The 10 Most Hated Fonts of All Time
Remember when Comic Sans wasn’t the butt of the jokes? Long for the days when we actually enjoyed using the Impact font? In this list, we’re going to condense down ten of the most despised typefaces of all time.
From Bleeding Cowboys on t-shirts and Trajan on movie posters to Brush Script on food menus and Comic Sans on everything to ever exist, we’ve seen a lot of great fonts turn bad over the years.
But which terrible typefaces does the world hate the most? In this list, we’re going to find out. Join us as we delve into the ten most loathed fonts of all time.
But before we get started, let’s discuss what makes a font ‘hated’ in the first place.
What makes a hated font?
At first glance, it may be tempting to think that all of the fonts in this list are objectively bad, poorly designed, or not fit for purpose.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, many of the fonts listed below are actually great typefaces.
In that case, how can they be hated, you ask?
The number one thing that turns a respected typeface into a font pariah is continuous overuse.
Whether it’s using a script font to make a menu look handwritten or placing a novelty typeface on a legal document, using fonts in the wrong way time and time again is the fastest way to transform a cool concept into loathed lettering.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get onto the list. Here are the ten most hated typefaces of all time, ranked.
Writing a screenplay? Go ahead and use Courier. Developing code and need easy readability? Sure, Courier is fine.
Using Courier for anything else? It’s probably time to reevaluate your choices.
Courier’s no-nonsense style makes it the perfect font for easy readability. But beyond these pragmatic uses, it’s incredibly plain. The font’s utilitarian roots, harkening back to dusty typewriters and old manuscripts, lack the flair needed to generate any kind of interest. The day a designer uses it for website copy, it’s time to run for the hills.
You may be surprised to learn that Arial made the cut for this list, especially as it’s still widely used today.
The reason this unassuming typeface is disliked among designers lies in its history. Supposedly, Microsoft made Arial as a knockoff of Helvetica in order to avoid paying royalty fees to Linotype.
While this story already sets a bad precedent, the big problem is that Arial is entirely inferior to Helvetica in every single way. It’s nearly identical, sure. But with every change it does make, it does it terribly.
Arial was met with derision when it first became Microsoft’s default font, so much so that typographer Mark Simonson described it as “asking for Jimmy Stewart and getting Rich Little”.
8) Neuland Inline
Have you ever watched a movie set in an exotic location featuring either lions or dinosaurs? If so, you’ll probably be familiar with Neuland Inline.
This is the typeface designers use when they want their work to look exotic, primitive, and quirky. Its Fred Flinstone-esque angular lettering was initially its biggest draw. Back in the 1930s, marketers used the unusual typeface on everything from cigarettes to motorcycles.
Nowadays, we only remember it for its prevalence in movie posters for franchises like Jurassic Park. As with most once-cool typefaces, this one met its demise through chronic misuse.
7) Bleeding Cowboys
Bleeding Cowboys wins first prize for ‘font with a name as awful as its appearance’.
Upon its release in 2007, Bleeding Cowboys surged in popularity. Widely appreciated for its rugged aesthetic and edgy curves, it quickly became the hallmark typeface of bad tattoos and cheap t-shirts.
Naturally, the hype didn’t last long. The font’s overuse has since become a design cliche.
Bleeding Cowboys’ primary sin is that it’s inherently unpredictable. Random fading on the letters? Check. Strange curvy lines? Check. An ‘I’ that looks like a dagger? It has that, too. If you’re looking for a font that makes you feel strangely uncomfortable, this is the one for you.
We get it—Impact looks great. It’s high-visibility. It’s well-designed. It’s impactful (naturally). So, where did it all go wrong?
Like many of the other fonts on this list, Impact’s problem is its overuse. The catch-all typeface has become synonymous with big bold mailing lists and amateurish websites trying to grab your attention.
Impact may be striking, but it’s now so widely used that it fails to make an impact at all. Many designers refuse to use it, and many consumers see it as a cop-out. In today’s digital age, you’re going to have to employ more than a bold font to capture the interest of your recipients.
5) Times New Roman
In his acclaimed guide, Typography for Lawyers, Matthew Butterick states that “Times New Roman is not a font choice so much as the absence of a font choice, like the blackness of deep space is not a color”.
And, after enduring over three long decades of the much-despised typeface, it’s hard not to agree.
Times New Roman was Microsoft’s default Word font between 1992 and 2007. This tells you all you need to know. The typeface is boring, unoriginal, and completely outdated in the digital age.
Few fonts scream ‘big epic movie poster’ quite like Trajan.
The typeface has been the staple of film producers for decades now. From Titanic and Lord of the Rings to Star Wars and Game of Thrones, it feels like every production designer stumbles across the font in Adobe Creative Suite at least once in their career.
Sure, Trajan is a cool font. Its letterforms are classical, tall, and authoritative, ideally suited to the blockbuster movie posters the typeface routinely inhabits.
Sadly, however, the font’s classical charm has lost its luster after years of misuse. Like a toga at a chic cocktail party, the Roman-inspired lettering feels entirely out of place in contemporary designs.
3) Brush Script
Brush Script—the font that’s supposed to look like handwriting. Except, it doesn’t.
Sadly, unless you’ve been inhabiting a Jane Austen novel for your entire life, chances are you’ve never seen anyone who actually writes like this.
From cutesy local restaurant menus to ‘handwritten’ posters, Brush Script is the standard typeface for any creative that wants to make their design look authentic, sophisticated, and human—as long as that human writes completely elegant, mistake-free, uniform text at all times.
Like all of the other typefaces that Brush Script inspired, the problem with handwritten fonts is that they try desperately to make you believe what you’re looking at wasn’t designed in five minutes on a computer. And, sadly, they never manage to convince us.
Ah, Papyrus, the hallmark font of terrible movie posters and irritating billboard ads.
This edgy, Middle Eastern-inspired, slightly worn-out typeface has cemented its place in the Mount Rushmore of terrible fonts over the last two decades—and for good reason.
The main case against Papyrus is its chronic overuse. From childish birthday cards and all-natural hand soaps to spiritual health remedies and James Cameron’s Avatar, it feels like Papyrus has weaseled its way into every industry since the turn of the millennium.
Inspired by traditional biblical lettering, Chris Costello first created Papyrus back in 1982. What was once a side project for a budding designer was eventually licensed to Microsoft. This was the beginning of the font’s downfall, as the typeface became widely available on hundreds of millions of computers worldwide.
The second big problem is that Papyrus is a niche font—not a general-use typeface. The lettering has a lot of charm, for sure. If it were introduced today (and used sparingly), we’re sure designers would widely praise it.
Sadly, however, Papyrus is everywhere. And, for a font that relies on its quirkiness, overuse is a surefire way to turn a cool concept into the poster child of kitsch.
1) Comic Sans
If you didn’t think Comic Sans would take the top spot on this list, where’ve you been for the last ten years?
Comic Sans stumbled onto the typography scene back in 1994. Designed by Vincent Connare, the font was initially meant to inject a dose of fun into casual contexts.
Unfortunately, it seems the world took this humble ambition at face value and used it as an opportunity to inject what should’ve been a novelty typeface into almost everything ever made.
Government posters. College PowerPoint presentations. Legal disclaimers. Wedding invitations. Board game instructions. Farmer’s market signage. Pet grooming pamphlets. Job resumes. Community bulletin boards. Movie posters. Motivational posters. Book club posters. Lemonade stands. Are we missing anything?
Comic Sans has traveled the globe and found its way into every facet of human existence. And, unfortunately, it was simply never built for that kind of ubiquity.
Maybe we’re giving Comic Sans a hard time. After all, it was only supposed to be a bit of fun. The font is brilliant for kids’ products, birthday banners, and speech bubbles. The typeface’s downfall is the result of its ridiculous overuse in situations it has no business being part of.
If Comic Sans had feelings, we’re certain it would be experiencing a strong sense of imposter syndrome. Maybe it’s time to give the poor novelty font a break.
What have we learned from this list?
Overuse is the easiest way to ruin a cool concept. Quirky fonts rarely work in serious settings. And, if you’re looking for the fastest way to kill a typeface forever, make it the default font on Microsoft Word.
Do you agree with our list? Didn’t find the font you hate the most? Tweet at us and let us know your thoughts.
Shelley Cooke is a blogger and podcaster from Asheville, North Carolina (Go Oilers!). She’s passionate about technology and the role it plays in building communities.