Dezeen Magazine

Fiona O'Leary designs pocket-sized font detector

Graduate shows 2016: Royal College of Art graduate Fiona O'Leary has designed a prototype gadget that can identify the font used in any book or magazine (+ movie).

Spector font tool by Fiona O'Leary

The Spector tool allows users to discover the name of the font used on any selected piece of printed material, as well as the type's size and spacing.

O'Leary, who graduated from the college's Design Products masters course, created the gadget to aid print-based graphic designers working on computers.

The device works as an InDesign plugin and features a small camera on its underside that takes a picture of the font once the 'start' button is pressed. The device then matches the picture to a database of font samples collected by O'Leary.

Spector font tool by Fiona O'Leary

"I came up this idea from my frustration with designing for print on screen – it never looks like it does on screen as it does in the finalised print," she said. "You have no idea of scale of the page or typography and colours often visualise differently too."

Spector can identify the spacing between characters, known in graphic design as kerning, and the amount of blank space between lines of text, known as leading.

It can also detect a colour's RGB and CMYK values to help designers recreate a specific hue.

"I see this tool as more of a way of seeing how to understand typography and making typesetting more transparent by communicating invisible factors such as size, kerning and leading," O'Leary said. "This helps educate the user about typography."

Spector font tool by Fiona O'Leary

Once a match for a font has been found, its measurements are used to calculate the leading by comparing baselines – the imaginary straight lines on which a line of type rests.

The kerning is calculated by the taking the left-most edge of the first recognised character, and the right-most edge of the last recognised character. This length is then compared to the font's measurements to give a relative kerning size.

At the moment, the Spector prototype is only able to detect the fonts Apercu, Bureau Grot, Canela, Dala Moa, Founders Grotesk, Eames and GT Walsheim.

Spector font tool by Fiona O'Leary

Eventually, O'Leary hopes to create an option that allows designers to temporarily install the detected typeface for an hour on their computer. The user could then sample it in their work and decide to buy it if suitable, avoiding piracy.

O'Leary hopes to get the project crowdfunded within the next two years.

Spector was on display at the ShowRCA 2016 exhibition, held at the Royal College of Art's Kensington campus from 26 June to 3 July 2016.

Dezeen was media partner for the event, which also showcased wearable sex toys, a tool to transform the human voice into instruments and a set of "cute" kitchen appliances.