Secrets of Design Blog

The Ten Most Overused Fonts in Graphic Design

image description

You’ve seen them over again. They haunt you when you sleep and when you design. No matter how many times you tell designers not to use these fonts, they still use them anyway. You cringe when someone asks you what you think of their logo design that includes one of these fonts. Here we bring you the ten most overused fonts in design. These fonts tend to be overused and should be avoided like the plague. They are listed in no particular order.

Overused font #1: Times New Roman

Microsoft used Times New Roman as the default for Word, the most popular word processing software, until 2007. Newspapers like to use Times New Roman. It’s commonplace on many websites. The funny thing about Times New Roman is that as much as it’s overused it probably will continue to stay in style for quite some time.

Overused font #2: Arial/Helvetica

Arial on a PC (Helvetica on a Mac) is typically the first choice for designers that are tired of Times New Roman.  The only problem is that after using Arial on everything from publications to websites, it becomes the next victim of overuse. If you’re looking for a new font to use instead of Arial, try using Myriad Pro (a regularly used font by Apple).

Overused font #3: Impact

You’ll find Impact on billboards, posters and logos. It’s bold, but too narrow to be practical.  Despite its drawbacks, it comes preloaded on millions of Windows machines and therefore has quickly become overused. Search for better bold fonts on www.dafont.com or your favorite font website.

Overused font #4: Papyrus

This font looks different than the standard typefaces that most people are used to seeing.  To an amateur designer, this is font has a natural magnetic pull to it. In church environments and Christian circles this font really gets overused. Although it may seem decorative and stylish, avoid the desire to use this terrible font.

Overused font #5: Comic Sans

Think party invitations. Think fun. Think goofy. Comic Sans is commonplace in these areas—worn-out.  This is another font that comes standard on PCs with Windows and unfortunately you find it everywhere.

Overused font #6: Copperplate

Copperplate is often not seen as an overused font. And it’s true, it doesn’t approach the amount of usage that Times New Roman and Arial do, but it still creeps its way into a lot of designs and logos.  It’s the first choice for people that want an all caps font and because of that, it’s overused. There are many flavors of Copperplate and Copperplate Gothic, avoid them all.

Overused font #7: Bank Gothic

Bank Gothic runs a close second to Copperplate for the most overused all-capital-letter font.  In fact the two fonts are fairly similar which is why they are over saturated in designs.

Overused font #8: Garamond

Most will agree that Garamond is a better choice than Arial and Times New Roman. And it’s slightly less used than those two fonts. Garamond finds its home on a lot of websites and designs.

Overused font #9: Brush Script

Sports, particularly baseball, like to use Brush Script.  It tends to be the first choice for script fonts and therefore has been considered exhausted for some time.

Overused font #10: Courier

Courier is another font that will probably always exist and be in use, but still makes the top ten overused list.  Courier is unique to our top ten list because it’s the only font that has fixed width letters. The letter i takes up as much horizontal space as the letters “c” and “o”. This was one of the early fonts used in DOS and other command based operating systems.

Additional Overused Fonts: Bauhaus, Bazooka

Next time you see someone use one of these fonts, just send them the URL of this web page and then they’ll know not to use that font again. If you have other fonts that you think should make the list of most overused fonts, then post a comment below.

40 Comments

Archana

Aug 16, 2010 at 1:39am

Hello! This is Archana, from India. I am a Website Designer and Graphic Designer. I found these fonts really wonderful. Kindly requesting you help me with a link to download your fonts.

1

Josh

Aug 18, 2010 at 6:23am

Comic Sans makes me throw up.

2

Joey

Aug 18, 2010 at 6:42am

A few thoughts…

1.) Times New Roman was only the default prior to Office 2007. Calibri replaced it in Office 2007 and 2010. It’s still a very common serif font which works well for body text, but isn’t as useful for eye-catching titles.

2.) Arial is a nearly universal sans serif font. It’s easy to read and doesn’t draw much attention to itself. Again, this can be a good thing for body text and whatnot, but I’ll agree that it isn’t for titles.

3.) Impact gets much of its bad rap for what it is tied to – most of the default WordArt styles in Word 2007 and prior use Impact, and since it’s the same dozen text styles used everywhere, it makes Impact look bad. That’s not to say that I like Impact, it’s just something else to consider as to how it landed itself on this list.

4,5, and 6, no argument there.

7.) I see it a lot on logos and storefront signs, but not so much in design projects. Maybe it’s just me though.

8.) I consider Garamond to be among the nicer alternative fonts to the top two, personally.

9.) Brush Script has a particular advantage in that it’s a well-designed script font. It seems to do very well in connecting the letters together; many script fonts on dafont don’t manage it nearly as well. It may be overused, but when it works and many others don’t, it makes sense to use it if script is needed.

10.) Courier gets used a lot, but it’s also the only fixed width font on the list. If you need characters to line up or if spacing is of some sort of significance, Courier/Courier New is a reliable bet.

Finally, several of the fonts share something in common – they’re HTML spec and thus loaded on virtually every modern computer. Times New Roman, Comic Sans, Arial, and I believe Garamond are all fonts that will consistently, reliably display on whatever computer opens them. Font lists tend to be about as unique as the rest of the software on a given machine, and many of the fonts above are used simply because I can count on them. Ever see someone try to use fancy fonts on a Powerpoint, only to realize that they didn’t embed them? The computer defaults to either Times New Roman or Arial anyway, and the thing looks like a complete train wreck. Yes, you and I as people with an eye for graphic design (you more so than me) will be able to sit there and account for these things, but the average person has a copy of Powerpoint, too. Herein lies the problem.

Joey

3

johnnyflash

Aug 18, 2010 at 6:50am

Joey, good thoughts here. I appreciate the history you provided on some of these fonts. Thanks for contributing.

4

Noreen Bryant

Aug 18, 2010 at 6:43am

I’ve been a graphic designer since before people used computers in this field. I respectfully submit that “overused font” is really not a very valid category. A good designer can spend an entire career designing effective, unique communications–while only using Helvetica! Saying classics like Helvetica or Garamond are overused is like saying the color blue is overused. Rather than asking ourselves if a font is “overused,” let’s ask ourselves if it’s appropriate to the communication task at hand; if the font is well-designed; if it helps our audience understand the message. Having said that, however, I’m with Johnny re: Papyrus and Comic Sans: they have had their day in the sun (If they ever had one). One more point, Johnny, and I hope you take this in the constructive spirit I intend it–no matter what font you use, correct spelling and grammar make all the difference in our communications. We all make mistakes like this; it’s worth having another person check stuff before it goes out into the big world of print or cyberspace.

5

johnnyflash

Aug 18, 2010 at 4:31pm

Noreen, good points here. I agree with you that great designers could get away using the same few fonts and them not feel old. I think you would probably agree with me that most people are not great designers and often settle for what is installed on their system rather than finding the best font for the design.

Thanks for pointing out the typos. I believe I have fixed them all. If anyone else sees ant more mistakes, please let me know.

6

Artsbishop

Aug 18, 2010 at 6:53am

I am amazed at how much comic sans is still used in print materials and graphics. especially in the mid-west. scary.

7

Scott

Aug 18, 2010 at 6:59am

John, good article. You could make this even more helpful by providing some suggestions for alternatives for each of the fonts here (maybe leading to the next “over used” font…). Thanks!

8

johnnyflash

Aug 18, 2010 at 4:34pm

Scott, great idea. I will work on this for one of my next articles.

9

Fitz

Aug 18, 2010 at 8:26am

Thank you so much for putting Papyrus on here. I would rather see all 9 of the other fonts a thousand times around my church, just to rid us of Papyrus forever. I do most of the designing and printing of our graphics/promotional material/powerpoints, etc but every once in a while someone in the office will print off a handout of some kind. No matter how many times I beg they don’t use it, 50% of the time, Papyrus shows its ugly head. Thanks for all you do John!

10

johnnyflash

Aug 18, 2010 at 4:36pm

Hey Fitz, I totally agree with you. I must say I was a bit disappointed that the creators of Avatar used it for their typeface.

11

Jackie

Aug 18, 2010 at 9:15am

Where do you like to go to buy some fresh new fonts?

12

Marshall

Aug 18, 2010 at 9:26am

So what are some outstanding underused fonts you would recommend in place of the list above? Instead of Times New Roman you would recommend ????

13

Pam

Aug 18, 2010 at 3:00pm

I think you write off Copperplate and Garamond too quickly. These are classic typefaces that have been around a loooong time–which may be part of the reason they are “overused.” Copperplate has long been a staple of printed invitations (and I’m talking pre-personal computer here), and I think there’s still a place for it.

I agree with Josh about Comic Sans and throwing up.

I agree with Joey that Brush Script is a well-designed typeface. Sometimes even when I don’t want to use it, I end up using it because it is the best typeface for the job. I think that it’s well-designed-ness is precisely what puts it in the overused category. It would be great if someone would create an alternative for Brush Script that works as well as Brush Script.

Personally, I would add Scriptina to your list of the overused. It is a lovely font, but everyone and their grandma is using it for everything.

14

Karen

Aug 18, 2010 at 4:21pm

I’m shocked that Lucida Calligraphy isn’t on the list!

15

Adam

Sep 07, 2010 at 8:31am

How about Marker Felt? I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen it on billboards and other forms of advertisements. I even fell into a rut of overusing it for a while years ago. Glad I broke that habit.

16

debi nicholls

Oct 23, 2010 at 7:06pm

anyone know what font was used on UNKLE.COM ???
“where did the night fall”

17

Jonathan

Dec 02, 2010 at 7:43am

Bleeding Cowboys. It’s a fairly new font on dafont.com and it WAYYYYYYY overused.

18

matt shumate

Jan 26, 2011 at 10:20pm

Optima. Ugh. I hope I never have to see that one again.

19

Luna

Jun 02, 2011 at 1:38pm

I thought you might get a kick out of this. I used to work at a church, and my paycheque came in Comic Sans. I mean, I know my pay was a joke, but that was just mean. :) The treasurer had a real thing for comic sans. Even the budget was produced in it. The budget. *shudder*

And being a bit of a font geek, I started counting papyrus incidences. I got a little depressed after 40.

20

Jared Rarick

Jul 15, 2011 at 10:27am

I noticed in the featured graphic you used for this blog, the word “Arial” is listed and both times it’s listed, it’s in a serif font? Did you mean to put that in Arial?

21

johnnyflash

Jul 20, 2011 at 6:30pm

Thanks Jared, it has been fixed!

22

girl

Aug 29, 2011 at 12:43pm

What font do use in your logo tagline? Gill Sans?

23

johnnyflash

Aug 29, 2011 at 1:07pm

If by tagline, you mean the phrase “Web & Graphic Design, Photoshop Training” under the Johnny Flash logo, the font is “Myriad Pro.” If you were referring to something else, please specify.

24

Wrendale

Jan 09, 2012 at 3:04pm

There’s a good reason they are “overused.” Easy to read, familiar, good-looking. I’m not a professional designer; I’m an amateur so I use them a lot. I hate the fonts things are published in so if I’m copying an article for my reading, I always change it to arial. So shoot me. If a publisher wants a designer to use something else, that should be part of the job description. It’s not cheating unless instructions requiring something else have been stated upfront.

25

Wrendale

Jan 09, 2012 at 3:18pm

Tell you what I hate the most: skinny little fonts on a background that is almost the same color; even skinny writing on black can be a challenge. And writing that goes over several backgrounds–can’t see it!. I’m a boomer; lots of us are my age group, or older and tiny writing gets harder to see with older eyes. Why make it even harder by using a background that renders it almost invisible?

26

Obvious

Feb 03, 2012 at 2:35pm

Obviously those are BASIC font for logos, not most used :o)

27

jyoti wadhwa

Feb 15, 2012 at 3:16am

thanxxxxx for this

28

Olive

Feb 28, 2012 at 9:36pm

Let me just say one thing, if any designer CHOOSES to use Papyrus or Comic Sans, they are not a good designer. Those are terrible overused fonts, true but not for designers. I cringe at the sight of them. Bleh!!

29

k plummer

May 25, 2012 at 4:59pm

I like the valuable info you provide on your articles. I’ll bookmark your website and look at it regularly. I am sure I’ll learn many new stuff here! Thanks!

30

Chance

Jun 27, 2012 at 8:01am

Brush Script is overused because its one of the very few script fonts that works with cut vinyl. Once you weld the letters together its cuts and weeds nicely compared to other script fonts. It’s overuse is widley welcomed when it comes down to weeding and masking.

Alot of the fonts that are overused on the other hand are done so, not because of the designer, but because of the customer. You can do a design with a nice, uncommon unique font only for your customer to say “I want Comic Sans, its my favorite font”, and as much as I have to hold the vomit back I do it, because I’ve tried enticing people away from overused cheese fonts but at the end of the day people like their cheese so you might as well just serve it to them.

31

Damien Arkins

Jul 20, 2012 at 3:21am

Great. I was designing my business card using Arial rounded and Courier and thought I better google “overused ariel courier”.

Oh well maybe my design is the exception that proves the rule?

32

Michael Sanders

Aug 28, 2012 at 9:00am

This Article should be called “Fonts that Shouldn’t Be Used by Graphic Designers” ;)

33

Bruno Madsen

Sep 09, 2012 at 10:56am

I’ve never seen any of those fonts used by any decent graphic designer other than Garamond. Those are all default compute fonts and anyone who uses them on a regular basis had better change the title on their business card to ‘Uneducated Desktop Publishing Hack’. And one other thing: there’s no such thing as ‘graphic design’ and ‘web design’. It’s ALL graphic design – period.

34

johnnyflash

Sep 22, 2012 at 1:28pm

I disagree with you. There is a difference between graphic design and web design. While you could make the argument that web design is a subset of graphic design, and I would probably agree with you. Just because someone is good at graphic design does not mean they are good at web design. I know several people that fall into this category. Super talented graphic designers, but they are not web designers.

35

George

Oct 12, 2012 at 3:49pm

Overused…. could also be interpreted as ‘friendly’ (although I agree with your thoughts on Comic Sans – it also makes me want to hurl and i come out in a rage rash whenever i see it.

I think popular fonts can carry a certain level of trust. From a marketing perspective, seeing what you expect to see can work wonders for the supplier. Unless of course you’re a fashion house, interior designer, artist etc… then of course go wild – create a new font – mix ‘em up even.

36

Koa

Oct 12, 2012 at 3:49pm

1) Before we start condescending, let’s make sure we call these by their proper term: “typefaces”, not “fonts”.

2) These should not all be lumped together. Not all of them carry the stigma you say they do. Some have been “overused” and should still be used, simply because they are wonderfully designed, versatile, balanced, classic typefaces (Times NR, Helvetica, Garamond).

3) I think it needs to be stated that your rules should actually apply to amateurs, not designers. Any TRUE designer could figure out a way to make any of these typefaces work appropriately within the context of the right design, and laugh in the face of naysayers–even Comic Sans, Papyrus, and Brush Script, ones that I personally barf at. Real design is all about finding the best solution to fit the unique specs of a project, not making over-arching rules that apply to everything. Otherwise, you might as well use a template.

37

Josh Williams

Oct 12, 2012 at 3:51pm

Am I the only one who notices the overuse of Bank Gothic in movie credits?

38

sunny

Oct 25, 2012 at 1:55am

i don’t understand the immense dislike shown for courier new..? (not just here, but this typeface always seems to be categorized under other similar lists online). could anyone offer any more specific justifications as to why it’s an “unacceptable” typeface? i don’t feel like i’ve seen enough of it to even begin to associate it with a stereotype, other than for written scripts, and as an old stand-by for classic websites… and neither of those are seen much publicly. i could be wrong, and i’d love to hear some feedback.

39

Joe

Mar 22, 2013 at 5:01pm

I would have to put the original lobster on here as well now as everyone is using it including companies such as Pizza Hut and me too :) I have stopped using it now that I see it everywhere I go!

40

Leave a Comment

Make sure you enter the * required information where indicated. Please also rate the article as it will help us decide future content and posts. Comments are moderated – and rel="nofollow" is in use. Please no link dropping, no keywords or domains as names; do not spam, and do not advertise!