Papyrus need to be put back in the tomb for a few decades.

alchion's picture

Chris Costello's 1983 font Papyrus was a beautiful design and I bought it myself back in the day (when fonts came on 3.5" 1.4 meg discs) it is sad to me that it got so popular as it has no value anymore to me because of the immense saturation. In other words it is good for one thing-blanding.
Anyone else have any thought on the use of overly used display fonts?

papyrus.jpg6.15 KB
garyw's picture

"Anyone else have any thought on the use of overly used display fonts?"

Someone will surely come along and use it in a way that makes it beautiful again.

istitch's picture

i feel the same way about Bank Gothic. i think it's a great face with a good history, but is so overused, it becomes distracting. perhaps it's just a result of my own obsession…

a lot of typefaces are overused and i'm sure everyone has their own typographic sh*t list.



garyw's picture

I take back what I previously posted.


Fisheye's picture

It may seem naive to use such a pedestrian display face, but it's equally naive to choose a face simply because of its obscure and essoteric qualities.

Type should be chosen based on its relevance to the content. Of course, there is a point where the misuse of a face is so common that it no longer speaks the visual language it was intended to speak. Papyrus is probably one such face, as are Zapfino and several other faces that come bundled on the Mac.

For the record, I recently received an Art Director's resume which was set with Papyrus subheads. One glance and it went straight to the trash.

Eric_West's picture

I saw a techo/hip-hop flier set in papyrus. Here.

Nick Shinn's picture

With Gill and Neuropol.
Strange bedfellows.

ericpitcock's picture

> For the record, I recently received an Art Director’s resume which was set with Papyrus subheads. One glance and it went straight to the trash.

I hear that. I can't tell you how many terrible resumes I've seen. It's funny, and sickening.

pattyfab's picture

Comic Sans is so loathed and overused there is a web site about it:

Dav's picture

Patricia, Were you aware that the designer of Comic Sans is a fellow Typophile.? :)
Vincent Connare..


pattyfab's picture

No, I was not! But I'm not the one who made a web site about it...

Hey Dav, I have a question for you - what's up with the extra period you always insert before punctuation?

Edit: interesting to learn that he never really intended the font to be used for anything other than childrens stuff.

Dav's picture

> Hey Dav, I have a question for you - what’s up with the extra period you always
> insert before punctuation?

Hah, Yea, I think thats just one of my 'monk'esque' fads / spleens :)
( I dont think I even remember where this one came from )


Isaac's picture

But Papyrus is so vesatile! It can be Asian (ambiguously Asian at that), African, Wild West, Outer Space, futuristic, and ancient. Probably even more that I haven't even thought of.

engelhardt's picture

> Outer Space, futuristic

Maybe I'm out of touch with the space program and the future (?!), but Papyrus doesn't convey either of those things to me.

Ancient, yes. Western, maybe. Ambiguously 'foreign', sure. New Age & holistic, you bet! (That's actually where I seem to see it most -- things like day spas and salons.)

antiphrasis's picture


I totally agree that Papyrus doesn't say Outer Space at all, but it's still used for those purposes.

Check this out: Serenity poster.

engelhardt's picture

That Serenity movie poster is odd. I suppose I could see it conveying the 'fantasy' aspect... but not futuristic space rogues. Blech. (I think I may not be their target audience either!)

wngdn's picture

The Serenity poster makes sense if you know the movie or the TV show it came from. A gross oversimplification is that it's a space western, so Papyrus is expressing the "Western" part. (A more complete characterization would be "a character-driven comedy-drama space western".)

[Edit: also, Serenity takes place in a future where everyone speaks both English and Chinese, and the culture is an amalgam of U.S. and Chinese cultures, so Papyrus' "asian" look is also appropriate. Of course, none of this contradicts how overused Papyrus has become, but at least it's not so inappropriate for Serenity.]

dezcom's picture

I guess if they can use Trajan for movie titles concerning space, why not Papyrus :-)


oldnick's picture

The real problem is not that Papyrus or Comic Sans are rotten type designs; quite the contrary, they are both well-drawn and suitable for specific purposes. For that matter, Times New Roman is really an excellent, quite elegant text face.

The problem is that, because these faces are included with the Windows operating system, a LOT of people who are utterly clueless about design use them because they're kewl (or whatever) excessively and/or in the most inappropriate circumstances. Familiarity breeds contempt, and excessive misuse breeds nausea, tedium and revulsion.

Peter G.'s picture

What gets me is the

canderson's picture

Personally, I've been getting a bit irritated at Suburban.
I guess it bugs me because I liked it the first time I saw it used.

Tim Brown's picture

My brother uses Papyrus as his iChat font and refuses to change it.

pattyfab's picture

Here is a really anachronistic use of Papyrus:

It's a great site, though.

Fisheye's picture

Ok, so what are the chances of getting Apple and Microsoft to nix abused typefaces from their default installs? Users obviously can't handle the responsibility of eccentric type.

In a dream world, what fonts would you suggest come installed on consumer desktops?

dezcom's picture

Mine :-)


engelhardt's picture

> In a dream world, what fonts would you suggest come installed on consumer desktops?

Sadly, no matter what you'd pick, it would soon become overused and abused.

Look at the disdain many people have for Helvetica (or Arial) and Times New Roman because they're so "average" and "boring." They're perfectly fine typefaces on their own. But their oversaturation in daily life has made them bland and meaningless to most people.

That leads the everyday user to pick other readily-available/system fonts that are illogical choices like Papyrus or Comic Sans just to try to be different or to add an element of "fun." Eventually, the misuse makes those typefaces just as (seemingly) meaningless.

> Familiarity breeds contempt, and excessive misuse breeds nausea, tedium and revulsion.

Yeah, what Nick said! (Sorry for the re-post of the same thought!)

Dan Weaver's picture

Wait until Courier Flair becomes the sweetheart of 06. You will be clammering for Papyrus Flair. I'm sure someone is working on it as we speak.

Nick Shinn's picture

In a dream world, what fonts would you suggest come installed on consumer desktops?

One sans family of four, plus a monospace.

fernloft's picture

The font Sand always gets me. Is it ever appropriate?

I have been tracking my encounters with Papyrus here(pops).

RN Lee's picture

"Ok, so what are the chances of getting Apple and Microsoft to nix abused typefaces from their default installs?"

My guess is not very good, especially since Apple hated Comic Sans so much they first ripped it off, then just gave in and licensed it.

aluminum's picture

I had to use papyrus on a recent quickie job (it was their logo):

Oddly enough, I didn't mind it in that context.

Love the papyrus blog!

Si_Daniels's picture

I think this thread should have stayed in the tomb, but as someone resurrected it...

>“Ok, so what are the chances of getting Apple and Microsoft to nix abused typefaces from their default installs?”

For a variety of reasons beginners, bloggers and self-appointed style-guru types, take their pent up fury out on Papyrus, Comic Sans, etc., while the true typorati (such as the regulars on typophile) realize that every bundled font is abused and over-used.

The answer is not to ban this font or that font, or hide those deemed offensive from users font lists, but to educate, promote and make available fresh designs to casual users – something I think has done a pretty good job at.

KenBessie's picture

I agree with Sii.

It is not the fault of the typeface. Some very beautiful fonts have become overused, or used out of the context for which they were designed, and have become mundane. (Times would be a perfect example of this.)

That Papyrus is used to death isn't the problem. That Papyrus is used badly is the problem. And banning it to the tomb for a few decades won't solve anything. Indifferent designers will simply start abusing another font.

Geeez. It sounds like I'm a preachy little git. So I apologize.

Bobby Henderson's picture

I remember buying Letraset rub-on type sheets of Papyrus at art supply stores back in the 80's. It is an attractive typeface. Few casual users have any tools to make the digital version of it attractive, much less the knowledge or natural talent to do so. What else can one expect from the average office worker armed only with MS Word?

I'll second Dezcom's comment about Trajan.

Trajan is a typeface very over used on movie poster titles by people doing paid creative work. Need a typeface for a movie poster? When in doubt, select Trajan.

Now that Trajan Pro is bundled in with Photoshop (and other CS2 and Adobe Production Suite applications) it may be threatened to become even more annoying from over use. And that's really too bad since it, like Papyrus, is a beautifully drawn typeface.

k.l.'s picture

Finally got my Creative Suite 2 yesterday and was delighted by the selection of typefaces: Chaparral, Warnock, Bickham. Will we see a thread "ban Chaparral" in one or two years? I don't hope so.  ;-)

Dan Gayle's picture

Trajan has a different cultural relevance though. Our entire upper case alphabet is based off of the Roman Capitals, with the Trajan Capital's lettering being amongst the most beautiful. Centuries of designers have looked at them for inspiration. That puts the typeface Trajan in a totally different category than Papyrus or Comic Sans or whatnot.

But how would people feel if Chris Costello ever got around to releasing his "cleaned up" version of Papyrus called Costello?

Would that manage to salve some wounds?

Linda Cunningham's picture

I must admit a fondness for Papyrus (in limited spots, granted) -- somewhere, I've got a t-shirt from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that uses it and looks great with the illustration (of marine creatures).

And Costello is great, unfortunately I bet it wouldn't take long before it became as ubiquitous as Cooper Black (a font on my sh*t list) once was.

Loved the bancomicsans website -- I had a client who wrote a very dense economic policy paper using Comic Sans for heads. Talk about something that got changed *real* fast....


timd's picture

Don't be cruel to Cooper Black, pick on Dom Casual instead:)

Linda Cunningham's picture

(Geez, I had to dig out my really old Postscript Font Handbook to remind me how much I don't like Dom Casual either!)

Any sans serif that came with the IBM Selectric: Letter Gothic and Orator.


Nick Shinn's picture

Dan, good point about Trajan.
However, there is room for many interpretations of classic roman letters, not just Adobe's much-bundled font.
For instance, how about a more weatherbeaten approach, something like, er, Papyrus...

finn's picture

Personally I find Papyrus to be grating, regardless of saturation. Something about the combination of those particular letterforms and the uniformity of the distressing …

Davex's picture

At the risk of resurrecting this mummified thread I must add my thoughts on papyrus, a font that has run amok in trendy Santa Fe. My question is (and perhaps this thread has been covered to death elsewhere on this site but forgive me, I'm a new user as of two minutes ago)...the question again...why are some fonts like this one so popular? Why was Souvenir such a hit in the 80s and Italia and Novarese and now you almost never see them anymore? What causes a font to gain popularity and then fade to obscurity? Is there something about papyrus with its chipped and hieroglyphic look that speaks to this particular decade?

paul d hunt's picture

why are some fonts like this one so popular?

bundling. any font that is bundled with mainstream software is bound to get overused as people don't have to purchase additional licensing to use them. this is part of an explanation, at least for current trends.

twardoch's picture

"(...) beautiful design (...) it is sad to me that it got so popular as it has no value anymore (...)"

This is really interesting reasoning. In other words: it's so good that it's useless?


Davex's picture

Paul, I agree with you but what about pre-bundling? Pre-computers? I started out on Varityper equipment before the desktop revolution and back in the early 80s every third practitioner of the healing arts that walked in wanted Novarese. Then in the 90s everyone loved Lithos. These neolithic fonts are huge in SW advertising. Authenticity of the primitive maybe? I don't know. Usually I try and give the customer what they want or gently steer them toward something similar but less abused but the papyrus virus has gotten so bad that if one more realtor or mortgage broker decides to go with it I may commit typocide. The judge will let me off I'm sure of it.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Although in the case of Papyrus, bundling might be the problem, I don't think the bulk of the "blame" can be put on bundling for other fonts that become popular. What about Meta? It was never bundled.

dezcom's picture

There have always been "hot typefaces" but before digital type and bundling, they became hot by getting used by big name design firms and ad agencies and perhaps winning some awards. That flocked a bunch of "me too" users. In the 80s, U&lc was published and became a very effective showcase for all the ITC faces. Type, even then, was much quicker to come to market as phototype than the old hot metal predecessor. Many of these faces were redesigns of older styles and brought back (albeit with a bigger x-height and tighter spacing). The faces you say "are never heard of again" will be the next decades "retro" and hot again.
The good stuff (and some not so good) will come back as new. I remember when Tiffany lamps were being junked. Then they were replaced by 50s clunk. Then they came back as elegant antiques. Then the 50s clunk comes back as cool retro. Fads always happened, sometimes for better reasons than others.


blank's picture

Fonts like Papyrus become so popular for a variety of reasons, but in this case, I believe that it's because Papyrus makes it very easy for designers to be lazy and rip off ignorant clients. It's quite easy to take on a cheap design job, slap up Papyrus text, a stock image/illustration, and then ping the client for a couple hours worth of work that really only took fifteen minutes. For the last few years I can't go to any city in the USA and not see Papyrus. Hell, two blocks from this building there's a French restaurant that used Papyrus for its logo! But 99.9% of the uses are drek; just lazy designers using it to fill one of a dozen niches that it doesn't really, but since it's so damned pretty and odd it can pass long enough for the check to clear.

Linda Cunningham's picture

Well, as much as this discussion makes me want to go "yes, Papyrus sucks," I just can't.

One of my clients has used it for years, and to keep some semblance of consistency in their "look," so have I in the work I've done for them. It's not a bad face, although I'll agree that because it's been part of a bundle, it has been used excessively and, at times, inappropriately (hello Comic Sans!).

Doesn't mean it's "bad" though....


austin's picture

i hate papyrus sooooooooo much

William Berkson's picture

I agree with Linda, Papyrus is a well done face. It is just that because of the 'faux antique' roughness it is cloying after a while. In this respect the comparison with Comic Sans is very apt. Its positive qualities make it popular. Its affectations (faux antique, faux child-like) make it very irritating with overuse.

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