Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Papyrus | The much over-used and very despised typeface.

Oh, Papyrus. You have endured so much hatred from the design community. Rest assured, it's not because your creator wasn't kind, smart and caring. It's because you've been abused and over-used since you were born into the typographic world in 1983. You've been used for countless coffee shops, wedding invitations, yoga classes and church bulletins. And, most recently, Avatar. Yes, Avatar the huge, highly-promoted and expensive 3-D film. Are you kidding me? I know, it's not your fault. You were designed to be used carefully and sparingly, but designers have taken you and forced you to do things you were never intended to do.

Chris Costello, the designer who created Papyrus, states that "it has become diluted and lost it's original appeal" (in an interview from Boise Weekly). It really is everywhere. I've been on a mission to capture as many inappropriate uses of Papyrus as I can while out and about - online and in the real world. Below is a collection of what I've found. As I've made friends and family stop on the street or have asked them if I could keep this flyer or that business card and have had to explain my mini-project, they've joined in the pursuit and their additions are also included.
If you come upon a hideous misuse of Papyrus, send it my way. If you can't get enough, visit iheartpapyrus.com, a blog dedicated to showcasing Papyrus sightings around the world. All of this makes me wonder: do we really despise Papyrus or do we just despise it's overuse?

(Disclaimer: If any of these images come from any organization or company you're associated with, I mean no offense. I'm simply trying to raise awareness for suitable and thoughtful type selection.)


  1. Very interesting. Who in the normal world knew? My font eye has been enlightened!

  2. This is awesome Megan, each time I see this font, it reminds me of type on drugs. (and I cringe) It's suppose to look all chill and relaxed, overused in the spa industry, tea, etc, but all I see is lazy eyes, or... a hippie font, gone mainstream. The Avatar one really shocked me... and didn't notice till reading your post. What's up with that? If you find the designer, you gotta ask them, "what was your reasoning behind that?"

  3. Huh. I like this font. I don't understand why these are examples of misuse. Please explain. -V

    1. In short, it's gone out of fashion. To anyone who has an eye for graphic design trends, it looks downright hippie and ancient, something that screams "I did this on a computer that is running 15-year-old software with default fonts and I didn't care to look for better fonts".

      It's not much different from the clothing fashion industry. Not everyone gets it, but it's extremely important to good marketing especially in the tech industry. (In the restaurant industry people would forgive you, even though it looks downright horrid to graphic designers ...)

  4. Hey V,
    Papyrus is the go-to artsy font for many who don't have access to others, so I understand why they choose it. It is more creative and interesting than Times New Roman, for instance. But when it gets used places where, when looked at objectively, even Times New Roman would achieve the goals of the piece more successfully, it's misuse. Take the 'Panini' menu for example. When Papyrus is used very small it is certainly not easy to read - something that's pretty important in a menu, I think we would all admit. Or what about a coffee shop? Do you really want to evoke thoughts of a dead sea scroll and sand storms when someone just wants a cup of hot coffee? Or what about this: http://www.electronic-essentials.com/ Wouldn't a clean, modern and sophisticated font feel better for their branding? Honestly, I think it's more about the overuse than misuse. Because of the overuse over the last 26 years, the font's visual meaning has turned to mush which makes it look like misuse every time it is used. (Another example of an overused font is Helvetica, but because of it's simple Swiss heritage, it is generally not despised because it's easy on the eyes and communicates the message without the view even thinking about the font it's in.)

  5. Oh yes. I totally agree about fancy fonts being used small. My students try to write their papers with these fonts. I hate it. I almost yell at them, "Use Times New Roman!" And yes, the electronic-essentials brand needs your help for sure. And Helvetica... ha ha. I think that a lot of the programs I use have that font as a default. So funny. Thanks for the lesson on font usage. I'll put it to good use!!! :) ~V

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  7. Just have to say thanks for not including my old logo in your photo montage....Ughhh...1000 lashes for me...

  8. megan...

    this is so funny, because i have been having the same thoughts about papyrus for years but i have never verbalized them. now here they are on your blog! the designer part of me that was never realized as a career lives vicariously through you, my friend!

    other fonts i hate: comic sans and sand. sand reminds me of poop. and the funny thing is, i was trying to remember what "sand" was called, so i typed "font that looks like poop" into google, and the first one that showed up was papyrus.

  9. p.s. do you know about this?


  10. Liz! You are cracking me up. Ha!
    And yes, I've tried identifont before. But I realllllly like 'What The Font?' (http://new.myfonts.com/WhatTheFont/). It uses an image to figure it out for you. I have the app on my phone and it's pretty slick. I use it often :)

  11. LOVE IT! great work--i had no idea there are so many others who feel as i do :)