Papyrus – A Font For All Times*

I’ve just learned about the font called papyrus. Yes, this may seem strange to you but I’ve never used it on anything I’ve ever written or mapped. I saw the font – not knowing what it was . . . elsewhere . . . and commented on it. Apparently I am just about the last cartographer to have heard of the incontrovertible fact that this font’s popularity is at about the height of a graticule tick mark. That is to say that there are people who don’t like it.

Its main offense is that it is overused. How can this be? Perhaps I have been hiding under a rock – entirely possible – but this font actually struck me as refreshing when I saw it. Not that I spend my days researching the intricacies of the font landscape, mind you. Not that I spend more than a few minutes a week actually considering fonts either. I’m betting most of us don’t.

So that’s why it is always so nice when those who do know a thing or two about this subject come out and declare for the rest of us the end of a font’s usefulness. Now, if only those same people could let us all know what the big-name fonts of tomorrow will be. No, they are probably hoarding that knowledge for themselves so that we font novices will continue blindly carrying on with our unfashionable fonts.

I also learned that there are some sites that cater exclusively to the bashing of the papyrus font. I won’t list them here as I think it is a little weird to bash a font. I’m really against negativity of any sort, actually. Why can’t we all just be happy?** I wrote this post to give you the knowledge that I lacked in this regard (of course, if it is true that the whole world is against papyrus then you’ve just wasted your time reading this since you already knew all about it) so you can trudge forth on your daily cartographic excursions with more aplomb.

The contrarian in me is already wondering if I should submit a map titled “I Love Papyrus!” to some designy, cartography-y event.

*Meant to be tongue-in cheek seeing as how most agree it is not a font for OUR times.
**Please don’t attempt to answer that deep question.

  1. #1 by Langford on December 29, 2010 - 3:47 pm

    It’s about as painful to see as Comic Sans. Well maybe not that bad.

  2. #2 by Adam Wilbert on December 30, 2010 - 8:19 pm

    Congrats on never using Papyrus! Any typeface that can’t even kern its own name correctly is a loser in my book. My personal rule of thumb is to avoid any and all fonts that come installed with Microsoft Office. That will get you pretty far design-wise without too much headache.

    And for the super-secret knowledge on the landscape of tomorrow’s faces, just keep an eye on Hoefler & Frere-Jones at They’re the trendsetters in the business.

  3. #3 by JRigs on January 3, 2011 - 11:44 pm

    For every hater there is a lover. Best bet is to get a finger on what your client/boss prefers in order to cut out needless iterations.

  4. #4 by Hampton on January 4, 2011 - 8:54 pm

    I would bet that you’ll start seeing this font everywhere now that it has come to your attention.

    Check wineries, massage parlors, gift shops, menus and leaflets related to animals. I’m not too sure if it’s (over)use is geographically constrained, but on the West coast it’s overly abundant.

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