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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Biz Tip: Top 10 fonts you should immediately delete from your computer

Occasionally, as an opinionated designer-y type, I find myself getting a little obnoxiously pretentious and try really hard to reel myself in. However, when it comes to fonts, I would proudly wear the Queen Snotty-Pants crown if it meant eradicating the use of the worst offenders. Why am I so passionate, you ask? Because fonts are all around us. We face a constant barrage of tiny emotional responses from every direction nearly every hour of every day, and I'm sorry, I am just tired of being assaulted by over-used crap. When choosing a font, it should be back-up to your content, it should not BE your content. Many people choose fonts for the emotional tone they want to convey based on subconscious associational thinking (ex. I have often seen X font on massage therapy studios and spas, so I will use the same one). This thinking is fundamentally flawed because you have now associated yourself directly with your competition and/or their reputation. So, in business, it is of paramount importance to select fonts for BOTH their original tone, AND for their associational response.

This list was compiled through an informal survey of the multitude of marketing pros and graphic designers I have known over the years. Yes, we actually sit around talking about fonts over a beers at a pub. Stop laughing. Seriously, stop laughing.

For the love of god, this is the ugliest font ever designed. If you use it, I'm sorry, but it makes you look like a third-grader. It is not cute, it is not fun, and it conveys to customers that you would like to be thought of as juvenile. If you use it in a color like purple or yellow, you may need an intervention. If you have a visceral reaction to what I just wrote (either agreeing or disagreeing), you must also read this:

 This was once a lovely font (and the one I was referring to in the earlier massage/spa example). But now that EVERY single holistic or alternative practitioner on the planet has decided to use it, it is off the happy list. Congrats Papyrus users, you look just like everyone else. Way to be 'alternative'.

Ick. It screams 1995 and makes me think of neon stretch pants and scrunchies at the same time. Never use any font that has a shape for the dot on an i. A dot needs to just be a dot.

Because it looks like Comic Sans. It just screams "Lemonade Sold Here." And because everyone will think you either sell things for children, babysit children, or long to actually be a children (yes I know that was grammatically wrong... it just flowed better my way. I'm having a rant, work with me).

Because you don't own an Army surplus store (unless you do, then I guess it's ok).

Because you're not an eleven-year-old-girl, and neither are your customers. Wait, are they? If so, you may still want to think twice because this font doesn't blink, flash, or have pretend glitter on it (read: MySpace).

I used to use to use this (in purple) in chat rooms back in the AOL days of 1997. These were times before the meteoric rise of the computer, and with it, the rise of the do-it-yourself designer. Since then, every law firm, consulting company, and accountant have co-opted this font to convey that certain special, "We are SO much better than our lowly clients," vibe. When really what they are saying is, "We charge $300 bucks an hour and are too cheap to pay for a graphic designer to do our logo, so we had our partner's son type our names out in this stupid font that we got for free when we bought our office computers." Don't you feel special?

Are you planning to turn your business into a funhouse in the near future? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Because your logo (or anything else for that matter) shouldn't ever look like an illegible version of a wedding invitation from 1987.

When thoueth needith a fonteth to convey that certain "I live in the middle ages and am unoriginal-ith". Oh, and I might also be a serial killer....ith.

Honorable mention:
 The up-and-comer of the crappy and over-used, ahhh Bleeding Cowboys... why did you have to be so appealing (and free) to so many?  I actually really liked this font when I first saw it. Apparently everyone else that saw it liked it too. It is now the rockstar/edgy version of Papyrus. Seriously, open an indie newspaper and count the ads that use it. Bleeding Cowboy is the quinissential co-out font. On the surface it says, "I'm edgy and dangerous...and kind of a rebel cowboy." When, in reality it says, "I got this neat font from a free font site. I chose it because it would make you think my business is cooler and edgier than it actually is.... and I can't afford a graphic designer."  Did I mention that Cabo Wabo Tequila just changed their logo to Bleeding Cowboys? Apparently, after paying the Red Rocker a gazillion dollars for the name, they couldn't afford to buy a font.

The moral of the story. When choosing fonts, your default choice should always be the simplest option. Yes, you want your font to convey a feeling, but make sure that feeling isn't contempt. Overall, legibility is also key. A font, no matter how adorable/sophisticated/different it is, is only as good at the content it represents. When in doubt, ask a designer. But, do not mine them for advice. This is what they do. Your questions for them end at, "Give me your honest opinion on my_________." If you want more help than that, PAY THEM.


susan said...

So somebody help me get cool fonts to stamp with...typewriter looks like a kidnappers note, comic sans lower is the best one I have. Block all caps yes. Someone, anyone, send me to fonts I like.

illana Burk said...

try checking out LOTS of interesting fonts for free. Do you mean rubber stamping or metal stamping?

Lorin Dixon said...

Illana, what is my font @doodypops?

Shawna said...

OMG, yes on the comic sans and papyrus!