Respectful Insolence

Fonts from hell

Admit it.

We’re probably all guilty of this at one time or another. Come on, ‘fess up. You’ve done it too. I bet at some point in your life you’ve used one of The 7 Worst Fonts.

Especially Comic Sans MS. Even I’ve used that font a couple of times.

Does anyone else have suggestions for fonts that should be added to the list?

Comments

  1. #1 Algerine
    October 14, 2006

    It’s not the fonts that are bad, it’s the people who abuse them. They’re like people who buy a painting because it matches their couch.

  2. #2 Aerik
    October 14, 2006

    I’d add Times New Roman, because I’m tired of everybody who wants something in print requesting it. Courier is the most readable font, not TNR. Geez.

  3. #3 llewelly
    October 14, 2006

    I’d add Times New Roman, because I’m tired of everybody who wants something in print requesting it. Courier is the most readable font, not TNR. Geez.

    Do you know if this has been tested emperically on modern monitors?

  4. #4 Stogoe
    October 14, 2006

    Courier New is only useful for padding the length of papers. It’s a pretty ugly font compared to almost anything else. Me, I like Garamond.

  5. #5 PhysioProf
    October 14, 2006

    NIH only allows Georgia, Palatino, Arial, or Helvetica in grant applications. Georgia is not bad-looking, and I have grown accustomed to it. TNR is also not bad; it is just so overused that it can be painful to look at.

    I once sat through a seminar by a Nobel Prize- winning physiologist with all slide captions set in Comic Sans.

  6. #6 llewelly
    October 14, 2006

    The overwhelming majority of codebases I have worked with as a software developer use many formatting tricks that rely on monospaced fonts, making them much harder to read in a proportional font. Courier is a reasonable monospaced font, and I use it for code all the time. And for those of you who use fonts in email – my email client is configured to display in raw text (e.g., ascii, unicode, etc) only, and I do not look at the html version without a good reason. I’ll never know nor see what font(s) the sender picked.

  7. #7 wolfwalker
    October 14, 2006

    Courier is good for mock-computer printouts and for situations that require monospaced characters (of which there are still a few). Anything else, I use some other font.

    There are a lot of fonts I dislike, but the only one I think rates a mention on “world’s worst font” lists is Quartz Digital. That one actually hurts my eyes when I try to read it.

  8. #8 Justin Hirsh
    October 14, 2006

    Some of those commenters are saying Arial is a bad font. Come on guys, I just want to use Helvetica. :(

  9. #9 Harald Hanche-Olsen
    October 14, 2006

    I am happy to say I never used one of those fonts. But maybe that’s because I don’t use windows?

    Anyway, I found this statement kind of funny:

    These days, just like an e-mail from an “@ aol.com” address has a distinct lack of credibility, an e-mail written in this font makes the sender seem ridiculous and out of touch.

    The reason I find it funny is that, for me, email doesn’t come with fonts in the first place. Email is just text, and I view it in whatever font I prefer. HTML encoded email is mostly just thrown away unread.

    My favourite monospaced font for screen use (programming, email etc) is Bitstream Vera Sans mono. It’s freely available, but doesn’t come bundled with any OS as far as I know.

  10. #10 William the Coroner
    October 14, 2006

    Frankly, I think Helvetica has been beaten to death. Also, the font with crosses in the ‘O’s are being way overdone with the black t-shirt crowd.

  11. #11 Togusa
    October 14, 2006

    I disagree with Aerik’s comment that Courier should be used in place of Times New Roman — Courier is too reminiscent of old typewriters, and is way overused. Also, using Courier would make a professional typesetter or printing technician think that a font is somehow missing from the document (PostScript printers and imagesetters default to Courier when a typeface used in a document is not present on the computer that’s printing the document).

    William the Coroner’s comment that the “font with the crosses in the ‘O’s” has been “way overdone with the black t-shirt crowd” reminds me of rap culture and blackletter — since when (or, more importantly, why) did the rappers and low riders co-op fonts that were once the province of dignified documents like diplomas and awards?

  12. #12 decrepitoldfool
    October 14, 2006

    Comic sans is extremely readable in 14 point or larger – I use it to write to my 94-year-old grandmother.

    I’ve probably used them all at one time or other, when the layout called for it. I have no ‘trademark font’ and just send emails in plain text so the recipient can see it in whatever font they prefer.

  13. #13 magista
    October 14, 2006

    Okay, I couldn’t help myself. From my husband’s days at a desperately going-out-of-business art supply store whose last-ditch-sale-to-get-us-back-on-track money to buy new stock was garnisheed by their creditors. There was very little else amusing about working there.

    “Ah, how about Helvetica?”

    “Well, we don’t get much call for it around here, sir.”

    “Not much ca- It’s the single most popular typeface in the world!”

    “Not round here, sir.”

    “And what is the most popular typeface round here?”

    “Adobe Garamond, sir.”

    “Is it.”

    “Oh yes, sir. It’s staggeringly popular in this manor, squire.”

    “Is it.”

    “It’s our number-one best seller, sir.”

    “I see. Ah, Garamond, eh?”

    “Right, sir.”

    “All right. Okay. Have you got any, he asked, expecting the answer no?”

    “I’ll have a look, sir ….. nnnnnnooooooooo.”

    “It’s not much of a art supply store, is it?”

    “Finest in the district, sir.”

    “Explain the logic underlying that conclusion, please.”

    “Well, it’s so clean, sir.”

    “It’s certainly uncontaminated by fonts.”

  14. #14 John Wilkins
    October 15, 2006

    Any font that comes with Microsoft packages is crap. Helvetica is a good font in its own place, but Univers, with a slew of different and properly cut weights is much better (and Gill Sans even better still. S. T. Gill was a genius). Avoid Truetype fonts altogether (the metrics suck) and use only those fonts that come from reputable font houses.

    My own pet hate is Avant Garde – a display font, not a body type font, folks. It was cool in 1975. It’s useless now.

  15. #15 Bronze Dog
    October 15, 2006

    I usually stick with Arial or Times New Roman.

    I’m guilty of using Comic Sans on signage, fliers, and such. Fairly limited circumstances.

    Papyrus struck me as interesting, but I’d only use it for something like if I made a .pdf for one of my homebrew D&D campaign settings.

  16. #16 Michael Hopkins
    October 15, 2006

    I will have to agree with Algerine. The problem is not the fonts but the idiotic uses of them. The fonts are not responsible for dumbasses who use them any more than the caps lock key is responsible for people who write long diatribes in all-caps. The simple reality is that not all fonts are designed for the text of articles or emails. These fonts have their place, but no in the way those with little sense use them. It is not all that different than the sites with those horrid backgrounds that you also mentioned. Stylesheets are are wonderful. Using them to include a background image can give a site its own identity. But there will be idiots who abuse this by using an animated image as a background and use virtually unreadable color combinations. The problem was not the tool, but those who don’t use them intelligently.

  17. #17 Aerik
    October 15, 2006

    I’d like to say that my favorite font for computer monitors is Tahoma. I say that Courier (not Courier new) is the most readable font because it is — at least on paper. And I like for a page on a website to be printable nicely – so Courier is still a fine choice. If you’re not using LaTeX but you want it to be printable, use Courier.

    TNR is also not bad; it is just so overused that it can be painful to look at.

    is exactly my point.

    However, it may be just because I’m not in any kind of profession that I don’t see Courier used way too much, like Togusa says. I see TNR all the damn time.

    For emails, yeah, I like to stick to ASCII or Unicode (utf-8, usually), like llewelly.

    I suppose given some of the suggestions here I could try some font not bundled automatically with any OS like “Bitstream Vera Sans mono.” That sounds interesting.

    Any font that comes with Microsoft packages is crap.

    That’s probably true. Microsoft had to release a free “power toy” to enhance the readability of clear text on it’s pc’s periodically. IT’s called “clear type tuner.” Yuck.

  18. #18 Bartholomew Cubbins
    October 15, 2006

    wow, feel the courier hate. It’s a good fixed-width font for R/DNA sequence alignments.

  19. #19 Michael Geissler
    October 15, 2006

    I will also join the jihad against Comic Sans. I also think any form of “distressed” type (that grungy, rusty look) has been done to death.

    I’m a Century Gothic fan myself. Clean and elegant.

  20. #20 Joshua
    October 16, 2006

    Times New Roman hurts my brain. Tahoma and Georgia are my go-to substitutes most of the time. Bitsteam Vera is a good collection of fonts, as well. There are a couple of different versions of it, both sans and plus serif as well as the aforementioned monospace. They’re all pretty nice and readable and not so overused as to cause headaches.

  21. #21 blf
    October 16, 2006

    Please make the distinction between VDU (screens) and the printed page (paper). TNR (Times New Roman) on most VDUs is not very good (at least at “small” point sizes, such as less than c.14pt or so), but Arial is not very good on the printed page (higher-resolution) or those larger point sizes.

    The difference is, in large part, due to the serifs: TNR has them, Arial does not. Serifs guide your eye along the text. However, serifs work only when you can see them clearly. On VDUs, which rarely have resolutions much more than 100dpi, serifs at the smaller sizes are broken or invisible, rendering TNR hard-to-read (until the point size makes the serifs large enough to see).

    Printers are available in all sorts of dpi’s, from essentially infinite down to as low as 75dpi or so. A fairly common dpi these days seems to be 600dpi. I myself tend to print at 720dpi or greater (typically 1440dpi), a resolution at which Arial is awful!

    Arial does not have serifs, so it is easier to read at smaller point sizes on VDUs, but looks pretty bad at those higher resolutions (or larger point sizes). I get a nasty headache from reading printed Arial.

    None of this justifies the use of either Comic Sans or this Blog’s absurdly small point size.

  22. #22 Lisa
    October 16, 2006

    Actually I like small print on web sites. It’s scrolling that bugs me, so the more text per screen, the better. I think there is a command to magnify the screen when you run into too-small print.

    My all-time favorite font is Abadi. Antifavorite? Well, Century Schoolbook is kinda blech. Mostly I object when people use something like Comic in an infantilizing way – like, “here, I think this will be too hard for you to understand, so let me put it in a cutesy font to look like a third-grade handwriting worksheet.”

  23. #23 Keith
    October 16, 2006

    I agree that Times New Roman should go on the list but so should Courier. We don’t use typewriters anymore, folks. Get over it.

    For my money, I like the classics: Baskerville, Garamond and Caslon. Ariel is good for the digital world, where all those serifs can get kinda fuzzy.

  24. #24 Jonathan Dobres
    October 17, 2006

    Courier New, as others have said, is a monospaced font. It’s meant primarily for codebases and other specific situations where having characters of equal width is essential to readability. To write any kind of paper in Courier New is not only a shameless way to pad, it’s also murder on your eyes and actually slows the speed at which people read your content.

    Comic Sans, by the way, has even shown up in medical records.

  25. #25 Ham
    October 24, 2007

    Personally–
    I prefer to use Arial for general use as its easy to find near the top of the font list and easier on my eyes than a lot of fonts, and Courier comes next because Arial isn’t always on the little choice menus. Its actually easier to read than Arial, but its not something I’d want to hand in to a higher-up.
    I think Papyrus and Cursive/Handwriting fonts provide a cool and useful effect but should not be placed in the hands of idiots who will use them excessively and in all the wrong places.
    I believe that Comic Sans fits roughly between my opinion of Arial and the Handwriting font category. I used Comic Sans for essays in elementary because it took up slightly more room than a lot of other easy-to-read fonts *shame on me*. Also, I prefer readability over formality most of the time, and Comic Sans is nice and easy to read in the usual assigned 12pt font. If readability is a concern but formality isn’t, then sure… use Comic Sans! But if you want to leave some sort of impression besides Child and Elderly friendly, then there are (maybe even clearer) fonts that can retain formality. Plus, That’s what font size is for!
    I have ALWAYS hated Serifs and those a’s and g’s that aren’t anything like the ‘real letters’.
    and lastly, I don’t go out of my way to mess with any other fonts unless I’m especially bored.

    (whew.. that was a long post!)

    If its too small for you to see, then you should be able to Ctrl Scroll up or down
    or
    Crtl Shift + or -
    Or at least that’s how it works on my computer.

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