• Transform magazine
  • February 21, 2019


Designers ask, 'WhatTheFont?'


In 1999, British app development company Shazam was founded in London. Its software revolutionised the relationship between people and music; instead of struggling to identifying a song, Shazam allowed users to know their background mysterious music, simply by hold their phone to a speaker. The problem of having well-liked but unknown lyrics circling the mind was solved. But, asked designers, what about us? What if we see a font or typeface we like, but don’t know how to identify it? The answer lies in WhatTheFont.

Developed by Massachusetts, US-based digital typesetting and typeface foundry Monotype, the WhatTheFont’s app uses artificial intelligence and image recognition technology to identify whichever font its user points toward. Initially created for digital font store MyFonts, the foundry says its primary audience is designers and creatives, many of whom have submitted already-scanned fonts into the developer’s database.

Functionally, the app is easy and straightforward to use. Users have numerous custom crop options;, a photo can be edited so only the font-containing part is submitted. This takes the confusion out of pictures which may contain multiple types of font, and allows WhatTheFonts’ technology to scan through over 100,000-font strong database to find the best match. The app currently enjoys a 90% accuracy rate.

WhatTheFont is free to download on both Android and iOS. Once a font is identified, the app them directs users towards the MyFonts store, where uploaded fonts can be viewed and purchased. Fonts can also be stored for later use, allowing the user to peruse the vast choice offered by WhatTheFont.

With WhatTheFont currently relying on 33 million categorised images to produce its results, the capacity for the app to aid designers and creatives is seemingly unending. Although originally launched in 2009, the app is now better equipped to identify cursive fonts and will only improve as more people use it. The machine learning and AI updates launched by Monotype propel the app into an age of smartphone recognition and answers on-demand.