Bad Fonts


Type “Bad Fonts” into a search engine and you’ll get back a long list of web pages and blogs discussing the authors’ most hated fonts. For the most part, these “worst of” lists are good-humored, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, but some are quite angry, bordering on vitriolic (“these people need to be rounded up and shot”) as if their authors have been personally affronted by the ill-considered type choices of amateur designers.

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Nigel French is a graphic designer, photographer, and design teacher, based in Lewes, UK. He is author of InDesign Type (now in its 4th Edition), The Type Project Book (with Hugh D’Andrade) and the Photoshop Visual Quickstart Guide (with Mike Rankin) from Peachpit Press. He has recorded more than fifty titles in the LinkedIn Learning online training library.


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  • Anonymous says:

    Anyone who continues to use the Mistral font in this day and age has no typographic sense. I physically shudder every time I see it.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the great article! You may have forgotten to add one…… perhaps it will make it in “Bad Fonts” in 5 years or so. Sadly, I believe that font is Scriptina. Don’t get me wrong – I love the flowy, sexy lines of Scriptina and I think it has really opened the doors for other lovely flowing fonts to enter mainstream media, but the font is victim to overuse by any amateur and office manager who has ever visited I see it everywhere now and despite having a secret crush on it, I am embarrassed to even CONSIDER using it now!

    P.S. I snorted coffee out my nose when I read your total dismissal of “Hobo” – hilarious!!!

  • Guest says:

    In my opinion, after 23+ years in graphics design, all typefaces have (or had) a time and place that made them useful and appropriate. Brush Script was new once, and there was nothing else like it. It has simply (long since) outlived its usefulness. So what it says about the so-called designer who invokes it speaks volumes.

    The same could be said for the designer who merely chooses a wildly inappropriate font for a task, even if it’s not necessarily a reviled one.

    No, there are no “bad” typefaces, just bad designers, who lack the knowledge and skill to select appropriate tools to convey their message.

  • Guest says:

    Hobo may be a dated typeface, but it stays in my heart for one thing; it was the basis for the logo for the Mahavishnu Orchestra. For this it holds the warm regard of old hippie designers. Here’s the explanation from Chris Poisson, its designer:

    Mahavishnu Orchestra: font or hand-drawn?

  • Anonymous says:

    Super article and some thoughtful replies. Scriptina guest: I enjoy Scriptina too but I fear that your thought is correct – it is about to go the way of ‘Papyrus’ because it seems to turn up everywhere these days – lovely face but used all too often. The guest who said there are no “bad” typefaces is quite on the money – it is our job to convey a message. The typeface, no matter how ‘bad’ it may be just needs to be part of the message. Long live the ‘bad’ faces out there bacause every now and then they are perfect. Reminds me… Write out 100 times ‘I must go back and practice my calligraphy’.

  • Guest says:

    Great article! I agree with the Scriptina comment…however, I truly believe Bleeding Cowboys is the next Papyrus.

  • hikinedd says:

    I segued to graphic design from music 20 years ago. As a musician it was normal to tire of, and eventually torture to perform, overused and inappropriately requested songs: “Feelings,” a song about breaking up, was requested by the bridal couple for their first dance at more than a few weddings. And don’t get me started on “Tie A Yellow Ribbon,” “Sweet Caroline” and “Send in the Clowns.” I understand familiarity breeds contempt. But as in any good relationship gone bad, there was love there once. I agree Papyrus has been used to death, but when widely kerned and all-capped it sheds most of that familiarity and, I think, is appropriate. I also don’t agree with the inference that Helvetica Black is a better choice than Impact, and it’s not in every case. Choosing is situational. Impact is used for exactly what its name implies. It’s not designed to be airy. With its wide body, high x-height and minimal counters it conquers and possesses practically all white space within its reach. That’s what it does and that’s okay. When I want a particular feel for a headline I use it – all caps, upper and lower, and usually extended to a degree. I love Helvetica but, next to Impact, it looks downright meek. All of these fonts convey an emotion to the reader. It’s our job to identify the text’s wishes and deliver those wishes as accurately as we can.

  • Guest says:

    When I studied design and graphics there was a tremendous emphasis on typography. Of course in those days we used lead type and became quite intimate with the various characteristics of each typeface. I fear today that typography is going the route of parallel parking in driver education. Also, designers are way too acepting of the way a computer deals with typography. I spend an awful lot of time adjusting spacing and kerning.

  • Guest says:

    Every first year design student should be required to produce a series of pieces using a so-called “bad” fonts in a a creative, non-ironic way. It can be done, and it would probably prove very enlightening.

  • misabel says:

    helvetica inserat is a good alternative to impact

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