If we both get a job for $1,000 that has a couple of unknown fonts in what the client supplies and I identify them and use them while you don't because no perfect system exists and then I get five repeat orders in the next six months while you never hear from your customer again, was I right to use an imperfect identification method?
     
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