What are the worst typefaces of all time?

hanabot's picture

im doing a typography project, and i wanted to know what are the worst typefaces the earth has ever seen, if you can give me a list of the worst typefaces you have ever seen, that would be great.

blank's picture

I think that mistral is good. But from what I’ve read lately, it’s also a pretty popular font with cover designers of hard-core pornography, so it can have some pretty…um…intense associations.

pattyfab's picture

Mistral suffered from MASSIVE overuse at one time.

This type of thread is so subjective.

satya's picture

No offense, but I don't like Gill Sans too.

catastrophe's picture

papyrus, comic sans, and curls mt all make me gag.

i believe they are just abused and misused..and polluting the atmosphere!!

papyrus should be banned from hair/beauty salon identities, comic sans should be banned from anything but maybe...maaaaybe comics (BUT even in comics i still find it annoying), and curls mt...ugh.

im thinkin a lot of opinions on typefaces are personal prefs.

thats my little input. regardless, as a designer...we're always type nazis!

Si_Daniels's picture

Like that character from Seinfeld whenever I see Papyrus I can't help but scream "Serenity Now!" Maybe I should check in here… http://www.serenityspaconroe.com/

TomN-CA's picture

Not so much a typeface, but I think the futura-style lowercase 'a' is kind of ugly, and it's not that uncommon in ads and logos I see daily.

William Berkson's picture

I like the signs at this local place better than the soulless logo.

JABZOOG's picture

How about Sand?

Nick Shinn's picture

If over-exposure is any measure, how y'all feelin 'bout Super Duty :-)?

Sharon Van Lieu's picture

You read my mind.

amv's picture

I don't think Arial is getting nearly enough attention. I think that when you factor in the impact a given typeface has had on the world, Arial is by far the worst thing to ever happen to typography.

On a purely technical level, Arial is horrendous. Glyphs like the capital C and the lowercase g are so outrageously lumpy and malformed it honestly looks like the product of someone working through his first or second week of experience with Bezier tools. Calling it "amateur" is a genuine understatement as even most amateurs would presumably have the dignity to keep such terribly drawn glyphs from being released.

If I could sum up my criticism of the face, it's that ultimately, it suffers from a shocking lack of craftsmanship.

I've always seen Arial as much more a clone of Univers than Helvetica (compare the 1, the lowercase t, the capital G and even the R-- that god awful R-- to some extent, among many other examples). But when compared to either of these two fine works, Arial's flaws are even more apparent. Helvetica and Univers, regardless of your subjective take on them, both offer stable balance and details. The letters fit together nicely and the curves within each glyph look intentionally placed by a qualified designer. Arial has none of these qualities; words and sentences look cobbled together, stroke thickness seems to bend and warp, and it's wonky curves careen along their paths like bumper cars.

In my opinion, one of the worst aspects of its design is the way horizontal edges don't run parallel to the baseline. For an example of how this can be done right, look at something like Akzidenz Grotesk or Franklin Gothic. These fonts use this characteristic create a slightly less formal, cheerier atmosphere than something like Univers or Helvetica might. But in the case of Arial, unlike these far superior fonts, it looks like a mistake rather than an intentional aspect of the design.

Nowadays, though, the worst part about Arial is it's nightmarish ubiquity. Sometimes I feel like it's closing in on me, like something out of the Twilight Zone. It really does appear to vastly outnumber the use of Helvetica on local signage around shopping centers and mom-and-pop shops (at least here in Northern California). Signs like these tend to be awful from the start, often stretched and compressed in non-uniform ways or kerned recklessly (if at all). But it's insult to injury when Arial is used instead of a standby like Helvetica, as it combines an already bad design with an even worse typeface.

Far more concerning, however, is its sudden prevalence in serious media, such as feature films and television, by designers who should honestly know better. Look at the logo for the show Ugly Betty; unless they were trying to make some kind of typographical joke that plays on the show's title, what could they have possibly been thinking? I remember seeing it in the trailer for the movie Over the Hedge, in the on-screen graphics for the mock newscasts in V for Vendetta, and even the TITLES and end credits in Michael Clayton for god's sake. What kind of bizarro world is this?

Anyway, don't interpret my overuse of dramatic adjectives as being tongue-in-cheek; for all my whining, I really do mean it when I say Arial is the worst thing to happen to typography. Comic Sans doesn't even compare-- it may not be the world's greatest art, but it's a gimmicky font that was never trying to be anything more than that. Arial, with the help of Windows, has unfortunately presented itself to the world as a serious alternative to some of the pillars of typography, when it's little more than an insult in my opinion.

Phew! Glad I finally let that out!

bieler's picture


"Would you attempt to print a finely-detailed 19th century face designed for coated paper on a laid rag stock, in the manner of 17th century printing?"

You are kidding, right? This is the 21st century. All type exists concurrently. Some works, some doesn't.


baris.sehri's picture

**** comic sans

mark eikema's picture

Let's make a list. Put your name behind at most three typefaces or add a font that is not yet listed.

Rotis | mark eikema + ...
Trebuchet | mark eikema + ...
Zapfino | mark eikema + ...

satya's picture

You hate Zapfino_?


alexfjelldal's picture

How about the worst glyphs of all times? I'll start with the 'g' in interstate. ruins the whole typeface for me.

Bison Design

pattyfab's picture

I hate Zapfino too.

blank's picture

Me three on Zapfino. There was a time when I thought it was just badly used, but now that I’ve explored a lot a script faces, I think Zapfino is just too wild to be a good typeface. I could see that style of handwriting working really well when it’s actually written, but there’s a nasty dissonance created by that kind of expert calligraphy being rendered digitally.

joe graham_typespec's picture

Mistral makes an appearance in our new "Used and Abused" section:

Type Eating Itself?

blank's picture

Joe, that one reminds me of all the idiots out there who insist on using Avant Garde to typeset the phrase avant garde. I once saw someone try setting all the headings in a book in Avant Garde just because a chapter title contained the phrase. That one really made me want to scream.

Si_Daniels's picture

>Joe, that one reminds me of all the idiots out there who insist on using Avant Garde to typeset the phrase avant garde.

Such madness continues to this day - can you believe the people responsible for the Helvetica movie packaging used Helvetica - use some imagination per-lese! At least Cooper Tires had the good sense to ditch Cooper Black after fifty years

sayerhs's picture

beauty is in the eyes of the beholder

Ahem, i notice that the person who initiated this thread seems to have gone into oblivion. Hanabot, what IS your project about, im curious.



JCSalomon's picture

 Sii: The Serenity logo isn't exactly small-caps Papyrus but looks something similar—not that Papyrus has small capitals. (The E is a give-away, plus it's differently distressed.)

 Researching this logo was the first time I'd heard of Papyrus. And hey, if it wasn't so overused Papyrus would be quite a decent font for some specific uses.


nikimelon's picture

comic sans
times new roman (i'm sorry. i hate it. case closed.)


russellm's picture


I don't dispute your assesment of Arial at all, but I went looking for "the way horizontal edges don’t run parallel to the baseline." and could not see it. On the Arial fonts that come loaded on my work PC all seem parallel to the base line. (I zoomed in really close in wire frame) Perhaps you can explain.


cerulean's picture

Russell, it's the ends of curved strokes like in a, s, c. Instead of terminating approximately perpendicular to the stroke like most other sans, or cutting horizontally like Helvetica, Arial compromises and cuts them just slightly off-horizontal.

HaleyFiege's picture

Arial looks way better on the internet than helvetica does.


russellm's picture

gotcha, cerulean.

HaleyFiege ,"Arial looks way better on the internet than helvetica does."
... and your point is? :-)


catastrophe's picture

sii: thanks...i just threw up looking at that website. papyrus should be banned. >:(

and even if arial does look better on the internet, doesn't make the typeface better than helvetica!

this forum is great. ..

catastrophe's picture

poor connare.

"Comic Sans was NOT designed as a typeface but as a solution to a problem with the often overlooked part of a computer program's interface, the typeface used to communicate the message.

There was no intention to include the font in other applications other than those designed for children when I designed Comic Sans. The inspiration came at the shock of seeing Times New Roman used in an inappropriate way." -Connare

not that i'm justifying comic sans...because regardless it still makes me gag. :\

used and inappropriately abused typeface...

brien's picture

Another vote for Comic Sans... it's terrible. Agree about Arial, as well. Chicago was terrible in it's day, too.

David Rault's picture


Funny some mention Myriad here.

I just come back from letypographe.com, a french forum run by Jean-Francois Porchez (and others fine typographers), where I've been bashed *big time* for saying that Myriad owes a lot (i mean A LOT) to Frutiger.

I've been told there that Myriad bears the influence of Sumner Stone, that it is way more "calligraphic"... All things I don't contest, but still... No Frutiger, no Myriad, am I alone to think that way?

I mean, if you read the official documentation of Avenir, for example, Futura is mentioned as inspiration, things are clear. But Adobe's staff never aknowledged Frutiger to be at the origin of Myriad.


Just to say that I'm not crazy about Myriad either :-)


David Rault's picture

one more thing

I live in Istanbul, and the poorness of typographic culture in the last 30 years is making any typophile suffering on an every day basis, when looking at the shops, packagings and advertisements (although the trend is slowly changing since 2-3 years thanks to people like, huh, me, among a few others). You think I'm kidding? Do you know how many books are available, in turkish language, about typography? ONE. It was released earlier this year, and it's not very good. There is a new magazine since one and a half year which talks about type in a quite nice and interesting way, and people are beginning to open to type culture...

... but still, most of the time, we have to say hello to some absolutely horrid typefaces, composed in huge sizes and ugly colors. So, let me add to the list the ones I see very often here:

- Black Chancery
- University Roman
- Stop
- Revue
- Flash / Slager
- Balloon

... Sorry I can't continue I feel sick.


ryanholmes's picture

Myriad is not Frutiger; look at the M for example. Yes they are similar, yes the look and feel are close. But I can say the same thing about dozens of other typeface comparisons.

And as far as that goes, you can make the case that nearly ALL of the popular, contemporary, corporate-style humanist sans out there today are merely derivative of good old Frutiger and Officina Sans.

Typefaces I hate? I despise anything with a "Benguiat" in its name. The appeal of Bank Gothic totally escapes me. Most script faces are just plain annoying. If one more Windows user sends me a file formatted in Trebuchet, I may hurt someone. And I loathe Arial with every fiber of my being.

alchion's picture

I bought Papyrus back in mid 90's it is a great design, but so over used it has zero value these days.
I mention this because really I think anything that is overused should be avoided (The same goes for
stock photography). One reason I like expensive typefaces, is because most designers do not get them,
and most clients look for less expensive solutions as well. Individuality is where it is at.

satya's picture

A little off topic but an interesting interactive on Arial Vs. Helvetica.

eliason's picture

I don’t dispute your assesment of Arial at all, but I went looking for “the way horizontal edges don’t run parallel to the baseline.” and could not see it.
Look at the C.

Jackie Frant's picture

I think I'm preferring satya's off topic.

Have you taken the Arial or Helvetica quiz yet?

or read how to spot Arial?

My favorite was from France - and I can't find it now. I think it was Tophy52 who actually placed one over the other and made little indications as to the basic differences.


Ryan -

Yes in name, Myriad is not Frutiger - but oh my --- there is no doubt where they stole their design. This one has been through the courts, and I understand it was settled.

It may be one of those "American" type laws - change three characters - and voila -- a new typeface is born.

BTW - that is what use to happen between the foundries... in days of cold and hot type....

Quincunx's picture

> I just come back from letypographe.com, a french forum run by Jean-Francois Porchez (and others fine typographers), where I’ve been bashed *big time* for saying that Myriad owes a lot (i mean A LOT) to Frutiger.

There has been an extensive discussion on that subject on this forum as well, you can find it here. I'm not sure on which page it starts about myriad/frutiger though. But I thought you might be interested. :)
(and so that the discussion isn't done all over again, just like this thread itself) ;)

David Rault's picture


My favorite was from France - and I can’t find it now. I think it was Tophy52 who actually placed one over the other and made little indications as to the basic differences.

>> you can find it in the first pages of "Helvetica, Homage to a typeface" by Lars Muller. and it is, indeed, amazing.


Andy Martin's picture

Comic Sans

vanina's picture

Oh yeah, Myriad owes a lot to Frutiger. The cap C, for example, the leg of the R — you're definitely not alone on this. Myriad can actually be nice if used very, very minimally and calmly, though I don't think I'd ever choose it.

Btw David, I'm Bulgarian — komshi! And good thing that type books are more like picture books, right? Turks AND Bulgarians can love them.

HaleyFiege's picture

My point is that both arial and helvetica are good for different things. So why all the hate?

David Rault's picture


I'm sure turks can love typo books, whatever they may look like... then, why nobody's writing one? Is there a lot of typo books in Bulgaria?

Haley, and some others:

In my own opinion, Arial is good for nothing. I've seen it WAY too much on quickly designed and printed stuff everywhere, right out of MS Word or MS Publisher or MS Whatever. It's been polluting the whole environment, worse than petrol in the ocean. You might dislike Helvetica for various reasons, but its design is so much better than Arial. I've been a typo teacher, and you would be AMAZED by the amount of students who just can't make the difference between Arial and Helvetica. This is a disgrace... I mean, quality alternatives for Helvetica, if needed, are available: Univers, Akzidenz Grotesk, Folio, etc. But Arial... Whatever you say, as far as I'm concerned, it will always be a cheap type commissioned by a big corporate in order to not pay the rights to use Helvetica. Someone said up there that Nicholas Robin is a much better type designer than Max Miedinger: if so, He would have the ethics to not make Arial the way it was done. I'm sure Vincent Connarre is a great guy too, but nevertheless He greatly contributed to the poorness of taste in the worldwide typographic environment with his freak creation Comic Sans.

Uh, whatever, peace and love :-)


SparkyType's picture

We could solve this one by doing a FontLab blend on 2 of the worst to make the ultimate horrible font:

Comic Sand

Bendy's picture

Alex: i agree with every criticism of Arial. It is far too ugly to be used in seriousness. Thank you for expressing exactly what is wrong with it! :)
Doesn't Century Gothic suffer from the same problem of non-horizontal stroke endings and being a cheap rip-off of Avant Garde?
There must be a thread about "what are the best-designed/best used typefaces and nicest typography?" somewhere, i just need to find it...

David Rault's picture

it could be interesting to launch a thread "which typefaces, according to you, marked a turning point in type history"?

example: many people consider optima a turning point for it was the first flare humanistic sans serif to achieve a huge success, but for me, stellar was the true first one, 20 years before, even if it didnt meet any success at that time because of the kabel / futura wave.

is that a good idea? or is it boring?

(you can be honest, i'm very strong)


TomN-CA's picture

Throw in Papyrus into the Sand/Comic mix...
Call it 'Beachhouse'

Although an entirey different type of --house also comes to mind.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

All this bashing aside — Papyrus is rather clever. Look at the way these little notches hold up, even when the type is blown up to meters high. It's a very wellmade font.

(And yes, I have used it — once, for a menu, a long time ago…)

. . .
Bert Vanderveen BNO

vinceconnare's picture

1. If comic sans was shite it would not be seen, remembered or mentioned here. You would forget it. But you can't so, it rules. It's used in Italy so much and if it were crap it would be forgot but you mention it and see it a lot.

2. my surname is Irish and it is the name of a Celtic god and it is not French. so Allez-vous faire foutre!

p.s. I dare you to make a font as used as much at comic sans! There are hundreds of fonts on a computer, but they still pick it. So make one they use more or mention it, I dare you.


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