Papyrus is the New Comic Sans
In 1994 Vincent Connare was working for Microsoft on a new interface for Windows called MS Bob. Part of the design of MS Bob included cartoon thought bubbles to give the user a more casual and friendly experience. Times New Roman and other standard fonts didn’t seem to fit in this context so Connare turned to some of his favorite comic books and graphic novels for inspiration. This was the birth of Comic Sans.
Comic Sans, the Old Threat
In Connare’s defense, Comic Sans is well suited for its original purpose: text in cartoon thought bubbles. However, when Comic Sans was incorporated into the Windows operating system and made available to users without restriction, the Pandora’s box of terrible font usage was opened. People started writing term papers in Comic Sans. Comic Sans was incorporated into logos. Billboards, t-shirts, and advertisements appeared, all shamelessly relying on Comic Sans to make a statement. And what was that statement? “We have no idea how to design something properly!” Is your cat missing? Post some flyers with Comic Sans; it will induce sympathy. Having a garage sale? Let’s print out some signs with Comic Sans; it’s so friendly! Do you want your business to appeal to young people? Well, we know Times New Roman is for old people who read newspapers, so that’s out…. hmm, scrolling through the default fonts in Microsoft Word…. hey, this one looks fun! It’s called Comic Sans. Put it in the logo.
The misuse of Comic Sans is well documented and people who know better are fighting back. Anti-Comic Sans websites have been created. Dave Gibbons, the comic book artist on whose work the font is based, has denounced Comic Sans as a terrible font. Google even mocked Comic Sans in an April Fool’s joke this past year. If you did a search for “Helvetica”, all the results would be rendered in Comic Sans. All this is to say that things seem to be getting better. More and more people know not to use Comic Sans.
Papyrus, the Imminent Threat
This brings us to the topic at hand: Papyrus. One could make an argument that Comic Sans is a good font to use if you are actually interested in creating a comic book. No such defense exists for Papyrus. The font is terrible in all circumstances. According to Chris Costello, the designer of the font, the goal of Papyrus was to represent what English language texts would have looked like if written on papyrus 2000 years ago. The result is something vaguely Middle Eastern that looks like it was screen printed on a rock.
Would it be excusable for an antiques shop dealing in Egyptian artifacts to use Papyrus for their stationary? No, not excusable, but perhaps understandable. What is completely baffling is how broadly the font is used. An expensive salon a few blocks from my apartment uses it in their logo. A local grocery store down the street uses it as well. But it’s not just small, local businesses who use Papyrus. Edible Arrangements, your favorite overpriced purveyor of romantic fruit, uses the font in their logo. The most profitable and successful movie of all-time, James Cameron’s Avatar, uses Papyrus not only for its logotype but for the subtitles during the movie! That movie made $750,000,000 at the box office and Papyrus was all over it.
The anti-Papyrus movement needs to begin. If we allow this font to continue to spread through our culture unchecked, the damage could be irreparable. And the Egyptian antiques dealers will be laughing all the way to the bank.
What Do You Think?
Want to defend Papyrus as a beautiful font? Are there even worse examples of these fonts that should be included in this post? Let us know below.