Every typeface ever designed was created to serve a certain purpose with a specific mood or tone. In addition to the individual traits of each font and its family, there are only two kinds of types — display and text. Display faces, known for their decorative features, are meant to be used sparingly and in bigger sizes, they are illegible otherwise. Text faces are great for extensive amounts of readable copy, they commonly sport a conservative no-frills look.

The greatest honour any type could achieve is to have its face loved and recognized by people. We realize that not all of us were crafted in an equally beautiful way — some of us turned to be a classic work of art, while others are simply tools to express one’s thoughts or communicate a message. The biggest fear of every type is to be used in ways that we were not intended for or abused to the point of being hated.

Sixteen of us finally got together with a plea to give us a break and forget about our existence for the next 25 years or so. Please give us a chance to get back our merits, we don’t want to be a typographic failure. There are so many other wonderful types (and not only the commercial ones) that would bring more sense and beauty to your designs, fliers, documents; the typefaces no one gets fired for using, fonts that will last you a lifetime. It is our hope that more people will write letters to those in charge at Microsoft, Apple and Adobe requesting to add more fonts (such as Adobe Caslon Pro, Adobe Jenson Pro, Franklin Gothic, Frutiger, Futura, Gill Sans, Helvetica Neue, Univers and Warnock Pro) to the core system.

So next time you see any of our 16 faces in your software’s fonts list, skip it and experiment with another, find a more suitable type for your specific project needs. In the end you’ll thank us for that.

1. COMIC SANS — don’t take me seriously, please

comicsans The only reason I was created by Vincent Connare was to replace the use of Times New Roman in Microsoft’s comic software called Microsoft Bob. I was never supposed to show my face in places other than comics and speech bubbles. I was never intended to be used in official documents nor am I close to looking like kids handwriting. And even though I’m flattered that Apple liked me so much that released my clone, I never dreamed of making the list of the default system fonts on all computers.

2. TIMES NEW ROMAN — don’t kill my timeless look

timesnewroman I curse the day when I became the default font in all Microsoft applications. I wonder how did I get this “honour” from Bill, considering the fact that I’ve never been fond of him myself. The only hope I have left is that people will realize there are other fonts at their service, all they need to do is to scroll down that fonts list.

3. HELVETICA — I’m so tired to be the IT font

helvetica Some designers are praising me and dedicating films, others hate for being “spaced tightly”, but most agree that I’ve become a safe font that is heavily overused. Please, understand that you can’t always rely on me to illustrate and deliver your every message. I’m not perfect for everyone and every occasion.

4. BRUSH SCRIPT MT — I can’t turn you into an artist

brushscript I know you love me, with a passion that even my creator, Robert E. Smith, could’ve not envisioned back in 1942. But please, don’t use me every time you need to show off your artistic side in ads and posters. Take a look at my fellow types — Feel Script, Sarah Script, Metro Script. Why should they enjoy a tranquil life while I do all the hard work? Oh, and please, don’t use me in ALL CAPS, I get very ugly when I have to scream.

5. PAPYRUS — I’m in the middle of the Hate and Heart war

papyrus Hey, how about this font—it looks interesting? And so they choose me. I know I’m everywhere – from a local coffee shop to war posters. Even my creator, Chris Costello, wishes he had a disclaimer attached to me: “May be habit forming. Not responsible for overdose or inappropriate use of this product.”

6. CURLZ MT — I’m too cute to handle too much text

curlz In 1995 Steve Matteson & Carl Crossgrove designed me to “look like bent, twisted metal” and to be used for “carefree titles”, menus and greeting cards. Beyond that I’m too ornate to deliver a legible message and too whimsical to represent businesses. I know my limitations, one of them being the fact that I’m not the Audrey Hepburn type.

7. KRISTEN ITC — I wasn’t meant to be your average type

kristen I was designed by George Ryan in 1995, who described me as “not your average text or display font” that was inspired by a handwritten restaurant menu. Now I became just your average “kids” font for teachers and scrapbooking, and just about everything else when Comic Sans needs a break.

8. ZAPF CHANCERY — I don’t want to be revived anymore

zapf Designed in 1979 by Hermann Zapf and based on chancery handwriting of the Italian Renaissance era, I usually pick up where other scripts fail, and more often than not in All-Caps or Italic. I’m tired of seeing my distorted face, please let me rest in peace.

9. TRAJAN — I hate Hollywood movies

trajan Yes, I have a rich history, being one of the first original display faces for Adobe, thanks to talented Carol Twombly. But I bet that even she could not have predicted that the movie industry designers would become so obsessed with me.

10. BRADLEY HAND ITC — do I really look like your handwriting?

bradley Why so many people are infatuated with Richard Bradley‘s handwriting is beyond me. Indeed, I was designed to bring a personal touch to digital correspondence, but when everyone’s handwriting looks the same I stop being personal, don’t I?

11. IMPACT — Closer to a collision nowadays

impact Designed by Geoffrey Lee in 1965 with the intention to make an “impact” with a strong statement. However, often I can be overwhelming and overshadow all your other messages, and I should never be used for body text. Keep in mind that the more people use me to make an impact the less effect I will have on the reader as a result.

12. ALGERIAN — help, I’m burning in hell

algerian I was created by Phillip Kelly in 1988, aimed to embellish “any work which suggests the Victorian era”. Want to guess what actually happened? You can see me everywhere from restaurants to sports to movie credits, and lots of examples in Flickr’s pool — Algerian Font, a burning hate.

13. COOPER BLACK — I came to you from the past

cooper Storefronts favour me a lot. It’s not surprising though, I look good with the flowing “outer contours”, but after seeing myself on so many signs, I get very dizzy. I wonder how Oswald Cooper, who designed me in 1921, would’ve characterized my purpose?

14. MONOTYPE CORSIVA — adding sparkle, but can get too shiny

monotype Designer Patricia Saunders has designed me primarily for use as initial letters, not for displaying an entire poem. As linotype.com suggests: “Monotype Corsiva can be used for short text passages in advertising but is best used to add sparkle to invitations, greetings cards and menus and to give a sense of occasion to certificates and awards.”

15. VIVALDI — inviting you and the rest of the world

vivaldi I was designed by Friedrich Peter in 1994, and I am ideal for invitations, certificates. I am definitely not a text font, and should be used sparingly, not everyone can read me my intricate letters especially the caps. Oh, and I never thought that I’ll be a popular font choice for tattoos.

16. COPPERPLATE GOTHIC — a peculiar impact

copperplate I was designed by Frederic W. Goudy in 1900s. Because of my looks – wide, no lowercase, only small caps, and quirky tiny serifs – some designers find me challenging to work with, while others use me almost every time they get a chance and almost always inappropriately.

More Type debates and obituaries

There are myriads of type-related debates on the Web, which often get so heated you can feel the tension in the air. There are those who attack and wish to see as dead, there are others who defend, though in the end it’s clear to both sides that some typefaces are severely abused:

Which other typefaces should join our plea to stop the abuse? Do you really hate us that much, or do you hate the misuse and overuse? Voice your opinion here, please.

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Comment Bits

31 Insightful Bits in response to “A Plea From 16 Most Overused Fonts”

  1. This post took me about one hour to read because there were so many bloody great articles you linked to. You have put a great spin on the most overused fonts and now I will have to be more careful.

    Your readers may like the 30 fonts that will last you a lifetime post. Totally got to the Digg front page.

    Also I checked your page source, I think you have some sort of virus or have been hacked because you have heaps of links in there.

    Also you have a dead link on the tattoos link. Also when I went it said that you were emailed about the dead link. How do you set it up to email you when there is a dead link?

  2. Well said, and you found a few that in writing my article I had forgot!

    I don’t know if we will ever get out of the times where people want to take a crack at design and the first thing they want is a “cool looking font.”

    The best thing we can do is educate I suppose.

  3. Love the article! I think it’s a great list of things to consider when choosing a font for a piece.

    Thanks for the awesome links inside the post, also. For some reason I have always loved the love/hate blogs/sites that pop up about certain fonts. It makes me feel a little more normal when I’m walking or driving around with a friend and suddenly blurt out something about Comic Sans or Papyrus not being used properly.

  4. Jacob Caas, thanks for reminding me about your 30 fonts. I honestly meant to link to it, but forgot. It took me several days to put this post together, had so many interruptions, finally completed it last night at 2am. I just added a link to your post in the 3rd paragraph, among other links to fonts that people should be using instead.
    Gosh, and thanks so much for warning me about the all those spam links – I haven’t seen them be4. Looks my blog did get hacked. I just deleted them from my footer.php. Any idea how I can find out what happened?

  5. Oh, and I fixed the tattoo link on flickr – thanks for that too.

    Thanks, Ross. I agree, educate is the best thing we can do. When last week I got my daughter’s group photo from her pre-school, with the name of her school on the photo, written in Comic Sans, I exploded and decided to contribute to the font education pool.

    Jacob Carter, glad you liked the article. Oh, no, you’re definitely not alone, cringing at the improper use and abuse of fonts. The more people start doing that, the better the world will become.

  6. Daily Blog Tips had a good article about being hacked.

    Thanks for the link add too.

  7. I thought Times New Roman had been made default because it was easy to read in print. Is this wrong? I think enough people have stopped using it and claim they hate it that it’s time to bring it back. Everyone seems to change from TNR to Tahoma or Verdana as soon as they open a new document.

    I’m surprised by how many cars I see driving around with business names on the doors in Papyrus… weird.

  8. Great post, Vivien! I had a Trajan font addiction for quite a while.. it just makes even the most trivial things seem like the Titanic.

  9. I might get halvetica a wee try in my next blog design. Should look good for h1s :D

  10. Sorry for my delay with the replies.

    Kristarella, you’re absolutely right about Times New Roman being perfectly suitable for print. However, it’s not as legible for the online read, though it was a default on the majority of sites for a long time.

    haha, that’s so true about Trajan, Kulpreet – it all looks like Titanic. I must admit, it is a very beautiful typeface, but it desperately needs a break from his fans.

    @seo blog – it’s a bit different with Helvetica when using this typeface for web sites, since it’s one of the few web safe fonts available (though on some Windows machines it’s replaced by Arial). So I’d say, go ahead with Helvetica for your headings, but give others typefaces a chance to shine as well ;-)

  11. oh, almost forgot – Jacob, regarding your question about my 404 error page. I was getting emails everytime someone was landing on my 404 page, but then I was getting too many emails, most probably because the spammers were landing there as well, so I disabled that feature. However, you can read about it in my article on 404 page configuration and inspiration, which has links to 404 customization tutorials from WordPress.org.

    And once again thanks for the warning on my blog being hacked. I’ve read Daniel’s and others articles and performed several anti-hacking tricks, like updating all passwords, securing the config file, updating the file permissions, etc.

  12. Thanks for the 404 link. I have actually personalised mine before however not so I get an email. That would be good, unless of course you get spam.

    Good to hear your spam free again.

  13. Jacob, it’s definitely good to be spam-links free on iBit. Good luck with getting the email part on 404 to work without getting too many email notices.

  14. Pretty much every “web friendly” font out there is overused. It’s unfortunate, but the alternatives for getting fonts out to users just aren’t as great as they need to be.

  15. Sketchee, while I do agree with you that web-safe fonts are overused simply due the fact that there are so few of them that people can work with, there are only four web-safe fonts on my list, the other 12 are overused in print and outside of Web, but they shouldn’t be, because there are thousands of alternatives that are safe to use.

  16. It’s all right, I’ve gone on to abuse Verdana these days. But I’m with you, Times is far too… blah

  17. Very cool article. There are a few things I learned even after seeing these fonts so much.

    The funny thing is that I hear so much about the NEW fonts like frutiger, univers, etc. that I wonder when they’ll be on a list like this!

    Shaver Design

  18. Thanks, J.T.Shaver. Perhaps it’s time for me to write a new post with the new font favourites. You got me thinking now ;-)

  19. well… u certainally have a lot to say about fonts … lol

  20. this is a funny way to look at the monotony of fonts , haha i used to have a comic sans addiction , but i have moved on :P

  21. Too right you are. I’m in high school and every single bloody time we hand in papers someone thinks that they will magically become more clever in they write their three page fuddyduddy essay in papyrus font. I have to smother the urge to strangle the shit out of them. It’s Cochin all the way for me!

  22. Robskys

    I think Scriptina should be added to this. I’m sick of seeing it. And when you have too many looped letters, it looks retarded.

  23. I agree with you on most… but Cooper Black is not being bandied about. It is a gorgeous and largely forgotten font. I have used it once in the last few years and have seen it twice elsewhere this year. As for Comic sans… I hate it and have never used it. I said to some one once I would never be able to be a health care worker in Holland. The reason is comic sans. It’s everywhere. And for that very reason I am planning on pushing myself to rise to the challenge and use it for something this year.

    Herman Zapf might be on the list again soon with Zapfina :D No overkill there yet… but just the thought… brrr! But lets not forget the fact that he did give us Palatino and Optima.

  24. LOL! Awesome. I’ve overused most of those fonts myself… :)

  25. Thanks for the link to exljbris, the calluna font is looking quite nice. I also enjoyed the trajan hate video.

  26. you’re very welcome, Mort and thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. It’s been pretty quiet on iBit lately, but I’m back to blogging very soon, so be sure to drop by or subscribe to be updated.

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on