Is Papyrus the new Comic Sans?

On a recent flight I was flipping through the American Airlines publication American Way and there were way too many instances of Papyrus being used in display advertising throughout the magazine. Three logos in the issue, and one ad headline, made use of the font. After arriving in Florida, I began to spot Papyrus everywhere - on signage for real estate develop- ments, within restaurant logos, in television commercials for day spas, and elsewhere. Florida designer Dawn Burgess suggested that the font gives designers an "easy out" when looking for a typeface that hints at a tropical environment.

However, the overuse of Papyrus is not just a Sunshine State phenomenon. I've noticed it more all the time here at home in Oregon as well. It now jumps at me from newspaper ads, magazine pages and television commercials. I can't drive down a street of retail businesses without seeing Papyrus displayed on signs. How about a little originality here - Papyrus, one of my favorite places to shop, doesn't take the easy way out and use the font of the same name for its identity.

Several months ago I took on a new client, a specialist in cosmetic procedures, who used the typeface for her corporate identity. I was drowning in a sea of printed materials saturated in Papyrus. In discussing plans for her new identity she asked only one thing: That I maintain Papyrus as the primary font in her branding because she liked it so much. I somehow avoiding keening in her office at that moment - but did find myself banging my head on the steering wheel of my car a bit later in the parking lot. When back at my studio, I was able to calm down enough to send her the following email:

I will certainly steer you away from use of the font Papyrus as a primary typeface, even though you have expressed how much you like it, as it is extremely overused due to being too available to just about anyone with a computer these days. It simply does not convey professionalism or sophistication for a business at the level of yours. The organic quality of the font is not a bad thing - but the roughness of the letters contradicts what you try to achieve with an individual's personal appearance, especially when it comes to the look of better quality, smoother skin..

Success! My client acknowledged that she agreed with me after receiving my cyber missive. Then, like myself, she began to notice the font being used everywhere - day spa commercials, cosmetic procedure clinic signage, print ads in magazines, billboards and more.

Is Papyrus the new Comic Sans? In a way, the situation is very similar. Comic sans has been overused for years due to its availability as a standard font on most computer systems. For some time, designers have enjoyed bashing Comic Sans. I was recently even questioned, on an online forum, as to whether I had used Comic Sans as the font in the logo for a theatrical production. (It was not the dreaded font - I had used Lemonade). Admittedly, I am a fan of the site Ban Comic Sans.

Papyrus is not a bad font. The font itself does not misbehave. It takes someone with a computer system to overuse the typeface and use it poorly. Since being created by type designer Chris Costello, back in 1983, I'm sure it has served he and his career very well. (You really should check out other examples of his great typography work.) It's certainly not Costello's fault that his beautiful font has taken on the characteristics of a mutant life form - although I do hope he did very well in licensing negotiations. Like Comic Sans, Papyrus now comes as a standard font with many computer software programs. I asked my partner Ed (who is known as "The computer geek with social skills*") if Papyrus came with many Microsoft software programs. He was soon directing me to an online list showing that the font is packaged with Greetings 99, Home Publishing 99, Office 2000 Premium, Office 97 Small Business Edition SR2, Office Professional Edition 2003, PhotoDraw 2000, Picture It! 2000, Picture It! 98, Picture It! 99, Publisher 2000, Publisher 98, and Works 2002. Yikes! No wonder I sometimes feel as if I am being smothered in the typeface - and most of these programs are not those of choice for any professional graphic designer.

It is simply too easy for designers to make type selections from those preloaded on computer systems or packaged with software programs. The CGWSS* did also direct me to Microsoft's Fonts and Products page, which allows you to determine which fonts come with what software programs. The standard fonts on a Mac can be found on the Mac OS X 10.3 Fonts List. Perhaps such resources are valuable to designers in suggesting fonts - especially decorative or display examples - that should not be used in the creation of truly unique finished graphics.

© 2006 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives



I somehow think it won’t be the next Comic Sans, since Papyrus was designed for proper print usage, though it could be the new ITC Zapf Chancery Medium Italic. Scary, nonetheless, that it is popping up everywhere. So far, I have been spared it down here.

kgiff said...

I used it 3 years ago in a design. And the more and more I see it popping up, the more and more I hate what I used it in. I think I see something new in it weekly. I'm avoiding it from here on out.