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10 Iconic Fonts and Why You Should Never Use Them

Typography | Feb 28, 2011

We’ve got a lot to thank Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and the computing world’s other leaders for. They’re responsible for some of the greatest leaps forward in communications and business in the last 30 years-and many of the biggest innovations in design, too.

Without them, our industry wouldn’t be what it is today, and many of the world’s top designers wouldn’t have a platform for their work.

However, there is one reason to resent these giants: their choice of fonts. In releasing mega-popular suites and catering to a broad, design-illiterate audience, leading business applications such as Microsoft Word shocked us with the overused fonts that they include standard in their latest releases.

This isn’t a riff on the world’s worst fonts, but rather an invitation for amateur designers and business users to stop abusing some of the world’s best fonts.

Nothing is particularly wrong with Impact or Comic Sans as fonts per se, but there is a huge deal wrong with using them in every situation. The 10 fonts below are overused and patently annoying, and we give 10 good reasons to stop using all of them.

 

1. Impact

Impact Font

One of the world’s most popular header fonts, Impact does have its positives. It’s easy to read, rather striking and great for getting attention. However, it has been misused so frequently that few good designers even bother to acknowledge its existence anymore, preferring to use other high-visibility fonts.

Here’s why you should not use it: it’s too thin, too focused and too amateurish to stand out.

Impact is the standard choice for office handouts and amateur mailing list items, and it should never be used for a professional logo or public document. Avoid it, and opt for a wider font for your headlines.

 

2. TheSans Basic

Sans Basic Font

It’s hard not to like TheSans. Perfectly spaced and delicately styled, it seems like the perfect font for online body content and short snappy copy.

Unfortunately, it is ruined by the uppercase “Q,” which just isn’t styled right for such an otherwise generic, versatile and widely usable typeface.

Creativity in typefaces is fantastic: it makes otherwise boring fonts interesting, its flourishes can transform bland documents, and it even allows designers to emphasize certain letters.

But the “Q” here just isn’t right. It is style for style’s sake, and it looks a bit silly as part of a typeface that’s otherwise fairly standard.

 

3. Trajan

Trajan Font

Trajan, along with the “laurel leaves” icon, has become tragically overused in film posters and other movie marketing material.

From fantasy to indie films, marketers have been using this dynamic combo to establish authenticity for some time, and it’s beginning to take its toll on an otherwise pretty font.

Here’s why: Trajan has shipped with almost every edition of Adobe’s Creative Suite, making it one of a handful of fonts available to any designer. It’s a great font for occasional titles and small touches, but as an all-purpose font for entertainment and epics, it’s getting a little tired.

 

4. Arial

Arial Font

Thankfully, Microsoft replaced Arial with Calibri as the default font in Office 2007. Arial was once the standard font in all Windows applications, making it the go-to font for amateurs and thoughtless designers.

Microsoft originally chose Arial to skirt licensing issues with the older, slightly more popular Helvetica.

By going with Arial, it avoided the licensing fees and got a font that was very similar to Helvetica, with only slight variations, many of which are impossible to spot when the font is used for body text.

 

5. Comic Sans

Comic Sans Font

Few fonts are as reviled as Comic Sans. The whimsical font really isn’t that bad when used appropriately. Unfortunately, the entire corporate world seems to have chosen it for “Do not enter” signs, product announcements and even scathing sports-related rebukes.

Comic Sans is great for children’s products, party invitations and (gasp) comic books. It is not suitable for product announcements, termination notices and funeral invitations.

This is a classic case of a good font gone bad through overuse, outright misuse and sheer stupidity.

 

6. Franklin Gothic

Franklin Gothic Font

We get it: you want your website to look like a newspaper. Franklin Gothic is an iconic font that has the potential to look good, but it is all too often misused by amateur designers who want to give their websites a “classic” look or bloggers who are desperate for credibility.

Franklin Gothic is great for headlines, short leading questions and other minor design elements. It should not be used for an entire website.

While a truly classic offline font, Franklin Gothic is abused too often to be a staple of the web.

 

7. Helvetica

Helvetica Font

Not many designers would put Helvetica on a list like this. Designed in 1957 and used by some of the world’s biggest companies (Apple, NASA and BMW are all big fans), Helvetica is one of the most visible sans-serif typefaces in print and advertising.

For most designers, that’s a testimony to its versatility and value. But it’s also a reason not to use it too much.

Helvetica has become so overused that it has lost its distinction. When you want to grab attention or emphasize a bit of content, Helvetica is no longer your answer. That said, the font is still ideal for ordinary body content.

 

8. Bradley Hand (and Other “Handwritten” Fonts)

ITC Bradley Hand Font

The reason that handwritten-style fonts are used is that they convey personality in a way that Arial and other sans-serif fonts cannot.

The reality is that they come off as kitschy and inauthentic, and they end up saying more about your taste than your content.

Bradley Hand is one of the worst offenders: a cheap font that has been used in too many invitations and personal greetings to slip under the radar. But other handwritten fonts are just as annoying, as are the many tacky script-style fonts used in party invitations and gift-shop signage.

 

9. Courier and Courier New

Courier Font

Courier makes sense for certain uses: screenplays, code, plain text documents. But its disproportional lettering and typewriter aesthetic makes it unsuitable for web designers.

Don’t bother with Courier as a design element, just don’t. It’s great for text for which readability is paramount, such as code, but on the web it reeks of a 12-year-old’s angst-ridden Geocities website-especially when rendered in neon green.

 

10. Papyrus

Papyrus Font

Papyrus is the king of bad fonts. Equal parts childish, kitschy and irritating, this ugly piece of typography has found its way into everything from film posters (Avatar, anyone?) to logos for credit unions.

It has become such a universal annoyance that several anti-Papyrus blogs have popped up.

As with Comic Sans, avoid this typeface if you want to be taken seriously. Unlike other reviled typefaces, though, Papyrus isn’t bad because it is overused: it’s bad because it just doesn’t look good. Kitschy, cheap and vile, Papyrus has no place in your designs.


Written exclusively for WDD by Mathew Carpenter. He is an 18-year-old business owner and entrepreneur from Sydney, Australia. Mathew is currently working on Sofa Moolah, a website that teaches you how to make money online. Follow Mathew on Twitter: @matcarpenter. Follow Sofa Moolah on Twitter: @sofamoolah.

Which other iconic fonts should we stop using in our designs? Share your opinion in the comments!

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  • RC

    “Helvetica has become so overused that it has lost its distinction. When you want to grab attention or emphasize a bit of content, Helvetica is no longer your answer. That said, the font is still ideal for ordinary body content.”

    And right underneath that is a link to “40 Excellent Logos Created with Helvetica” (http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/03/40-excellent-logos-created-with-helvetica)

    Care to make up your mind?

    • erik

      hahahaha bravo!

    • http://www.sofamoolah.com Mathew Carpenter

      This article was of my own opinion. The author of that post and I share different views.

    • Shalom

      LOL!!! Good one there!…lmao…

  • http://www.fenotype.nl Lourens

    I’m not sure about your arguments. Helvitica isn’t meant for headings, neither is The Sans or Arial. On the other hand you’ve got fonts like Trajan, Impact and Papyrus, which are meant for headings (and hardly ever for body text, unless you’ve got yourself a really bad designer).

    I don’t think it’s ‘fair’ to say you should stop using certain fonts all together. I think it’s fair to use certain fonts for certain purposes only though.

  • Shawn

    I’m going to have to disagree with Courier New and Helvetica. If used sparingly and tasteful, both faces can still pack a punch. The following link provides a great example of them used cohesively…

    http://mikekus.com/

    • Joksin

      Sorry, but I have to agree with Shawn.
      I love Courier New and Helvetica. I always used it for my design.

    • http://www.mainattack.com Gabrielle Aizenberg

      Agreed. Excellent example.

  • http://trikdantipsblackberry.wordpress.com Trik dan Tips BlackBerry

    Nice share.. I have knowledge about font from your article..

  • Dudders

    I am smiling, on the whole I agree, especially about Papyrus. Some people seem to be “font blind” and in others it can evoke such strong emotions regardless of the meaning of the words, my girlfriend just cannot understand my reaction sometimes when I react positively or negatively to a product just because of typography.

  • http://bergb.com Nikola Arezina

    you forgot myriad, default illustrator font :)
    one of reason why we have this font overused is fact that some designers forgot to convert fonts to outlines or embed font, I’ve seen lots of big companies posters and billboards with default myriad font because this occur instead of their corporate fonts

  • http://www.csskarma.com Tim Wright

    Comments on Bradley are dead-on. A little odd on the Helvetica/Arial inclusion since they’re top-notch for body content, but over all pretty good list.

    Nice to see something like this all in one place for the “Why you shouldn’t use comic sans” discussion.

  • Klaus

    Can’t say that I’m impressed with this article. Comic Sans, Papyrus and maybe Bradley Hand are quite obvious, but the rest? Fonts are to be seen in context and where they are being used – and none of the other seven deserve even remotely to be labeled as they were. Especially since some – like Arial or Helvetica are so iconic that they are a template for hundreds of variations.
    All in all, not an article that is on the normally high level of WDD content.

    • http://www.aboutadirk.com Dirk

      I’m with Klaus on this one.

      That is all.

    • mslydale

      Agreed with Klaus. Some kid trying to get readers using a threatening headline. The arguments are not based on solid evidence or reason, just opinion. Arial and Helvetica stand the test of time for very good reason. A good designer doesn’t cry about the tools he is given to use, a good designer develops communication through any means possible.

    • http://www.visionandaction.co.uk Mike

      There is no justification for designers to stop using any of these fonts.

      An amateur is an amateur and regardless of what typeface they use, they will inevitably still create an amateur piece of work.

      A designer can use anyone of these fonts and still create a great piece of design!

    • charlie

      Klaus has it correct. Any type face has value in context. And given the visuals used as examples for this article I wouldn’t use any of them. The Sans styling on the “Q” is what give the face character. Large type families that have to cover a lot of bases have limited opportunities to express themselves and the CAP Q is a common place that is used for some creative expression. (also see Trajan). The Sans is a modern face, and the “Q” is an excellent modern twist.

      Helvetica is a magical type face. It has such character, yet at times, can completely disappear. Again, the proper context, this face will never fall out of use. Looking at the complete family of Helvetica, it work across a huge number of weights. This often not the case (look at Gil Sans. It looks like shit at the heavy end of the scale)

      I must agree, however, that Impact must never be used. It’s a shameful font and an embarrassment to type everywhere.

  • http://misterjacobs.com Brian

    I highly disagree with this young designer. Until the web changes to the point that we can design sites with various typefaces without platform and browser issues. Some of these are staples of web design and a true typographer knows how to get the most from these faces.

  • Eric

    I’m trying to reconcile your quote about Helvetica “…the font is still ideal for ordinary body content” and your over-the-top headline, “…Why You Should Never Use Them.”

    But, you know, you’re right. We should all try to do the opposite of whatever Apple is doing because we all know how much they suck at design.

    • 2cents

      Nice one Eric :oD

  • http://www.radicalbender.com/ Ben Dyer

    The addition of Helvetica to this list is just smarmy link bait. The reason designers still like and use it is because it continues to work in a wide variety of applications, as Miedinger intended.

    Times New Roman would be a better, more-obvious choice, but then the entire article would show to be a poorly-written, Wikipedia-researched blog post that mostly just bags on the Microsoft Font Pack.

    Only young, naïve designers hate Helvetica. When you grow up, you’ll understand its value.

    • http://www.sofamoolah.com Mathew Carpenter

      I don’t hate it. I think it’s been overused.

      • shawn

        Helvetica is timeless design. If any face is overused, it would be Museo. In 3 years it will be dust.

  • Fernanda

    Interesting article, 100% agree with you.

  • http://www.delphiaconsulting.com Mark

    Helvetica rules! Unfortunately, I think I’m going to have to agree that it is becoming over used… and sometimes poorly without any discretion. I also cannot believe that you put Papyrus as #10 :P Can you move that up to #1?

  • david

    Comic Sans is the favorite font in this list for me, ’cause even one of my teachers used this for rating my 30 pages long homework, seven years ago. She loved to use this kitschy font on nearly every sheet of paper she wrote on her PC. *argh*

  • Mary

    Glad to see Papyrus on here. I loathe that font with a fiery passion.

  • Dennis

    Great article. I completely agree with the overuse of papyrus, lol, but I disagree with the idea to stop using helvetica because it has lost its distinction. I agree that many major companies have been using this font and it has been portrayed in many different ways, but that’s sort of why it was created in the first place. It is a font that lends itself almost transparently to what the designer is trying to do with it. So to say that it has lost its distinction is to say it originally had distinction, which we know it really didn’t. Now, to say that we should use a font that more acutely and uniquely compliments and drives a design, I would agree with that statement.

    Thanks for the article,
    Dennis

  • http://jessewilliamson.net Jesse

    I almost died when I saw that Papyrus was used for the subtitles in Avatar. How could nobody know? Of course, when I mention it to anyone I know that doesn’t design, the response is “I liked it. I thought it looked cool.”

  • Rick

    You also should suggest the alternate font.

  • http://www.executiveprinters.com alex

    You forgot to include – Myriad

    Every time I see this font it tells me some lazy butt designer opened AI and did not even care to change the font.

  • JC

    So, good reasons not to use those fonts. How about some alternative font choices?

  • http://marilynadorno.com/ Marilyn

    Actually I think Papyrus is a fairly beautiful font. Overused? Yes… But just like Helvetica and Trajan, they are guilty of being pretty. They can’t help it, people just love them!

    • http://www.fldtrace.com Lucian

      Papyrus is not ugly, actually I find it nice too.

      • Cielo

        I think most, if not all of these fonts could look good if used in the proper context. I say could, because when a Font becomes a cliche, it’s still on the out. I actually really liked Papyrus when I first stepped into the world of graphic design… of course, years of noticing its ubiquitousness in bad design has eliminated the possibility of me ever actually using it. But, yeah… Papyrus was nice before it got a rep…

  • http://www.designinsaigon.com Charly

    Strongly disagree for Helvetica. I would not put this font in a post titled “font that you should never use”

  • http://bmightycreative.com Joe Vasquez

    Add “Scriptina” to the list…in the beginning it was a nice font. Then with overuse, it became an ugly monster. I know a person (not a designer) who uses Scriptina as her default font for EVERY stinking design. Yuck!

    There should be a place where we can vote a font off the island already!

  • http://www.timothywhalin.com Timothy Whalin

    Great article! I like that you included Helvetica in the list. It was also helpful that you said how the fonts can be used appropriately and how they are often used inappropriately. Thank you.

    Timothy Whalin

  • Carlos

    Yes…..and no. Just because a lot designers have inappropriately used these fonts doesn’t mean they should be thrown out with the dishwater. Helvetica, Trajan–in particular–can still be used effectively in layout…and Arial is such a “familiar” font that it really increases readability/usability (for large blocks of content).

    Anyhow, I agree that “designers” shouldn’t assume that just by using these fonts their design is going to be better. And, yes, some of those fonts should be permanently emptied from the recycle bin…

  • http://www.thecareerbreaksite.com Rachel

    I love courier, it’s so typey. I think it can still work in a design element, if used properly.

    Papyrus makes me want to stick pins in my eyeballs though.

  • http://i-alcocer.tumblr.com/ i_alcocer

    Not agree. The readibility of a font (specially body-text) sould never be something to mess with when we are talking about creativity in a design process, even if its a popular one. Why? simple, because many of these fonts are kind of a standard in the whole history of typefacing.

    Besides cretaivity, there is something in web design (that exists in almost any other comunicaction process) called “Best Practice”. Fonts like Arial, Helvética, or even Impact have proven to be some of the best readable fonts ever used, and therefore, best for communicating a mesage, at least in a first level of languaje (semanthical, gramathical, etc.).
    But hey, if you dont make it trhoth the lower levels, how you expect yo reach a higher one?
    So dont underestimate these facts, and you better put your creativity somewhere else.

  • http://www.whatsthebigidea.com David Radovanovic

    Thank the lord you’ve finished. Can you suggest font alternatives to your list of pet peeves?

  • el

    The “laurel leaves” character you dislike is actually ivy, and the character is called a “hedera.”

    Slightly more information: http://typophile.com/node/13110

  • nick

    I agree with most of these.. but some of them are good fonts.
    Should not be on the “Not To Be Used”
    If the designer’s good, could make all these look good.

  • http://www.jamiereddish.com Jamie

    I’m no fan of comic sans but THIS is by far one of the best/funniest things I’ve ever seen.

    Response to all the designers who diss comic sans, written by comic sans:
    http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/monologues/15comicsans.html

    • erik

      i still laugh every single time i read this article. its incredible.

    • http://www.annarobertson.ca Anna

      Agreed! This article reminds me of the debate over http://readthefuckinghig.tumblr.com/ … Do we just spout out don’ts or do we actually write about inspiring/creative alternatives…

  • MattS

    You know what font I always think is missing in the list of ugly/overused fonts…

    Hobo

    It deserves as much bashing as Comic sans gets.

  • Peter F-S

    Enjoyed that read and agree most part, however, I have to say that there will always be a place for Helvetica at the top of the triangle in the design world – yes, used more than most, but it’s such an iconic, strong and aesthetically pleasing font that it’s down to how effectively it’s used that will serve to make it distinctive in your designs. Long live Hv!!

  • http://www.creativepaths.net alex

    i think that thesans, arial and helvetica are good fonts to be used in 2011.
    The “Q” from thesans is… so unique, and that is a good thing, not bad.
    As for helvetica and arial, they work good in any case. Maybe they are overused, but that doesn`t mean you can`t make great “original” design with them.
    I also think that eurostile would be a better canditate for this list.

  • Knabo

    “It’s great for text for which readability is paramount”. If you have any text where readability isn’t paramount – just delete it!

    Otherwise, great article.

  • http://bergb.com Nikola Arezina

    Helvetica is a classic! it don’t belong here! discussion about overusing this font was thirty years ago, swap Helvetica with Myriad :)

  • http://www.vivoocreative.co.uk Nottingham Web Design

    Nice article but I don’t agree with Halvetica and Arial

  • http://www.dessign.net Dessign

    People will always use Helvetica, its safe and it does the job. I would stay away from Impact,

    Marios

  • http://field2.com Ben Dunkle

    You forgot Marker Felt, Desdemona, Dakota Hand, and Bauhaus.

  • Jacques

    TypeFaceNazis, piss off.

  • Angela

    Comic Sans stands up for himself. Typography humor for a good laugh!

    http://mcsweeneys.net/links/monologues/15comicsans.html

  • http://www.yvonne-tang.com Yvonne

    I just got an email from a client the other day – “Can we use this font in the file I attached? I think it’s very nice. It’s called Papyrus.”

  • David Hucklesby

    Some readers seem to have missed your comment about Helvetica being “ideal for body content.” :(

    I do wish you had mentioned Verdana, though… okay on its own at small sizes, it simply does not “go with” anything else.

    • Diana

      I caught Helvetica being “ideal for body content,” David.

      Seriously, folks, do *not* use Helvetica for body copy on web designs. At small scales on PCs, it seriously degrades to the point of challenging readability. Check it out.

  • http://mesadesignhouse.com Theresa A Mesa

    Zapfino. If I never see it again, it won’t be too soon. But I also agree with many writers here that with the exception of Papyrus and Comic Sans (except for personal use), a wholesale sweeping out of some perfectly good fonts is over the top. Even Myriad has its uses. Perhaps the designer, contrary to one commenter here who basically said the designer was just too lazy, chose Myriad because that’s the font they wanted. Instead of dismissing so many fonts, one should be more judicious in their use.

  • dee zynah

    When you want to grab attention or emphasize a bit of content, Helvetica is NEVER your answer.

  • dee zynah

    Personally I love Myriad far more than Helvetica.

  • http://wendellers.com wendelle

    Strange, you said that avoid using helvetica? Arial? Just Because they are used too much? How about giving us alternative fonts to use for web design? i think you forgot that most of the fonts that you included in you list are the fonts that are usually installed in most of the PC/MAC out there, Web Design is about readability and Usability, so those fonts should not be avoided.

  • http://3rdopinionband.com Nick D. Clements

    SAND FONT!?! the most widely used, absolute WORST font ever created!

  • http://www.dreaminfinity.com Chris

    I disagree with Franklin Gothic. Franklin Gothic is a beautiful font in print work.

  • http://www.jannahagan.com Janna

    I don’t see a problem with some of these fonts, but others like Comic Sans and Papyrus are just awful… and some never be used on websites.

  • Tom

    I think this is just an effect of psychology. Once something is popular, there are many who go against the grain just to be different. A typically arrogant view made by some designers. It’s good to be creative with your designs and to experiment however, some of these fonts work really well and hence why they are so popular. It’s up to the designer how creative they want to get with each and every font they use. A good designers work will always stand out compared to an ‘amature’ as you put it, so I don’t see any need to abandon most of the fonts on this list.

    • http://www.bionicworks.com Thai Bui

      I don’t think people should abandon them either but new designers should be mindful about using them. I went crazy with Impact when I first started. Popular logos use these fonts so I don’t see why stop using them. It seems that new designers should use them in moderation. These fonts have stood the test of time for a reason.

      I’m a web dev and I’m so sick of Arial and Helvectica. I started importing google fonts into my projects and I love seeing something different for once. It’s about time!

  • http://www.bionicworks.com Thai Bui

    Impact was my go-to font 10 years ago but I can see why it’s amateur-ish. These fonts are available with every editor and so it’s hard to resist. Also, these are free fonts and every designer loves the word free. Nothing says company picnics like comic sans.

    • ricky

      “Nothing says company picnics like comic sans.” Thanks, Thai Bui. That is my new favorite quote.

      • http://www.bionicworks.com Thai Bui

        You know it’s true. They break out the Corel Draw 1.5 million clip art CD to accompany the sophisticated type face too.

  • http://www.neilmerchant.com Neil

    While anyone can agree with your opinions on Comic Sans and Papyrus, I think it’s really wrong to shrug off great typefaces like Helvetica and Impact just because you think they are “overused”. I feel almost like you started writing the article to bash on Comic Sans and Papyrus but really just needed to throw in a handful more to make it a substantial post =\

  • Joksin

    I still think…. The title is a bit too much.. “Why You Should Never Use Them”
    I know that many inexperience young designers or just a NONE designer that don’t know how to use the fonts properly. But I guess… in this web designer depot.. I assumed most people are the professional designer. So I wouldn’t want to say “Why You Should Never Use Them”, because every designers has it’s own idea on what they want to show.
    Matthew… you are only 18 years old right now? How long have you been involved in the Web Design world to be able to criticized those 10 iconic fonts?

  • Calamity Jane

    Zapfino, Scriptina and Mistral make me think evil, ugly things.
    Papyrus is as much a crime as Comic Sans and Helvetica’s a snore.

    • Paisley

      Agree! Mistral is much more of a public nuisance than the fonts listed in this article.

  • http://www.treebodsign.com/ Fernanda Victal

    Thank God I don’t use them. That’s because I totally agree. And I might risk to say that there are more fonts to include in your list maybe…

  • http://www.treebodsign.com/ Fernanda Victal

    I just read the other comments. People, I think Mathew is just saying that designers should use their imagination and change the usual, get new stuff… For Shape Sake! Isn’t it, Mathew?

  • Jerich

    Overused does not mean you never use them. It only means “overused” fonts should be used properly.

  • xAMOKx

    3 fonts to add to the list
    -Museo
    -Opal
    -Bleeding Cowboys
    All are pretty new and allready overused.

    • http://www.neilmerchant.com Neil

      Cannot disagree more, along the same lines as the author. Museo for example is a beautiful font, especially when used in the proper context. Would you shrug off League Gothic because it’s popular these days? I really hope not. I don’t see where this logic of “a font is popular, therefore stop using” is coming from.

    • Paisley

      Good list of current offenders. Opal is a total Bauhaus clone. Who would have guessed a Depression era typeface would be trendy in today’s economy?

  • macintoz

    well I should be looking for more fonts then, thanks for the info, LOL

  • Subvert

    Can’t disagree more with your post, and I think it’s pretty bad advice too!

    When it comes to typography, you can’t just say “never use this, never use that” – it’s a matter of context, and bad advice like yours is misleading. Actually it provokes the reasons you display here, the overusing of a font for the wrong purpose, when you say there are “good fonts” or “bad fonts”. Try recommending alternatives instead.

    ———————————————————————-
    Secondly, this is completely displaced on a blog like this! This is about webdesign!

    For example, Helvetica and Arial still are the most user-friendly and websafe sans-serif fonts out there, Courier the best websafe monospace font for windows, and find me a half-way websafe alternative to impact for a bold condensed font.

    Now why shouldn’t you use them in webdesign? Is it better to clutter up your site with some slightly different, or badly designed free webfonts that will render badly?

    Your article is maybe partly applicable to print products, but for the web, it’s just plain bad advice.

  • KWils

    I am SO glad to hear that I’m not the only one who despises Papyrus and Comic Sans! Although we can’t ban general users and “self taught” “graphic designers” to cease using these fonts, we can all agree that they should be the only ones using them.

    Great article, thanks!

  • http://hackingalert.blogspot.com abhinav singh

    Great article…Papyrus is cool though…

  • http://www.dtwocreativeservices.co.uk Trevor

    I think this article is a tad sensationalist – some of the fonts are indeed over-used or often used in the wrong context. I personally don’t like Comic Sans. Most of the fonts you mention above are very good, they still have their uses when used properly and in the right context. Most of the problem lies with the use of fonts rather than the font itself in the case of most listed above. I agree with the other comments here that to say ‘…Why You Should Never Use Them’ is a little too final for my liking! I agree that they are all in some way or another iconic – perhaps in some cases for totally the wrong reasons. In the end, a good design can incorporate traditional or iconic typefaces and still work very well.

  • Beth

    Two thoughts:
    (1) Microsoft and Adobe had to choose SOMETHING. So they chose to give users some CHOICES–a handful of typefaces–as a result, some of them would become well worn and mis-appropriated in our democracy of designed communications.
    (2) I wish more people knew about the HISTORY of Typography. EVERY TYPEFACE WAS NEW ONCE (and back then, they thought these were cool).

  • Beth

    Typography Professor’s PET PEEVE: …

    People, will you please STOP saying FONT when you actually mean TYPEFACE ???

  • Daniel

    Fonts and dogs are the same. There’s no bad fonts or bad dogs.
    Just wrong usage and stupid people. ;)

  • http://www.jim-nielsen.com Jim

    Thanks for the article. It helps remind me to be more scrupulous about my typeface choices. However, in my opinion, the article’s title should be changed.

    Some of the most dangerous words you can use, especially in articles that are read internationally, are words that denote universal, absolute applicability such as: never, always, all, none, etc. For example, if you were to say “Always capitalize the first letter of a sentence” you would surely have someone remind you of an exception such as “pH” and how it must be written with a lower case “p” when referring to the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. It doesn’t matter if it starts a sentence or not.

    I don’t agree that these fonts, or any font for that matter, should “never” be used. There is a time and a place (and a design) for everything and I believe it is our responsibilty as designers to educate ourselves to the point where we can properly choose fonts that fit our message. Your arguments helped educate me about having more meticulous typeface choices; however, I believe these fonts were designed with specific purposes in mind and just because they are overused doesn’t make them completely impracticle.

    I think the reasons to “never” use any of the typefaces listed above would have to be a lot more convincing.

  • David Kaplan

    Oy. Why do people post this stuff? The reason they are so “overused” is because they are very appropriate for such uses. They are the best at what they do. Why would you use something that isn’t the best just because someone thinks so?

    Fckin’ designers… stop politicking and get work designing already.

  • http://www.shinntype.com Nick

    Most of these are corporately owned fonts.

    Their designers were paid a flat fee for rights, while the corporate owners of the intellectual property now profit massively from software license sales (or give the fonts away bundled, to facilitate the sale of other software products such as page layout applications).

    If you are a creative, you can show solidarity by using fonts from independent foundries that are either owned by type designers, or pay royalties to type designers on license sales.

    Furthermore, most of these fonts were designed many years ago. A recent type design by an independent foundry/designer would be more authentically contemporary.

    What do you want your work to represent and support — corporatized history mining or present day designers?

  • http://www.sabledesigns.co.uk Andrew Burgess

    Fair enough – there are plenty of reasons as to why we shouldn’t use the fonts above, but I must admit I’ve seen this article again and again in design related publications, and all it seems to do is reverberate around the design community (‘thou shalt not use these fonts!’). I’d be more impressed if an article such as this made its way into the pages of a national newspaper, or perhaps a weekend colour supplement. It’s not us in the design community who should be told, it’s everyone else who picks the first few fonts that they have closest to hand. What’s more, I’ve even occasionally seen designers go against the reasonings you’ve established above, using some of the more obvious fonts, but in a rather innovative way and come out with something quite impressive – never say never.

    What’s more, I certainly think that providing alternative choices to the fonts would have been a better response – of course, it won’t suit everyone’s project, but providing three different fonts as alternatives, would have possibly raised the tone from just saying “don’t do this!”.

  • Paisley

    You haven’t convinced me I should never use these fonts. Half the fonts on your list were “too utilitarian” and the other half were “to stylized, pretty, or friendly”. Make up your mind! A decent typographer knows when and where to use fonts appropriately and how to make a ubiquitous font look pretty (or friendly, or serious, or impactful) by properly kerning and choosing the perfect size, case, weight, leading, etc. for the job.

  • http://www.creativebase.co.uk Omus_Taf

    I completely agree with Daniel.

    I have seen some amazing work done with Helvetica and Trajan. There are no bad fonts, Just wrong usage…

  • http://www.friskdesign.com Matt Hill

    This is by far the most amateur piece of sensationalist rubbish WDD have had the temerity to publish.

    As pointed out by Subvert, Trevor, Jim Nielsen and others, typeface usage should be considered in the context of the work you’re producing. There are no “always” and “nevers” when it comes to choosing an appropriate typeface.

    This article is just a lazy opinion piece with no real insight; indeed there isn’t even a reason given for not using #4, Arial. What credentials does the author have as a designer and typographer to make bold claims about typefaces that should never be used? His mini bio states he advises people how to make money online from their sofa. This article seems to be here purely to… make the author some money from his sofa.

  • http://www.psyched.be/wordpress Darkened Soul

    I do think all of this is… obsolete in the long run, while i can understand the NON use of some round here (comic sans, papyrus… ) Some others are merely “trend sensitive”. and to stand out, always head for the other direction… who knows one day it will be NOT DONE to use verdana or sortlike typefaces and comic sans (no itll never happen, but still, consider it) might come back…

    what i try to mention here is, no matter what lists are created, the way to stand out is simply by… standing out ;) whether it is by using type/colour/graphic material/… and I am the first to admint that I am but an amateur compared to some designers/artists i trully admire

  • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

    The author is not against the fonts, see intro:

    This isn’t a riff on the world’s worst fonts, but rather an invitation for amateur designers and business users to stop abusing some of the world’s best fonts.

    • http://www.bionicworks.com Thai Bui

      Apparently, people don’t know how to read and they’re ready to defend Comic Sans at a dime. I love how passionate people can be about design. Please before you troll, consider reading everything thoroughly. The author probably needs to change the typeface to Impact for clarity.

  • http://pixeno.com Pixeno Web Host

    I quite like using arial. It works for small body text and big headings too.

  • 2cents

    Interesting article based on your own opinion with no substances or examples to back up your point. Based on all this feedback you are getting, I think you might want to re-think your opinion or what opinions you post.

  • http://www.cup-a-potato.tumblr.com/ SpecialHeirich

    Paper is used too much and has also lost it’s edge. Cars, computers, air, bread, hovercrafts, skis, hats, biscuits and tv’s are also used too much and have lost their distinction. Perhaps we should stop using everything unless it’s brand new. like words. All the words I’ve used here are used way too much, and by idiots, so they don’t mean anything anymore.

    QUOTE: “10 Iconic Fonts and Why You Should NEVER Use Them”
    QUOTE: “etc, etc, blah, blah…. That said, the font (helvetica) is still ideal for ordinary body content.”

    Hmmm, ok. Body content is now never, at least I learned something today. Not use helvetica? You may as well say ‘stop using your arms’. It’s self flagellating piffle like this that makes me want to gouge my own eyes out with a wooden spoon due to the sheer irrelevance of it.

    This is definitely a great example of the internet being used too much. So stop it.

  • http://www.jokolo.fr jokolo

    Very instructive article, thanks for sharing it with us.
    we better be aware ;) !

  • http://www.tlamarca.com Tony

    You’d think for a web design site, you wouldn’t have missed something like your stumble button at the bottom of the post. Good job though. I still use Helvetica for a lot of stuff. There’s a reason it is used so often. It just works.

  • J_Bro

    1.) I have been a designer for 18 years, and never heard of TheSans? (That’s a lot of computers with designer fonts on them, none of them had The Sans- but I don have it now (I checked). Gonna look this one up.
    2.) Using as your design reason that something is “vile” is not objective. I hate snobby opinion-based judgements like this. I find this kind of non-objective logic rampant in this article, and had to stop reading.

    There is a logical way to approach design that does leave room for the aesthetic. Let’s not try to move aesthetics with shallow opinion. Good critique is being able to explain in a logical way why you might not like something. That’s why we get degrees to become experts in the field. So we will have something that makes sense to say, other than “Oh, that’s VILE.” Who are you, Lord Fauntleroy?

    Art is for Humans.

    • http://www.neilmerchant.com Neil

      “Don’t use TheSans, the Q looks funny.”

  • cheeseman

    on impact font: “Here’s why you should not use it: it’s too thin, too focused and too amateurish to stand out.”

    amateurish he says. come on. I’ll use it for a logo in a blink of an eye if i think it fits. becuase it it available on your computer standard doesnt make it a bad font.
    and dont touch my helvetica. only a few come close.

  • Bad Bunny

    It seems the internet has become the playground of fools who think that their opinion is the word of God. We should use what we feel is appropriate for our work and NOT be guided by the words of yet another “design professional” who thinks his thoughts are worthy of a post.

    We create because we break the rules, not follow blindly.

  • Yao Agbevu

    I don’t mean any disrespect, but the author is 18. A few witticisms and access to an online user group makes anybody an expert these days… In the end, there is no substitute for experience, and no accounting for taste!