The best online tools to help you get the most out of great typography

Sleek, effortless design with that ‘wow’ factor is integral when wanting to stand out from the crowd. More than ever before, the use of typography in design and the need to get it ‘right’ is paramount and rightly so when you consider the impact design has on the world and how it influences business as well as our daily lives. Graphic design is everywhere.

Since the invention of moveable type in 1452 by German-born goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg, typography has evolved enormously with over 25,000 font families now in existence and new and beautiful typefaces being created every day. With so many font families now available to us, we are often asked by both clients and fellow designers, where we start when applying fonts to our work.

In its entirety, great typography is measured not necessarily on its aesthetic qualities within a design but on how well it reinforces what the text is saying. You wouldn’t, for example, use a comical font for a publication promoting a new hospital. Nor would you use a dramatic, severe font to illustrate a children’s book. Such decisions in design might seem obvious but there are many occasions when it can be a struggle to perfect the right combination of typefaces in a layout.

At our design agency, every project we take on poses a new challenge in deciding on the typeface(s) to use. Sometimes the brief lends itself quite clearly to a particular style of type, however more creative, open briefs that give free reign on how the design could evolve can require some typographic problem solving. Without a typeface at the forefront of a design, it can be hard to progress further. Knowing where to look and learning how to use typefaces that compliment one another saves a lot of time and frustration.   

Thanks to the wonders of the internet nowadays, there is a great variety of websites available to help with font conundrums.

In its entirety, great typography is measured not necessarily on its aesthetic qualities within a design but on how well it reinforces what the text is saying.

fontsquirrel and dafont

These sites both house huge font libraries. You can search for fonts and their styles and filter your search results, i.e. by opting for sans serif fonts or serif fonts, or by tagging a particular style you have in mind such as calligraphic, contemporary or retro for example. What’s most beneficial about both sites is that they enable you to ‘test-drive’ your text, adding in your copy to see what it would look like. The majority of the typefaces on offer are available for both personal and commercial use, although it is always worth checking the terms and conditions before you go ahead to be sure you are using the font legally. What’s more, the majority of typefaces are free to download so this ultimately offers a great deal of flexibility and experimentation if you’d like to try out a few different typefaces in your design before you commit.

Fonts in Use

For inspiration, we often check out Fonts In Use. An independent archive of typography, this site showcases a great variety of design examples throughout the industry and adds the typeface(s) that have been used for each project. There are options to narrow your search for ideas by industry, format or typeface and the website is simply a really fantastic source to take advantage of when your creative juices are running low. Another great benefit of the site is the ability to search for a particular typeface you may have in mind and then being presented with examples of where it is used and which typeface(s) it has been paired with.

The only disadvantage to the site is that it might not have the typeface you want to see ‘in use’. Fear not!


If you can’t find an example of your font in use on Fonts in Use, Identifont enables you to search for typefaces that have similar aesthetic qualities to others. By searching for the typeface you like, it’ll show you a selection of alternative typefaces alongside information about where it was originally designed and links to where it can be bought online.

WhatTheFont, from My Fonts

One final website that is an essential source in every designer’s book of tricks is What the Font, and is our all-time favourite! If you have ever seen a font in a magazine, on a billboard, or even on packaging and want to know what it is, WhatTheFont is your perfect companion. By taking a photo of the typeface in question and uploading it onto the site, it will first ask you to confirm each letter before enlightening you with the name of the typeface. For optimal results there are a few tips to follow such as ensuring the image you submit isn’t pixelated and making sure the letters aren’t touching. It might not work for every typeface you submit but more often than not, it certainly helps guide you in the right direction and consider similar typefaces if it is unable to pinpoint the exact replica.

In a nutshell, every design project offers the opportunity to broaden creativity and experiment with exciting new styles and concepts. New challenges are there to be embraced.

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This article was written by Stephanie Gunn, Graphic Designer at Popdot Media. Steph is passionate about helping small businesses grow and develop while at the same time fostering great partnerships with her corporate clients.

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