Using AI to find the perfect font pairing faster

When used correctly, technology can help push forward the creative process

Terrance Weinzierl

Creative Type Director Monotype


Anyone who has missed the raging discussion on AI and the creative industries has most likely spent the last month or two under a rock. Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, Midjourney, Stable Diffusion and Dall-e have opened up the horizon for what being “creative” now means. And wherever the hype around AI appears, you can be sure that not far behind is a swell of anxiety on what all this means for the future of human work. But looking at other disruptive technologies over the last fifty years, it’s likely that AI will prove to be a tremendous tool — one that aids and informs the creative process, rather than replaces it. 

Let’s look at an everyday task in the design world. One of the most common creative choices designers make is font pairing. Pairing fonts allows us to fine-tune a brand's tone of voice. Take, for example, a brand's typical type workhorse - an accessible but somewhat impersonal sans family well suited to handle the brand's everyday type duties. A designer can create a more relaxed voice by adding a handwriting typeface to this. Or, paired with a rounded sans, the brand voice will immediately feel less formal and more friendly. Creating these unique unions allows designers to flex the voice while staying on brand. 

Using the latest advances in AI allows designers to supercharge their abilities and open up a new kind of data-informed serendipitous discovery.

Terrance Weinzierl, Creative Type Director at Monotype

Over time, experienced designers tend to develop a sixth sense of which pairings will work and which will flop. Typefaces come alive when paired well, and we implicitly know when we’ve hit the perfect combo — and when we haven’t. We also know when we’ve spent way too long mulling over these decisions. 

And here, with the number of available typefaces growing daily and brands continually under pressure to stay fresh, AI can be a real game changer. By digesting vast amounts of information, the software presents the designer with the best options according to the given search parameters, coming up with pairings that are surprising and delightful, without slogging through many hours of researching and prototyping. 

At Monotype, we’ve developed AI algorithms to increase both the depth and breadth of these font pairing suggestions. Our AI engine is trained on tens of thousands of typefaces and builds upon real-world design decisions made by actual designers. It makes generating font pairing suggestions both easier and more integrated. This new technology allows designers to access typography and expertise with just one click. 

So far, we have focused the AI training on what we refer to as ‘harmonious pairs’, sans and serif typefaces with similar features and structure. In the future, we will expand this to include a wider variety of typefaces from more contrasting genres. Using your brand’s primary font choice as the jumping-off point, the AI engine will come up with options you may not have considered before. Instead of removing human talent, the tool provides the designer with inspiration and insight while aiding the selection speed and quality of font combinations. 

Having incorporated machine learning into my own work, I see first-hand how AI can support and inspire designers to be more creative. Just like Adobe helped unleash new creative potential in the early 1990s, AI-enabled design tools can redefine the art of the possible in the 2020s. Using these tools, I now frequently see font pairings that I would never have thought of myself or would have had to spend hours of manual searching to come up with. 

Ultimately, the introduction of this new, powerful technology is not about removing human talent from the creative process. Using the latest advances in AI allows designers to supercharge their abilities and open up a new kind of data-informed serendipitous discovery. A new kind of pairing — this time of human and machine.

Guest Author

Terrance Weinzierl

Creative Type Director Monotype


Terrance Weinzierl, a Creative Type Director at Monotype, has been designing type since 2008. His work for Domino’s, PBS, and SAP is notable, along with his contributions to larger works like Microsoft Segoe and Google’s Open Sans. He has a number of library typefaces as well such as Kairos Sans, Monarda, and the latest, Tellumo. His fonts have been used in video games, food packaging, retail signage, professional sports teams and even automobiles.

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