You’ve seen them thousands of times – on blog posts and emails, in logos, in print advertising. They may even begin to haunt your dreams at night. They serve as a constant reminder of how difficult it is to design truly distinctive pieces today in a market inundated with written and visual media. They are the most overused fonts in design.
So what’s the problem with overused fonts, you might be wondering? They’re familiar, you’re thinking. It’s what my readers expect. They didn’t get to be overused without a reason. All of these notions have value; the key thing, though, is to remember that design should be fresh. It should help your brand stand out, be memorable, and draw people in. When’s the last time you heard someone say “it was the Times New Roman that pulled me in?”.
Designers and webmasters still use these fonts on a regular basis because they’re popular. The following is a top ten list of typefaces that you want to steer clear of. As my mother always used to say, just because something is popular, does not mean it’s right. Consider sending this list out as a public service announcement to your designers – please avoid using these fonts at all costs! Instead, push the boundaries of design and find something that’s appropriate, readable, and distinct.
Times New Roman
This one seems to follow everyone around like a bad habit – in fact, it is a bad habit. Times New Roman is a popular choice among some of the top newspapers and magazines all over the world. If you opened or drafted any Word document prior to 2007, it was most likely written with the Times New Roman font face. Unless of course you were writing a college paper and trying to expand your page count, which brings us to our second most overused font.
With its fixed-width lettering, courier is a popular choice among college students who are hoping to expand that 4 page paper to a 5.5 pager by doing a quick font swap. I’ll admit that during my college days, I was guilty of using this font from time to time. Courier also makes frequent appearances on the blogging scene. We’re not sure why people continue to use this one online, but we wish it would disappear. Fun fact: this dinosaur has been around a while – popular in DOS operating systems circa 1987.
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This font is for the user who got sick of drafting their pre-2007 Word documents in Times New Roman. Today designers use it all the time when creating websites, as it is simple and clean looking. While it may be simple and clean, it’s not going to win you any points for uniqueness. A couple of good alternatives to Arial are Calibri and Myriad – check those out if you are looking to maintain a streamlined look for your site.
This fancy font is a favorite among little league baseball teams everywhere. A popular choice among sports teams in general, you will oftentimes see this font written across the front team uniforms and caps. Because of its readability, it is the fan favorite of scripts. But if you’d like to stand out in the crowd, you’d be better off choosing another font. While this is a readable script, it’s definitely one of the most overused typefaces out there and it won’t help your sports piece hit a home run.
With its completely unrealistic ‘handwriting’ look, Bradley Hand is a favorite among people who are feeling too lazy to write a real letter or who have the odd notion that the font gives printed documents a personal feel. There are a number of better options out there that are more realistic handwriting fonts, but this one is used frequently in email, blogs and newsletters. Our advice: stay away from this one, the fake handwriting look isn’t doing you any favors and is unlikely to impress your readers.
Comic Sans used to scream “I don’t take life too seriously!’ Now it just screams “I’m an annoyingly overused font!’ Many people have Comic Sans as their default email font. And unless you are under 12, this is probably not okay. Why? Because when you’re trying to convey a serious message in your email, it is impossible if you are using this font. Nobody is going to take you seriously. It’s like writing an important letter in green crayon. So ditch the Comic Sans for any professional pieces or correspondence.
Nothing says cheesy like using Curlz MT font in any of your designs. This cutesy font is a newer typeface, yet it has exploded in popularity. And we’re not sure why, as using it renders any text almost completely illegible. While some may say it’s a whimsical font choice, its swirls and curls take away from the actual content of your writing. Readers are unlikely to focus on anything you have to say because they will be so distracted by this busy font, and similar to Comic Sans it should only be used if you are a member of the under 12 crowd.
This overused font is a popular choice of school websites everywhere. This one is in a similar category to Curlz MT and Comic Sans: people think it’s playful, cute, and fun, when in reality overused and probably doesn’t elicit the respect you are hoping for from your site visitors. If you are a teacher or school principal, please do yourself a favor and steer clear of this font. You may think you’re conveying a message of youthfulness and excitement, but if you’re using Kristen ITC for your site it just looks silly.
Papyrus has a magnetic draw for the newbie designer because it has a unique look to it. And it might be unique, if it weren’t used everywhere. If you walk down the main street of any town or city, you will probably see this font on signs for coffee shops, yoga studios, cafes, and in church bulletins. It’s especially popular with churches for its air of sophistication. Unfortunately, Papyrus is completely overused. There are a number of other truly unique fonts out there – our advice is to consider an alternative.
Impact is supposed to be a bold and exciting font. And once upon a time, it was bold and exciting. But when you’re driving down the road and it’s a staple font on every single billboard you pass, it kind of loses its luster. Impact is a popular choice for businesses who want a logo that will make a huge splash. Unfortunately, with the flood of logos using impact, it’s highly unlikely your business is going to stand out among the rest. Plus, it looks like WordArt. Not impactful.
The Good News
There are a number of attractive, exciting, and unique fonts available for use when designing your sites, logos, and advertisements. Whether you are a web designer, blogger, or amateur site builder, it is a good idea to do your homework and test out different fonts. Google Adwords and sites like Instant.ly allow you to quickly test out which font people prefer.
As a rule, you will probably want to choose a font that is unique but legible. Run your designs by friends and family to find out what adjectives they would use to describe your work – does it convey an air of sophistication or does it take away from your content? Is it unique or boring? Is it fun or too silly? Conduct some formal split testing using the tools above once you’ve narrowed down your choices. In a world where standing out above the competition is crucial to your businesses’ success, you will want be sure to avoid these overused fonts and instead invest the time in finding a script that’s legible, conveys the right mood, and is fresh.