If you enjoyed this article, get email updates (it's free).
Join over 77,235 Subscribers Today.
Fonts perform a great role in your design, but you should know which fonts to avoid, too. Either in typography or in web page design, the use of proper fonts is a great advantage. Sometimes, designs become disasters just because the font is not used properly or, in some sense, does not fit the occasion.
This calls for the proper selection. For decades, the Internet has constantly provided us with a vast database of fonts, all segregated by variety, style and use. This lets us choose which to use. Because of this wide variety that we have, it is just fitting to say that nobody can have an excuse why they chose the wrong font. It’s also safe to say that with the liberty each designer has, he should pick the right fonts at the right time.
But some fonts, of course, tend to have become more popular because of their availability. Operating systems like Windows have provided default fonts for the user. It removes the hassle of choosing, downloading and installing them. This convenience has been good because of the easy access of readily available fonts but has become detrimental too because the fonts that were popularly used became cliché. Hence, they are to be avoided.
I tried to make a list of fonts that you should never use again. These were selected because they were too cliché and very hard to put into the design. The essence of this list is not to fully discriminate mainstream and cliché fonts but to properly use them for fitting occasions.
Here are they:
Comic Sans MS is one of the basic Windows fonts installed in your computer as you boot up Windows. Microsoft first introduced this font in 1994. Comic Sans was designed by Vincent Connare as a child-oriented font. Its inspiration was mainly gotten from comic books in Connare’s office (they were Watchmen lettered by Dave Gibbons and The Dark Knight Returns lettered by John Costanza). According to him, he originally designed the font to be used with speech bubbles and not for general use. But since then a lot of people have fallen in love with this font and it became a cliché.
One main reason why you should stop using this font is it is childish. It lacks formality, though it is used for formal events and announcements (doing facepalm right there). Unless of course you’re running a website for kids, or designing a first-birthday invitation, you could use these kinds of fonts (I said these kinds because you have other choices than Comic Sans).
Never use it for swimming pool rules signboards, grave epitaphs, commemorative plaques, hospitals, government job applications, heart transplant activities, and books.
Never use this font when you are designing for business sites, or warning signs. It might give people an impression that your client is childish and might not take them seriously. Never write DO NOT ENTER in Comic Sans, else, the reader might see it as “Do not enter says stupid childish whoever”.
Use Comic Sans MS only when your audience are below 6 years old (parent-letters not included), when you’re writing speech bubble contents for comics, and when you’re client is dying and his last will and testament said so.
Visit: Comics Sans Criminal
Remember that term paper about Egypt your teacher told you to write? I bet you used Papyrus back then! And I bet too, that you might as well, if you can, forget that shameful design experience.
Papyrus came out in 1983. Chris Costello successfully managed to design it after six months of manual hand-drawing. According to him, it was designed to imitate the pre-modern writing in papyrus leaves.
Be that as it is nobly designed, this font wasn’t really seen in papyrus rolls alone. You can now see it in captchas, advertisements, signboards, banners, books, and even in most typographic designs! It seemed to have been seen everywhere to the point that you might even vomit if you see it again in your page. This saturation resulted to people hating the font. (For proof, find iheartpapyrus.com.)
Travis Estvold once wrote via blog.echoenduring.com:
“I, myself, hate when people use Papyrus—the font, that is, not the plant or the paper. I’ll be the first to admit it’s a strange thing to detest but whether it’s justified, this loathing is my constant companion. Surely, if someone proclaims the most bothersome part of his day is unearthing new and terrible ways in which locals have used and displayed a particular typeface, he must also be a designer. This is true… I’m not sure when my obsession with the font began, but my poor girlfriend, who has been a party to most of my Papyrus sightings over the past two years, can tell you it’s been building for some time.”
Truly, Papyrus is one of the ‘I-was-used-repeatedly-until-I-became-useless’ type of fonts.
Here’s a list of alternatives to Papyrus.
Okay, I personally loathe this font. Once a classmate of mine used this font in a letter sent to me and I went nuts. My eyes had a hard time reading and I got dizzy and nauseous! To my anger, I wrote him back. Guess what font I used, WINGDINGS! Imagine the hate in his face.
Curlz was originally designed by Carl Corssgrove and Steve Matteson in 1995. They were added into the default Windows fonts and were also originally created for party invitations. This font copied what happened to the Comic Sans Font, it became to mainstream to a point that people got sick and tired of them.
Aside from that, it lacks formality and authority. You can never use it in coat-and-tie events, warning signs and many more because it will just give your readers an impression of a joke. Curlz also has big issues with legibility. Imagine writing a book with Curlz MT font. People who read your book might sing, ‘You spin my head right round right round’. If you want to make your body readable, do not, not even in your drunk days, use this font in the body.
Now this font, too, has become overused. It’s almost everywhere too! Most people think that just because your website caters to women, you have all the right and privilege in the world to use this font. Actually, the female target market does not oblige you to use Curlz MT. It is very wrong to think that women will fall for cute and curly letters. No, that would never happen. Well you might be able to attract middle-aged ex-cheerleaders who think they are still in middle school. I guess that would make an audience.
A designer friend of mine once said, if you have Helvetica, use it. Don’t settle for Arial.
According to designworkplan.com, Robin Nicholas and Patricia Saunders originally designed Arial in 1982. It was widely used as the standard typeface for normal computer usage. It became popular after the release of Windows 3.1 where it was installed as free. After that boom, the usage of the Arial font spread like wildfire across the globe.
People may have liked Arial because it is readily available in the operating system. Of course, the mentality is, why buy an expensive font if you could make do with what you have. The result? Arial explosion. Arial on magazines, on street signs, on banners on advertisements and even in TV! Of course this made most designers sick of it. Also, Arial has no proper and true Italics, which made it difficult for body texts to italicize with style.
Good thing, we can have substitutes for Arial nowadays. We can easily swap this ubiquitous font to make your body texts look new.
First is Verdana. Released in 1996, Verdana is one of the more popular substitutes to Arial because aside from its ready availability, Verdana is easier to read. Second is Tahoma. The Tahoma font was released with Win95 as part of the MS Office. It’s also readily available as Verdana is. Third is Trebuchet MS. Trebuchet MS was released with Windows 2000 and looks more like Verdana.
Other substitutes: Calibri, Sego UI and Georgia
Ever remembered the typewriter? Do you notice the resemblance of the typeface your typewriter produces and the font Courier New? Well, it’s supposed to look like it because it was how Howard “Bud” Kettler thought it to be in 1955. Courier is a slab serif type of font that was originally sold to IBM. It was made to look like a typewriter print because IBM originally made typewriters.
Kettler says that the font was called courier because instead of being a messenger, “a letter can can be the courier, which radiates dignity, prestige, and stability.”
Had it radiated dignity and prestige? I don’t think so. Courier’s stability as a font has been questioned a lot of times. All we know about the courier font is that it is a serif font. But aside from that, nothing. Courier had been suffixed with ‘New’ but I still see nothing new in it.
Courier are used for certain occasions like film scripts, codes and plain text documents. Web designers avoid courier because its lettering is not properly measured and it suggests a more ancient design. Also, because it was originally designed for typewriters, courier font letters have low-resolution and cannot be placed in the body artistically but it does look good with a green background.
The Courier font is used on movie scripts, novel manuscripts and other forms of literary art. But in web design it has no place, unless you want your website to look like it’s fresh out of the typewriter.
For font alternatives, try Cousine.
Cousine was designed by Steve Matteson as an innovative, refreshing sans serif design that is metrically compatible with Courier New™. Cousine offers improved on-screen readability characteristics and the pan-European WGL character set and solves the needs of developers looking for width-compatible fonts to address document portability across platforms.
One of the best updates Microsoft Word had in the past years is its use of a new default font. In previous version, I recall that Times New Roman was the default font used. I personally didn’t like Times New Roman because it’s very hard to read and suggests a mood of laziness in it.
What people are saying about Times New Roman:
“Very corny and boring”
“I just avoid when I can.”
“It’s simply bad, ugly and makes me nervous when I see it.”
“I cannot look at Times New Roman without automatically assuming that it is a placeholder font, waiting to be replaced by something appropriate for the text.“
For a fact, Times New Roman was named after the Times of London, a British newspaper. They needed a new body text font for their paper in 1929. They hired a guy named Stanley Morison of Monotyope, a British company. Morison did the job with Victor Lardent as supervisor and eventually named it Times New Roman.
Then on, the font was used in most body texts and has been popularized as it became Microsoft Office’s default font. This led to its status of being cliché. It became so overly used to a point when people found it disgusting and insulting to use.
Most designers see the Times New Roman font as narrow-spaced because they are originally designed for newspapers and though it is formal in nature, Times New Roman’s bold typeface makes it hard to read and thus loses its formality. Spacing has also been a problem for Times.
If you can avoid it, please do. You can substitute with fonts like Concourse, which is a sans serif font which can be used for more formal situations and legalities. Equity is also a good font as it is a combination of classic and convenient designs. Book Antiqua is also a good candidate and has better spacing flexibility than Times.
It might come to his senses that Richard Bradley might soon be sick and tired of seeing his handwriting. I mean, it’s literally everywhere. It might even cause him a very serious headache to even see his penmanship!
Richard Bradley is the designer of the seemingly abused Bradley Hand ITC font. According to Microsoft, this font is an informal script- based font. It is characterized as warm and familiar in nature and has a relaxed rhythm typical to the real handwriting.
Being a readily available font, this font has been used to convey a personal touch in the sans-serif font because fonts like Arial and Helvetica cannot do this. Producing a handwritten-like design will make it look like the designer himself bothered to personally write. That is why it was used in a lot of occasions like posters, school announcements, bulletin boards, cards, invitations and even in story books. But this, sadly, all resulted into chaos as it was turned into a cliché. Aside from this, the Bradley Hand ITC font is ineligible. If you’ll use it for headings and announcements, which should be seen from afar, it will not become visible as it is thin, even if emphasized. Meanwhile, if you’ll use it in the body, your reader will probably go mad because he would not understand the text properly because Bradley Hand’s readability goes lower as it size decreases.
Personally, I wound not suggest any alternative for handwritten fonts because I totally don’t want to use them as they are difficult to place together with other elements in the design. So might as well stick to your Helvetica.
A guy named Freidrich Peter designed this intricate script typeface. It is very calligraphic and copperplate-ish. Because it is a script font, Vivaldi is commonly used in wedding invitations and other formal events. Vivaldi is pretty formal and good except that it has problems in spacing. Vivaldi characters tend to get crowded because they are not full scripts, meaning their characters are not woven into one stroke only. For a semi-script, it is very much condensed. This results to difficulty in reading. Yes, you may adjust the spacing between letters, but I won’t even think of that in semi-scripts. Expanding the spaces will result to inconsistency in the font design.
One more problem I see with Vivaldi is its caps. When you capitalize a whole word in the Vivaldi font, it would be pretty difficult to read and discern the difference between letters. I tell you. Try it if you don’t believe me.
Kristen ITC is one of the cutie-patootie fonts. It was designed by George Ryan for the International Typeface Corporation. It consist of two weights and was inspired by a handwritten menu at a Cambridge restaurant. This font is asymmetric and resembles the handwriting of a toddler. Like Comic Sans, this font is targeted to the child target market and was impliedly drawn to attract little children.
Kristen font users are usually grade schoolers, gradeschool teachers, child psychologists, and other people who work for kids. The font is playful in nature. You can almost see it in your children’s classrooms all saying how life should be good and that they eat a lot of vegetables.
But Kristen should be pretty much avoided. A designer should always think of the issues this font poses. First is that it is has no formality. Using this font in a legal document could make you lose a case. Second thing, is that Kristen’s non-caps are placed in the middle part of the caps. Unlike other fonts that place the non-cap characters as where the cap character baseline are.
Manual spacing could also be a problem as the spacing of the capitals of the font are difficult to measure since the characters are a little bit curved.
Viner hand is an informal script font developed from the handwriting of John Viner. I’m pretty sure this font sucks because it has been overused, like the others in this list. Commonly, this font has been abused by angsty teenagers and goth wannabes.
For a designer, originality is everything. Fresh designs should always be produced by his rather queer mind. He should always be innovative with the design trends that happen around him. He should also be experimental in the trends he use for designing. That is why one must not be satisfied by the fonts present in his computer. He should look and look and look until he finds that font that suits him. Remember, a good designer has no go-to fonts.
Join over 77,235 Subscribers Today.
Hello. I am Rudolph Musngi, writer for 1stWebDesigner.com and owner of the magnificent Rudolph Musngi Blog . I've been writing for four years before I have discovered the awesome people at 1stWebDesigner.com. My lifelong dream is to write a best-selling book. Let's have a great time here! ☺