Anyone who’s spent any time around me knows: I can’t stand the Papyrus font. Every time I see it, I make some snarky-ass comment. And not one of those 10-second comments, which strikes quickly and then disappears, we’re talking more like a ten minute rant. So I figured I’d spare you all the trouble and just write a bloody article about it, so every time someone asks me about it, I can direct them here.
Listen up, friends, clients and potential clients: I used to be a Papyrus lover too.
Oh yes, whenever I needed to print up something spiritually moving or lovingly-but-progressively-minded, Papyrus was my go-to font. But then I became a designer, and I learned quickly:
EVERY WOO-WOO PERSON OUT THERE LOVES PAPYRUS — AND THEY ALL USE IT!
And that, in a nutshell, is the problem. Nearly one hundred percent** of what we shall call “the woo-woo tribe” loves Papyrus. Let us say, for argument’s sake, that this includes spiritual types, hippies, organic/health/yoga nuts, energy workers, massage therapists, counselors and so on. They use it on their websites, in their brochures, their business cards, their restaurant menus, their billboards… I’ve even seen it on government-sponsored environmental information signs (since caring about the environment is clearly something only hippies do).
If this were a font of the Arial or Times New Roman variety – simple, functional, easy to read – then we wouldn’t be having this (albeit one-sided) conversation. But this is not the case with Papyrus. It’s a pretty font. One designed to draw attention to itself, with fancy little notches in the sides of the letters reminiscent of ancient Egyptian scrolls.
These types of fonts are meant to be used sparingly, perhaps in your website header or your business name on marketing materials. So when you’re typing up your entire restaurant menu in Papyrus, it’s a little over the top; what you need is something that is functional and easy to read. Not something that draws attention to itself and slows people down.
This, however, brings us to the second problem: if “pretty fonts” are supposed to bring artistry and character to your design, Papyrus would be a good choice… in a vacuum. Since every other woo-woo person is using it, however, you blend in more than you stand out. You wind up making no statement at all about the uniqueness of your particular business – and making a statement is important in today’s economy! The only personality that shines through Papyrus, at this point, is “woo-woo,” and it’s identical to everybody else’s woo-woo.
(I will admit, for the record, that there is a certain cultural branding one could take advantage of here, where all a client needs to see something written in Papyrus to know that your business is for the woo-woo crowd. But I, for one, am not for cultural uniformity!)
So if not Papyrus, then what? So glad you asked! There are literally thousands of fonts to choose from. The reason Papyrus gets chosen so often is that it’s already installed on your operating system, whether you’re on a Mac or a PC. But when you reach out to the vast world of the internet, there are plenty of free fonts to choose from. One of my favourite sites is dafont.com. They’ve got their fonts categorized under labels such as “decorative” or “retro,” and clearly outline the wishes of the designer for each font (some are just plain free, while others are free for personal use or ask for a donation). They’re easy enough to install once you’ve downloaded them, and if you’re having a designer like myself whip something up, all you need to do is give me the name or URL and we’re good to go.
So whether you’re creating your first website or putting together a poster for an upcoming workshop, consider using a different font. One that truly expresses the uniqueness of your particular business, and not just the most convenient spiritual-feeling font you run across. Dare to let you and your business shine!
**This is not even remotely a fact-based statistic and is based purely on my observation and irritation.