Fonts are like celebrities—some are famous, while others can be downright infamous. When an audience sees a font in your print media design that they just can’t stand (be it overused, ugly or unreadable), you can lose their attention in a heartbeat.
We’ve already discussed how to properly use typography in your print media project, but there’s one more rule that print designers should take to heart: avoid using notoriously bad fonts in your designs.
To that end, we’ve provided you with a list (and some visual examples) of the absolute worst fonts ever created for print.
Let’s start with the most obvious choice for inferior typography. Comic Sans is by far one of the most reviled and ugly fonts in graphic design. What began as a fun imitation of comic book lettering quickly became the awful go-to font of choice for children’s birthday party invitations, lost dog flyers, garage sale signs and sadly enough, a number of failed start-up businesses.
Comic Sans instantly reminds people of amateur graphic design, which can be detrimental to both your client’s brand image and your career as a professional designer.
Since Arial was the default font for Microsoft Office for a long time (it has since been replaced by Calibri), it’s gained a reputation for being boring and lazy.
Aesthetically, there’s nothing especially wrong with the font. It’s clean-looking, simple and an almost-passable imitation of Helvetica—but unfortunately, it’s also passé and plain. Arial no longer has the pop it once had, and some would argue it never had pop to begin with.
When it comes to the worst fonts for print, Papyrus is a two-for-one special. Not only has it been heavily overused in print media design, it’s also a hackneyed, unprofessional and ugly font that has never looked good to begin with.
You can find examples of Papyrus on everything from movie posters to birthday cards, which annoys critics of bad typography to no end.
The imperfect, grainy effect that makes Papyrus look like an ancient Grecian tablet also makes the font difficult to imprint using embossing or foil stamping.
Connected fonts with little flourishes (such as Brush Script) can also pose problems when printing with certain methods. However, that’s not the only reason why Brush Script is a horrible font. It’s an outdated typeface that’s been used in print media since Baby Boomers were actually babies.
Nostalgic typography can be a great boon for your printed designs; some of the best free fonts for print that we’ve compiled have a retro, nostalgic look. But in the case of Brush Script, it’s a trip down memory lane that nobody (especially younger audiences) wants to take.
Speaking of old, bad fonts, Copperplate Gothic is practically ancient. The font draws influence from both Roman stone carvings and Victorian era sign printing and has been boring audiences since the early 1900s.
The thin serifs of this font can make it difficult to emboss or foil stamp correctly, and the letters themselves can be hard to read since they’re all so similarly designed.
The only time you should ever print something in Curlz is if you’re making invitations for a 6-year-old girl’s birthday party—and even then, you owe it to that little girl to use a more creative font.
Curlz gives decorative fonts a terrible reputation with its overly-whimsical, overly-saccharine curlicues, which are very problematic for imprint methods that can’t handle fine detail. Worst of all, Curlz has an association with immaturity, and it can give off an impression of cheap gaudiness.
If you want your print media to look like someone’s wedding invitation, use Vivaldi. Whereas the curlicues and flourishes in Curlz makes it look silly, the same elements in Vivaldi makes it look unnecessarily dramatic.
Vivaldi is often the go-to font for mimicking handwritten calligraphy and as such, your audience will no longer be fooled by this pale imitation of the real thing. Not to mention it can also be a headache to try and read through all those loops and curls.
Bradley Hand represents the opposite end of the handwritten font spectrum; it attempts to look like a note that someone quickly jotted down, but it just comes across as tacky and out-of-touch.
The imperfections in Bradley Hand are designed to make it look more like authentic handwriting, but these imperfections can also be hard to print correctly, leaving a jagged fuzzy edge around each letter.
There’s nothing innately wrong with Impact-it’s a nice bold font that can be easily printed, embossed or foil stamped. However, it’s also the default choice any time an amateur designer needs a bold font.
Because of that, Impact is the official font used in funny cat pictures and Internet memes, which puts it among the worst fonts of all time if you’re trying to appear professional. Unless you’re purposefully trying to invoke the feeling of Internet subculture in your print design, avoid Impact.
Since Trajan is one of the defaults in Adobe’s Creative Suite, it’s among the most overused fonts in print marketing—especially when it comes to movie posters. From Titanic to Sex and the City, this font has been used so many times in Hollywood marketing campaigns that it’s been dubbed the “movie font.”
This can be a negative for your print design as it distracts the audience, especially when they finally figure out where they’ve seen the font before.
Courier is always the default choice when inexperienced designers need a font that resembles typesetting, so it’s been woefully overused in amateur print marketing and design. But even if that wasn’t the case, the font just isn’t that interesting-looking to begin with.
This font works for making a large block of text look more readable, but it’s not something that’s going to catch the audience’s eye when it’s used to carry the design itself. Stay away from it (and other serif font choices) when creating headlines or other large text.
Perhaps one of the reasons why these bad fonts continue to plague print design is this: they’re so widely available, it’s practically guaranteed that both the designer and printer will have them on hand. Don’t be afraid to use a rare, unique font if it enhances your media; just be sure to always package any font files used in your design when preparing your print-ready artwork.
What are some of your least favorite fonts for print designs? Do you have a different opinion about any of the typefaces we’ve listed as the worst fonts ever? We want to hear what you have to say, so leave a comment below!