Worst fonts ever

Simon Garfield offers his selection of the eight worst fonts in the world. Comic Sans is not included on grounds of lifetime achievement, but Papyrus makes a good showing. The winner is London's 2012 Olympic Font, which fits in well with the event's draughtmanship-free "blowjob Lisa" logo and "default shapes in the freeware 3D program" mascots. Not every selection is sound: just how old do you have to be to remember why you're not supposed to like Souvenir?


  1. So the Olympics logo is Lisa and Milhouse, and the mascots are Kang and Kodos. Should have gone with Springy the Springfield spring.

  2. Futura! I love when I find old panels in machinery and their instructions are written in a nice block with Futura.

    Though, I did once have a graphic designer call it “The worst font ever.”
    Of course I dismissed him immediately because he said “font” instead of “typeface”.

    EDIT: English.

  3. The London 2012 mascots are a triumph of design- what could be more British than something to complain about?

    Two of them, so you can put them in a queue, that’s what.

  4. On a skew: this font Avería probably has a few bad ones in it’s roots, but looks surprisingly good.

    via: http://projects.metafilter.com/3330/Avera

  5. I’m not a font-o-phile, but my eye does squirm every time I see numbers drop out of line like this: 123456789. You’re a mess baby!

    1. You don’t like text figures, as I believe they are called? I think they look quite nice. They’re supposed to look more like normal text with lowercase letters, which have ascenders and descenders.

      Also, what’s a “mess baby”? (Yes, I know what you meant.)

      1. In TeX they are called “old style” numbers, and Donald Knuth went to quite a lot of effort to bring them into the computer world — that’s how people set numbers traditionally.

    2. “Old Style” numerals are designed that way so they don’t stand out in a passage of text. Using “in-line” or “titling” figures within body copy is the equivalent of TYPING IN ALL CAPS. It draws the eye, which is only appropriate if you’re trying to create visual emphasis.

  6. While I agree Trajan is overused saying it’s in the top 8 worst fonts in the world is just idiotic. Overused != bad

  7. Yeah, that really bugs me too.

    On a somewhat related note, when you look at the size of the dot in periods, commas, and exclamation marks, depending on the font it can be a completely different shape. It’s not obvious until you mistype and put them next to each other, and then it smacks you in the face.

  8. How can Souvenir make the list, but not Serif Gothic or Benguiat? Times New Roman is the one that needs to die. It’s even showing up on 3d outdoor signage, crappy kerning and all. The typesetting shop I owned in the 1970s had ’em all (or knockoffs thereof). I had Helios, and Oracle, and CG Times, and Mallard, too.

    I don’t see Optima nearly often enough these days (sigh).

    1. I don’t think bad kerning tables in a font should be something held against the typecase itself. Using an optical kerning setting should mostly fix it, and any designer who doesn’t manually kern their headlines, posters, and signage is being lazy.

  9. Thank you,  Rob.  These ‘worst fonts’ should never have existed.  They are ‘Man-oh-man Ugly.”
    Loved the post!

  10. I’ve got a book printed in Souvenir.

    I’m not sure I’d nominate a font because of “overuse”.  I’d want it to be truly, genuinely, eye-wateringly ugly.  Which the 2012 font is, but (as the article admits) both Souvenir and Papyrus aren’t.  Cliched != Bad

  11. Wasn’t Trajan used in some of the posters/promo material for the Star Wars movies?  I might be wrong, but either way, it’s pretty yummy.   Optima though .. despite its (according to Wikipedia) connection to Trajan, Optima always makes me want to turn away.  The longer I look at it, the less I want to look. It seems destined for use in packaging for mildly-unpleasant medical supplies, like suppositories or prescription-strength topical antibacterial ointment.  It should be called Wallflower. (Just my opinion.)

  12. I rather like Souvenir.  A lot of my childhood is printed in it, like the edition of D&D I started with.  It makes me happy inside.

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