Shazam-like handheld tool for font finding

Visual inspiration can strike anywhere, at any time. Recently, there have been some cool tools created to help designers with this. One such device was the Cube — a portable device that lets you find the colour value of any object. This device, however, helps designers when they’re font finding. Sometimes we see a font in a magazine or on a poster and are instantly drawn to the look and feel of it. Other times we might recognize its familiarity, but can’t remember what it’s called. Spector can now help with that.

Fiona O’Leary created Spector as a graduation project for the Royal College of Art. The handheld tool works by capturing typefaces — even colours — from the real world and transfers them directly to InDesign. Unfortunately, it’s currently only a working prototype. However, Fiona is pursuing one day commercializing this font finding tool so that designers everywhere can quickly find out about the fonts they like.

Tool captures text and searches database for fonts

Spector was born out of personal frustration. “When you design for print on screen, it never looks like how it’s going to print,” says Fiona. “If you’re going to design for print on screen you should start with print.”

How the font finding works

Spector works like the physical version of Photoshop’s eyedropper tool; simply place it over a piece of media and depress the button on top. A camera inside photographs the sample, and an algorithm translates the image into information about the shape of the typeface. Spector works the same way regarding its colour selector setting for CMYK/RGB values.

It then sends that information to a font or colour database which identifies the sample. And if your computer is nearby, a custom plugin imports the information back into InDesign. The highlighted text or projects will automatically change to the typeface or colour of your real-world sample. Not to worry if you’re not near a computer, Spector can store up to 20 font samples to transfer at a later time.

Spector currently recognizes seven typefaces that it accesses through a font database: Apercu, Bureau Grot, Canela, and Founders Grotesk. The tool can also translate type sizes up to 48 point, as well as their kerning and leading. Fiona is currently working to integrate her font finding tool with a larger font database.

Privacy problems

The one major drawback to Spector is its potential for typeface piracy, which has become a surprisingly large problem in recent years. A device like this would probably complicate things further. Fiona, however, recognizes piracy as a potential setback for Spector and notes that there’s always been an element of creative poaching in graphic design.

Spector by Fiona O’Leary

What are your thoughts on this font finding tool? Would you like to be able to find out what a typeface is without having to search and compare?


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