I’ve just run across a long, funny, and informative blog post called “The 8 worst Fonts in the World.” It was published on Fast Company’s Co.Design blog several months ago by Simon Garfield, author of a book about typefaces called Just My Type.
Garfield’s selection of the worst fonts is not based on scientific study but on how he happens to feel about these fonts. It is subjective, and he makes no claim that it is otherwise. These are simply the fonts he dislikes the most.
But from having written his 2010 book on typefaces, Garfield knows something about fonts, their design, and their histories. He knows what makes one typeface look good on the page or screen and how it achieves the designer’s goal. And he knows why other typefaces fail.
In making his selection, he did put some limitations on the fonts he considered for this ranking. For instance, he did not include Comic Sans because most people who know anything about type (and many who don’t) dismiss this typeface as having no merit at all and because “it’s harmless and even benign,” he says.
Likewise, he has left out “the virtually illegible outer-limits fonts,” such as Grassy (that he calls “a type with hair”) and Scrawlz (that he says looks “like writing by a 3- or 103-year-old.”) Including typefaces such as these, he says, would be “just too easy.”
Below is Garfield’s list of the world’s worst fonts. You can see samples of these fonts on his blog post at http://ow.ly/fahy6.
Garfield begins the list with his selection of the eighth worst font in the world, Ecofont, which is filled with holes and looks as if it were hit with buckshot. He calls it “the string vest and Swiss Cheese of fonts.”
About Souvenir, Garfield quotes one designer asking what the font is a souvenir of and answering his own question with, “A souvenir of every ghastly mistake ever made in type design gathered together . . . .”
6. Gill Sans Light Shadowed
Garfield says that Gill Sans Light Shadowed was “designed to suggest the effect the sun would cast over thin raised letters,” but this effect wears thin in a hurry.
5. Brush Script
Garfield’s fifth worst font has been around since the 1940s, he says, and has been overused on documents like college magazines and menus printed by restaurants “featuring Pear, Blue Cheese and Walnut Salad on a bed of Brush Script.”
Designers wanting to give their documents an Egyptian feeling often turn to Papyrus. But most recently, it was called on to help create the other-worldliness of the movie Avatar. Garfield says this highly expensive movie used “the cheapest and least original font it could find.”
3. Neuland Inline
Joining Papyrus as the other “theme park” font on Garfield’s list is Neuland Inline. In the same way Papyrus says “Egypt,” this typeface shouts “Africa.” It can be found, he suggests, on many posters promoting amateur productions of The Lion King.
2. Random Note
This font is supposed to represent letters cut from magazines. But since it doesn’t look very realistic, Random Note is best used for comic effect, Garfield says.
1. The 2012 Olympic Font
The worst font in the world, according to Garfield, is the one designed for the 2012 Olympics in London and known as 2012 Headline. He says that it is “surely the worst new public typeface of the last 100 years.”
I don’t know if these really are the worst fonts in the world, but I can say that I don’t find any of them interesting, and I see no reason to choose them for my projects. Certainly, I don’t use any of them on this blog or in my emails or other documents.