Client wants to use Papyrus. Help!

Shh's picture

I have a client who would like to use Papyrus in their branding, alongside the logo I designed for them (logo attached). They mentioned that something similar would be ok, so I'm scratching to find something that would suit them (think personal trainer who uses yoga in her practice and likes tribal design) and not make me feel professional pain. I would love to hear some suggestions.

I'd also love to hear how others tactfully deal with clients that want to use fonts (or other design elements) that you just can't bring yourself to use? How do you tell them that their choices are... less than ideal?


aluminum's picture

There's nothing you can do. Yoga = Papyrus. That's just the way it is.

That said, if you want to challenge that universal law of nature, FontShop has a list that might be useful:

Shh's picture

Thanks for the link Aluminum. I have to challenge it. I think it's in my DNA. Can't use Papyrus... at least not without some discussion with the client on the topic. I have to know I've done everything within my power to keep it out of my work!

Any other suggestions welcome! Both on font and about broaching the subject with the client.

natalie_F's picture

You really just need to defend your work and your creation. Do your best to explain why you design things the way you do – ie. why you use a certain typeface or colour. As long as you put thought into what you're designing, you should be able to defend it and hopefully the client will understand. In a perfect world, it would work every time, but some clients won't budge and then you also need to learn to let things go.

As for the client who wants Papyrus, try explaining to them how overused Papyrus is and how you want to help them be more distinctive that every other fitness/yoga/tribal brand. Maybe she'll understand and at least you tried.

Shh's picture

Thanks, Natalie. I haven't had to defend my work in years and I was a little alarmed by the Papyrus request! I'll just do my best. Thanks for the suggestions.

M J McGregor's picture

I'd show some mockups with Papyrus and then some with alternative typefaces, along with as many examples as you can find of Papyrus being used in her type of business. Then explain how a different font will make her advertising stand out while still conveying the message, but that if she really wants Papyrus, you'll respect her wishes.

Shh's picture

That's what I'm thinking MJ. Was just about to start searching similar businesses that use Papyrus. Will definitely let them know that their wishes will be respected though. Thanks!

hrant's picture

What Natalie said. But also going negative can still help.
Point out that it's not just your opinion, Papyrus is the
object of ridicule among many in the field*, and ask her
if she wants to be associated with that.



Ton Aner's picture

I see no ‘logo attached’.

Shh's picture

Yeah. I intend on letting her know that Papyrus has a low market (cheap) association. Or as another designer friend of mine put it: "It's a part of every two bob desktop publishing setup and gets used at every other school fete."

Shh's picture

Hmm. Trying to upload image again.

fbrccn's picture

i don't know which font you are using in your original logo, but maybe fertigo pro might fit?
it's got a sort of yoga-ish/indian appearance to it...

i actually used it myself on an unfinished yoga book project :)

Ton Aner's picture

This time you’ve made it. Thanks. And it makes the use of Papyrus even more absurd. It should be left to its own bloody Hollywood war on Trajan.

Shh's picture

Thanks fbrccn. I'll check it out.

Ton, what do you suggest?

Ton Aner's picture

Phew, Suzanne, you got me there, ’cause I ain’t no gunslinger… But, if there is not too much accompanying text, I would probably think of some lettering based on the sanskr(i)t model, you know: all the letters connected by a horizontal line at the top, which would underline (or ‘overline’, as it were) the geometry of your (lovely) logo, and, at the same time, provide for a contrast and the ‘marriage’ of the old and the new, the West and the East. Now, there is one (to wit, poorly executed and, I believe, free) font on the Net, called Samarkand, to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. True, it would take some, and, depending on the quantity of text, possibly quite some work to do the job. But, then again, it could be fun, and quite an experience, to execute it, I’d say.

Shh's picture

Thanks so much, everyone. Really appreciated. Here's what I've decided to do (in case anyone finds themselves in a similar situation).

Explain to the client that their wishes will be respected, but that it would be poor form on my part if I didn't talk a little about Papyrus. Tell them that it has a low value perception etc., and that holistic health practices do not have to equal hand hewn, scratchy or ethnic typeface styles. What I think of when I think of their practice is: clarity, strength, flexibility (arcs and curves), leanness and light. I'll then show them good examples of design for such studios and bad design using Papyrus. Then give them examples of their logo with Papyrus and with the typefaces I will choose.

I'll ask them to think about it for a few days before deciding and if, in the end, they still want Papyrus, then I'll do that for them.

EDIT: Adding this comment from a friend, because it's funny: '...letting her know
that you would use it if required helps. Too bad you can't mention that
"If you do force me to use it, I will never be able to admit performing
this service for you, and would have to take my name off of all documents
associated with your design package."'

Ray Larabie's picture

Tell the client that you and the creator of Papyrus have been bitter enemies since childhood. Grit your teeth, hyperventilate and cross your eyes a bit every time Papyrus is mentioned.

garyw's picture

Ask your client to visit:

This may help them make a decision.

_Palatine_'s picture

Guess you'll be using Papyrus.

At the end of the day it's what the client wants and you want to get paid. You win some, you lose some.

Nick Shinn's picture

Papyrus is a lovely face.

I don't think overuse is the issue, because picky designers use stuff like Gotham which is all over the place.
The problem is that it's a face used by a lot of amateurs, and it looks damn good in their hands.
It's embarrassing for professionals to put themselves on a par with amateurs by using it.
It's common, or "naff" as the Brits say these days.
And it's not as if you can get designy or ironic with it, as is sometimes possible with Comic Sans.
Another thing, it's a very demonstrative "display" face, the design of which tends to overshadow the typographer's contribution, which is the main reason that designers avoid new and novelty faces.

Compounding the problem is the fact that there are no adequate recherché substitutes.
Stewf's list demonstrates that.
Like Trajan, Papyrus is a well-proportioned and distinctive face with a lot of nicely rendered microdetail, so that it renders well at different sizes and in different environments.
So until someone comes up with another face which can match its qualities, tough.

Paul Cutler's picture

I'm with NIck. I don't understand where designers come up with these bizarre prejudices against fonts like Trajan, Comic Sans, Papyrus, Helvetica. Maybe Nick has a good point about "professionalism".

Either a font is correct for a job or it's not, doesn't matter what the prevailing design-brain is spewing.

I don't hardly ever use any of these, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't without one blip of conscience if they were right for the job. Get over your prejudice and just decide if Papyrus is correct for this or not, if not, then explain to the client why, if so, then use it.


xo's picture

I suggest you don't use that, Papyrus is bad feng shui!

Don McCahill's picture

What about Elli, the featured font at the time I wrote this? It has a playful feel that would work in that field. And it isn't Papyrus.

hrant's picture

Nick, Paul: Fonts don't work in a vacuum. Whether a font
is "right for the job" depends on how people see the font, and
that is certainly affected by how/where they see the font used.
Ignoring that fact is something an artist would do.

And there's a critical difference between something like Papyrus
and something like Gotham*: the latter has a much more "generic"
appearance, while the former is in-your-face. Designers who use
Gotham are -hopefully- shooting for subtlety, knowing very well
that almost everybody will barely even notice what it is. Papyrus
is nothing like that.

* Although that's over-used too.


.00's picture

I agree with Nick.

And who gives a rat's ass about feng shui.

Nick Shinn's picture

Whether a font is "right for the job"...

Yes, that is important. But this thread addresses the "professional pain" that Papyrus causes.
So I think I can be forgiven for not wandering off topic, although not, apparently, for being an artist.

[Papyrus] is in-your-face. Designers who use Gotham are -hopefully- shooting for subtlety...

This is a slightly different idea than what I had mentioned earlier, "...[Papyrus is] a very demonstrative "display" face, the design of which tends to overshadow the typographer's contribution..."

To develop on that: Gotham is a face that can be used to produce strong contemporary multi-line settings (e.g. tightly leaded all caps) that give typographic structure to a layout, whereas Papyrus tends to float, its effectiveness coming from its display-lettering qualities, i.e. the hand-made, textured finish of its letter forms.

Shh's picture

Wow. That's a lot to respond to...

Everyone will have their own idea as to what works and what doesn't and I think all the above opinions are valid for the person who wrote them... not necessarily for me, but I find all opinions valuable in one way or another, if for nothing else than to clarify my own thoughts.

That fact that Papyrus is often used by the lay-person is not it's only problem, but this does reflect poorly when used poorly and there are a lot of instances where that happens. I don't often see it used well, as has been suggested. This leads to a wider low opinion of businesses that use this font and so of course I don't want my clients or my work in that kind of company. To steal a phrase from hrant: "Fonts don't work in a vacuum".

As to it being commonly reviled being due to the fact that it's commonly used: There are fonts that have been around longer and are used more often that I have zero problem with. Helvetica, although much maligned by some (i think it's the boredom factor), is a well-designed font.

Papyrus, as Nick says, is a novelty font. There's a reason it is in the "fun" collection in Font Book. It's very gimmicky looking and just far too literal. It doesn't belong in anyone's visual/corporate ID or branding, in my opinion... unless it's theme or feel appropriate, say a spa that using Egyptian Threading as one of it's services or Chinese massage... or a child's class project on South East Asia.

I also believe it is inherently flawed, although put this down to personal preference if you like. It's descenders are different lengths, ascenders are even, but too tall. This lack of consistency in appearance does actually make it break down at small sizes and in certain mediums. The chips out of it don't help either, although I wouldn't say they were aggressive and could work on other type-faces, but taking an idea to farcical extremes never did it any favours in terms of concept. I'll say one thing in it's favour. It has generous counter-spaces. I like that. I think it's one of it's saving graces.

My response to Papyrus has nothing to do with the prevailing design brain. This is for branding purposes, not a movie poster. I can guarantee you that my client doesn't perceive her business as a novelty. I didn't actually realise how much hate their was for it until I was asked to use it and thought: "You must be kidding." and started looking around for ways I could express this to my client without causing offence.

Don: Thanks for the suggestion. I did consider Elli actually, but the client loves flow and I think Elli might be a little too sharp and I would prefer to use something more regular for type that will be used with a logo for better reproduction at small sizes in a variety of media.

Typodermic and xo: Heh.

scannerlicker's picture

Does your client wants to be just one more intructor?

Ton Aner's picture

A new suggestion, Suzanne, since it seems that the search is limited to a sort of (faux-) calligraphic typeface: take a look at the homepage of the website, which caters to the subculture esthetics of your client, but the font used lacks the drawbacks of Papyrus which you (in my opinion) rightly list in your latest post.

(The text at the bottom means: “Here shall shortly appear the website of the Female Spirit”.)

Nick Shinn's picture

Suzanne, you almost had me convinced for a while.

But I must ask you, why do you suppose your client likes it so much, and if she is blind to the fact that it is a "novelty" font and would associate her with all those companies where it had been used badly, why would her clients not also respond to it with the same positivity? (Unless they also happened to be graphic designers :-)

Paul Cutler's picture

> This leads to a wider low opinion of businesses that use this font

Ludicrous. Do you think all customers are designers? Never forget that fonts aren't the only thing that lives in a vacuum…


quadibloc's picture

There are alternatives; I've just noticed that the Stone Type Foundry has come out with a new one, Tuff, and for a closer match, there's always Ereshkigal, which is similar, but still quite distinct from Papyrus.

I think that Papyrus is overused because, among the well-known and widely available typefaces, it does what it does better than any of the others. But that doesn't mean that people who aren't professional designers might not react to its overuse at some level, as some here would point out.

designpuck's picture

Nick & quadibloc, I understand the stance but have to voice a little disagreement on this one. The merits or demerits of the typeface's aesthetic characteristics aside, the ubiquity of papyrus can't possibly stem from the fine-tuned tastes of the world's tweeners personalizing their diary blogs...the face was obviously meant to project a specific communicative intent—ancient, foreign, egyptian, crumbling scroll, etc.,—but there are few applications I can think of that would make good use of what this typeface says visually...(maybe the Stargate franchise?) (Also, is it odd to admit typefaces speak to me?)

It'd be hard to deny papyrus is overused and abused as by everybody with a computer who can call it up among their twenty or so pre-installed fonts. When I see it in the world, I find it's almost always a lazy shorthand attempt to communicate "creative" or "funky" or "tweener diary" or "yoga" or "sci-fi movie" or "organic aisle" or "candles by Jan" or "asian restaurant" or "bong shop" or "tattoo parlor" or "office party memo" or "gardening supplies" and on and on and on

But here's what honestly gets my goat about this one: Papyrus speaks, and speaks loudly—but what it says, is "I'm funky and creative and unique" in a way that is so painfully common, comfortable, familiar, underwhelming, thoughtless, default, a little bit ugly, and herd-instinct-approved. It's like the PT Cruiser of typefaces...

Shh's picture

Ton: not bad, but I have to say that I'm trying to avoid anything with an eastern flavour.

Nick: I love your feedback. It's thoughtful, sane, and good for my professional growth. I agree that some of her clients would feel a certain kinship because of that font, but they are not her only target market (nor are they her primary target market) and that is not the only thing they would respond positively to. I also believe that people are capable of knowing cheap when they see it, designer or not. So that association will be there for a lot of people, not just myself or other designers. Designers are probably just more conscious of it.

Paul: As you see above, I don't think it is a gift bestowed only on designers that they can see "cheap" at fifty paces. If it was then you'd agree with me, right? ;)

Quadibloc: Tuff is a great suggestion.

Designpuck: Not at all odd to admit that typefaces speak to you... unless it's in that inside your head, telling you to kill people way.

Paul Cutler's picture

Suzanne - according to you your client has really cheap taste. Are you sure you want the job?

I do not understand font hatred, it feels very elitist to me.


hrant's picture

> why do you suppose your client likes it so much

Because she has little awareness of the world of fonts.
I would equate it with falling for a gigolo.

> Do you think all customers are designers?

No, but everybody reacts subconsciously to everything,
without realizing it. Think of it not as elitism, but simply
trusting people who have put the time to understand
something deeply. I for one cannot hate a font.


5star's picture

I don't tactfully deal with my clients. I tell them why a design works and leave it at that. I don't dance - ever. If I were you I'd tell the client to stick too what they do best, and let your work speak for itself.

thamilton's picture

I noticed a few "the client gets what the client wants" type responses. I believe this is called being a whore. If they hired you they are acknowledging that they don't know what they are doing and you do. Find a way to remind them of this.

Shh's picture

>according to you your client has really cheap taste. Are you sure you want the job?

She has her own associations with this typeface. It's not about thinking she has cheap taste, it's about understanding the wider implications of using this font that have been outlined by many of us. Many non-designers live their lives without even considering the nature of the design they are subjected to on a daily basis. It's like The Matrix, but with typefaces! You should know that she does understand my reasoning, appreciates my honesty and looks forward to seeing alternative ways of expressing the core values of her business. I look forward to her choosing the red pill.*

>I do not understand font hatred, it feels very elitist to me.
This is not mindless, elitist font hate. It's thoughtful, better design for the people font aversion. ;) Is it elitist to not want to use a font when you have outlined good reasons for it? Instinctual and practical dislike for a font is not elitism, it is personal preference.

5star and tylerh: The talk went well. There's always room for tact, but I definitely agree in that I think it's negligent to not steer clients away from making bad choices.

*Apologies to those unfamiliar with The Matrix.

quadibloc's picture

Papyrus was, when it first came out, a well-designed and original font. It's subsequent fate can't detract from that, and its overuse results from how well it communicates... a message that is much in demand of late.

What is the difference between elitism and serving one's client as best one can? Obviously, it's motive: is it "my fellow typographers will laugh at me", or "your potential customers will laugh at you"?

People who aren't typographers will notice they've seen Papyrus before at this New Age bookstore or that yoga center or the other T-shirt store or restaurant and so on. Having a unique and original typographic identity is a good thing that ordinary people appreciate. So it is perfectly legitimate to look for an alternative to Papyrus.

The problem may be finding one. There are several - there have been threads here discussing this issue before in which many candidates were presented - but since none of them communicates the same thing in the same way as Papyrus, which alternative is suitable would have to be carefully chosen. Thus, for example, in some cases, one could use Ondine (also fairly widely used, though) instead of Papyrus, and in others it would be a very bad choice for a replacement.

I mentioned Tuff: going in a different direction, one could consider Present.

hrant's picture

> It's subsequent fate can't detract from that

But we're not talking about history - we're talking about what a client needs now. In fact it's hard enough getting people to realize the power and relevance of fonts right in front of their eyes - you want them to become sensitive to their history as well? :-)

> Obviously, it's motive: is it "my fellow typographers will laugh at me",
> or "your potential customers will laugh at you"?

Certainly the first one shouldn't be at play (except possibly as a desperate ruse to let the design be more than the client will allow). But the second one is extremely relevant.


Nick Shinn's picture

There are two contradictory principles at work here.

Firstly, a typeface is one of many tools that a designer uses to create a page, an identity, a signage system, whatever.
So fixating on Papyrus is not conducive to the synergy of a good design, and constrains originality and the development of something custom tailored to the client.

Secondly, it's unavoidable that when "everybody" has a computer and a font as distinctive as Papyrus is bundled with Apple, Microsoft, and Corel, there is going to be consumer awareness of this professional tool--and a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Papyrus certainly picked up a lot of good karma being used for the captioning in Avatar. Damn, it's so easy to recognize with its humunguous extenders. What other typefaces are like that? Delphin is all I can think of.

So it's a real challenge for designers to deal with their clients' font-specific prosumer tastes, especially when these tastes are shared by the target market.

Why not develop two treatments, one of which uses Papyrus, and market test them?
After all, it's just a tool--surely there must be some way for a designer to put her stamp on it and use it in a subtle and creative way? (Easy for me to say!)

William Berkson's picture

One factor to think about here is something Mark Simonson noted a while ago. Amateurs tend to be attracted to "highly flavored" faces, because they are noticeably distinctive to everyone, and can make a strong visual statement on their own.

But that very strength has two problems: 1. It makes them less flexible, and less easy to harmonize with other design elements and 2. It also can make them go stale more quickly.

I think these two factors mean that the highly flavored face needs to really work graphically for the use, if it is not to go stale for those who use the shop or services.

henrypijames's picture

Has it actually been proven -- by whatever means -- that Papyrus is "overused", or is it just a meme that has been positive-reinforcing itself? I, for one, was barely aware of this typeface up until the time I came across a rant about its alleged ubiquity.

I also believe that even if Papyrus is overused, the problem is limited to the US, where Macs are widespread, whereas in other parts of the world, a "two bob desktop publishing setup" can't afford Apple and therefore doesn't have Papyrus.

Paul Cutler's picture

Right Nick, it's just a tool. That's what I should have said in the first place.

I have never tried to talk you into using it Suzanne, I just don't understand the attitude. It feels very insular.

I don't view my job as a designer as some sort of educator, quite frankly, I sell things.


M J McGregor's picture

I suspect the issue with Papyrus is that it looks like a one-off. The first time I saw it, I thought it was beautiful. But to continue to see it is like your co-worker who wears the same very handsome blue sweater day in and day out.

The presence of Papyrus calls for a million variations, one for each yoga teacher.

quadibloc's picture

> whereas in other parts of the world, a "two bob desktop publishing setup" can't afford Apple and therefore doesn't have Papyrus.

Papyrus is also included with the large selection of Bitstream fonts included with either Corel Draw or Word Perfect, and the latter is sometimes included along with the purchase of a new Windows PC. So a lot of people with Windows machines also have this face without having to have purchased it directly from the typefounder at a higher price.

dezcom's picture

The trouble with Papyrus is that it is a caricature of what Yoga may seem to be about to those who don't know whereas Legato is probably physically more what Yoga tries to be. Forms in balance without the look of extreme effort.

henrypijames's picture

The trouble with Papyrus is that it is a caricature of what Yoga may seem to be about to those who don't know

That I absolutely agree with.

William Berkson's picture

Legato is an interesting idea.

Minah is a very elegant, calligraphic roman with long extenders. I can imagine that a person who really likes Papyrus will like this as well, but it's little used, and a bit more disciplined as well.

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