Helvetica-like condensed, $200 reward

Yes, really, I am offering a reward of up to $200 for information leading to the apprehension of the font used in a document. I am mildly stumped, and running out of time.

Details on my blog here: http://www.thomasphinney.com/2013/02/font-id-reward/

Plus, assuming my client lets me talk about it afterwards, you could be immortalized in one of my “font detective” talks. :)


Hmm, what makes you think it isn’t Helvetica (distorted and squashed etc.)? Looks like it, to me.

Even the PDF-properties say it is Helvetica (plus Times and an obscure HiddenHorzOCR-font) …

Renko: The PDF was made from a scan of the original. Any fonts embedded in the PDF are unrelated to that image. It's a red herring!

Hmmm, if English is not your first language, you may not know that idiomatic expression. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_herring



Looks like squooshed Helv to me, too, after doing a quick overlay.

But I'm sure you've already tried this extensively, Thomas. What are the shapes that aren't matching for you? S? a? It does seem like the tails on 'a' and 't' are angled rather than flat, but it's hard to tell with the ink spread.

I can only confirm what Renko and Stephen said. I see nothing that could lead to another font than Helvetica. Squooshed surely but still Helvetica. To me, all differences and minor details are due to scanning process and original printing. That's also why I can't be 100% positive but still believe it is Helvetica.
Regarding PDF properties, can't explain why but don't think they should be taken in consideration. This is probably due to the OCR process used for scanning this document. When opening document under Ai, there's no text, only the scanned image.

Swiss 721 Medium fits almost perfectly, with some strange differences: all UC letters are spaced out a bit and pairs: r, y. are also spaced out.
Version 003.001; I'll try to find older version.
Edit: Swiss 721 Medium BT (True Type), Version: mfgpctt-v1.52 Wednesday, January 27, 1993 10:18:23 am (EST), Copyright 1990-1993 Bitstream Inc.
Comes with CorelDraw 5.0

Jan may be on to something with Swiss 721 - my Bitstream catalog from back in the early 90s shows a variety of condensed weights. Since it is Bitstream's version of Helvetica the question is are the differences enough to make up for what we see. The issue of ink spread in printing is also a question.

Probably senseless but to me, it's hard to believe it could have been some exotic/rare sans to write such a simple document...

I think the same as Ryuk. Someone who doesn’t care about squooshing a typeface to fit it in the grid doesn’t use some exotic font. Maybe just the apple built-in Helvetica …

Nice to share the wealth Thomas! Contrasts very strongly with the general practice of actually harming the design field via IDing...

BTW, are you sure Florian beat Jan?


What was the name of that “font police” company that started up within the last year-ish? (via kickstarter I believe).



Thanks. That’s the one.

Florian emailed me less than an hour after I posted about this, so I am pretty sure he was first, yes.

Good thing, too, because I already sent him his $200, so it would have been very unfortunate if I only realized now than Jan beat him! Congratulations to Jan on being first runner up. If he makes it to ATypI in Amsterdam I will gladly buy him a drink.

I will be doing more thorough testing starting tonight, but so far it really does look like Swiss 721 Medium. At least, I have enough evidence to arrest and charge the suspect while I look for more, and I have paid Florian his reward. (Hmm, if I continue that analogy, I guess I should have waited for a conviction first.)

I would love to talk more about the analysis and such, but as this is an active case and is expected to go to trial, I should wait until afterwards. Sorry!

In this particular case, the font ID is only part of the puzzle, but it was the one that was giving me the most trouble. Given that I have two cases going right now, and they both have immediately looming deadlines, I couldn't afford to noodle on it further on my own. I am thrilled by the response! Thank you to everyone who contributed, not only Florian and Jan!

Tommy "Mad Dog" Phinney always gets his man.


I see. And thanks for the Wikipedia entry. Have learned something new today.

No, it was Swiss 721 Medium. Now to be clear, there are no design differences worth mentioning—Swiss 721 is a Helvetica knockoff. But there are some slight differences in the advance widths, which make it impossible to get an exact match with Helvetica.

But it is exactly that level of certainty one wants in these high-stakes legal cases. Crazy stuff!