Friday, March 2, 2012

Papyrus: Please Stop Using This Font

I'm taking a break from our usual format of writing about specific beverages or restaurants to talk about something just as important; fonts. Fonts are everywhere and go hand-in-hand with how we process written information. Why talk about fonts? Because one font in particular is closely tied to everything this online publication is about and sometimes it makes me want to cry.

If you've ever been to a wine shop, visited a nicer restaurant, looked at anything trying to portray itself as ethnic, gone to a yoga or art studio, watched the beginning of "Avatar" or "Grimm", picked up a greeting card, gone to church, been to a coffee shop, or any number of activities, you've seen what I consider the herpes of fonts; Papyrus. Don't know what I'm talking about? This should ring a bell:
See! This gem of a font is called Papyrus and for the love of everything you hold dear, please stop using it. For anybody who does anything remotely related to design work, seeing this font feels equivalent to scouring ones eyeballs out with a rusty SOS pad. It's so bad that there are entire blogs dedicated to how awful it is.

Before we get to why you should delete this from your machine and shun those who use it, let's consult Wikipedia and learn a little bit about its history:

The font was created in 1982 and released the next year to foundry Letraset. It was hand-drawn over a period of six months by means of calligraphy pen and textured paper. Costello described his goal as a font that would represent what English language texts would have looked like if written on papyrus 2000 years ago. Papyrus has a number of distinctive characteristics, including rough edges, irregular curves, and high horizontal strokes in the capitals. ITC, the current owner of the typeface, describes it as an "unusual roman typeface [that] effectively merges the elegance of a traditional roman letterform with the hand-crafted look of highly skilled calligraphy."

The intent sounds harmless enough and I can appreciate the effort put into hand-drawing a font. That said, it just plain looks awful.'s list of 10 Iconic Fonts and Why You Should Never Use Them put it best:
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.

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.

I realize all I've stated at this point is that I don't like it an it's ugly, but there are very real reasons why you will want to avoid using Papyrus:

It Makes Your Branding Generic
With a trillion different businesses using the same font for their logos, yours isn't going to stand out. If one were to type anything in the same fonts used for Star Wars, ESPN, or Walt Disney, most people would immediately associate that font with its respective company. With Papyrus, your logo will either completely get lost in the fold or become associated with something you've never heard of. If I'm releasing $100+ wines (I won't point fingers, but you know who you are), the last thing I want my brand associated with is a restaurant, yoga studio, or extremist church I've never heard of that a customer might have had a bad experience at. If a potential customer's first reaction is to cringe, that's lost money.

It Makes You Look Lazy
With Helvetica being the only exception to this rule, most people know the difference between designed logos and what fonts are available on their home computer. If somebody sees a logo or label that they can make at home, their next assumption is going to be that you're either an amateur operation or you have no design department. I suppose this is OK if both of these are true, but my assumption is this is generally something you want to steer clear of. With so many options for customers to drink or eat at, this could imply that you're also lazy with how you make your product.

There Are Thousands Of Free Alternatives
Do a Google search for "free fonts" and literally thousands are available for no or little licensing fees. My personal favorite is Take a look around and find something you like. If you're going to use it for commercial purposes, take a moment to understand its licensing agreement. Most are absolutely free and you can do whatever you want with them.

Legibility Is Questionable
If you sell your product over seas or to non-English speaking populations, nobody will be able to read your font. Writing a language while trying to make it aesthetically look like another language doesn't typically translate well.

If you are an avid user of Papyrus, I hope this helps persuade you to at least look for another font. Craft beers, wine, spirits, and great dining take countless amounts of effort and passion to produce. At the very least, make how you present yourself show the same. At most, delete the font all together and rebrand your wine labels, menus, glassware, signs, business cards, wedding invitations, pizza boxes, ren fair posters, romance novels...


  1. Toby Fox read this. AND TOBY FOX LAUGHED. (undertale anybody)

  2. Toby Fox read this. AND TOBY FOX LAUGHED. (undertale anybody)

  3. if you talk shit about papyrus... you're gonna have a bad time.

  4. if you talk shit about papyrus... you're gonna have a bad time.

  5. Umm, I love papyrus & intend to ask for its hand in marriage...

  6. I love papyrus, too. It has its place.