Typographic fun on the iPhone

by Milind Alvares

Typographic fun on the iPhone

by Milind Alvares on February 24, 2010

Post image for Typographic fun on the iPhone

[tweetmeme]One of the reasons Apple has such a design fan following, is because the iPhone exhibits such exquisite typography and design. And the App Store is no stranger to good design (although we have seen some terrible stuff creep in there). Here’s a genre of apps that deal with bring you typography; interactive, informative, and even fun.

The Font Game

This game—if you can call it that—is a delight to tap into. Produced by I Love Typography and designed by Justin Stahl, The Font Game is the hallmark of aesthetics, gameplay, and total typographic awesomeness at the App Store.

The gameplay is completely down to earth straightforward ‘choose the correct font’. You’re presented with a word ‘fargo’ rendered in a particular typeface, and you have to choose between a list of four. With three levels of difficulty, you can either play for accuracy, or compete against the world list running against the timer.

Unlike other ‘games’ though, The Font Game leaves you a little font-wiser than before. You discover new fonts—I had no idea Museo even existed—and get to hone your skills in identifying common fonts. At $0.99, it’s a great game to have, if only for the amazing design and finish.


At first, I didn’t like it. I had played the online version, and the developers have carried over the experience on to the iPhone. TypeWar is similar to the Font Game in that you have to choose which font face the letter represents. It’s so boring at first, having to choose a letter that’s clearly Times New Roman and not Helvetica. I did sign up for the account, and decided to stick to it.

As you quickly confirm your typographic prowess by going through the levels, TypeWar unlocks more and more fonts for you to choose from. I don’t mean to brag, but even at level 15 I’m still looking for a challenge.

The problem with TypeWar is that it’s not very intelligent in its choices. Even at higher levels it places sans-serif font choices along with serifs, and includes obvious fonts like Didot. Moreover, since the choice is just between two, it’s much easier to figure out.

That said, it has a much better learning experience than the Font Game. You’re presented with just one letter much larger in size, so you can appreciate the finer details—useful when making choosing between Arial and Helvetica Neue. Also, as the game gets progressively more challenging—TypeWar continually downloads new fonts as the levels progress—you end up playing more of the game.

At just $1.99, TypeWar is engaging, educative, and if you’d like to polish up your font identifying skills, is a nice addition to your iPhone.


I don’t know what real world implications this game would have, but it’s certainly fun to play. KERN from FORMation involves a word dropping from the top, and you have to align the missing letter that’s already at the bottom. The quicker you release, the more brownie points you earn, with accuracy as the deciding factor of course.

I don’t think you can learn anything from this game other than to appreciate how letter spacing can affect your work—in this case, the continued accumulation of brownie points. Playtime: an hour or two. At $0.99, can’t get any cheaper.

Word Clock

Not a game. But a fantastic clock. You’ve probably even seen the screensaver before. Simon Heys has taken his fantastic typographic ‘Word Clock‘ and ported it to the iPhone. Both, the original paragraph version as well as the rotary version. It’s also interactive, so you can pinch in, and just tap to change the style. Looks great when you’re working on something design-y and have Word Clock launched on the docked iPhone. However, its $2.99 pricepoint will not work in the App Store economy.

Type Drawing

There’s tons of drawing apps on the App Store, but none like this. As the name goes, Type Drawing allows you to draw using type. You don’t need to twiddle around with any of the settings, or know much about how the app works. Just use your fingers to draw; and the app will fill in. While there’s no long term utility for this app, you can surely create something interesting that will wow your friends, without having any artistic skills (I’m still working on mine). The app only paints type, but you can embed a graphic in the background to make things interesting. You could also export the plain artwork and use it on some design project elsewhere. At $1.99, it’s quite reasonable for the doodling potential it offers.

One thing I’d like to point out, is that this was previously a Flash based application. Yet the developer doesn’t seem to have had a problem porting that over to Cocoa. We see Flash on the web, but it’s merely an enabler, not an end. That said, both the web version, and the iPhone version aren’t optimal. With web you have to use the mouse to draw, while the iPhone’s size results in cramped drawings. What I’m trying to say is that it’s going to be mind-blowing awesome on the iPad.

I wonder though. Am I missing out on some crucial ones?

[Header iPhone img by William Hook]
[Correction: The Font Game in fact costs just $0.99; corrected]

Leave a Comment

We'd love it if you would add your opinion to the article or discussion, whether positive or negative. We reserve the right to moderate comments at our discretion.

Previous post:

Next post: