23 Really Bad Font Choices

Font choices can make or break a message. In the 23 examples we created below, we broke the message on purpose to highlight how on a conscious or subconscious level, poor typeface choices negatively affect the message in the copy.

Typefaces have personalities. If their personalities don’t match the essence of your business or message or text, you can create a conflict which distracts your audience.

We had fun below creating some absurd and extreme examples of bad font choices to make a point, but they are based – at least in spirit – on examples we’ve come across over the years. Hyperbole? Indeed. Fun? Of course!

So browse through these lovingly-typeset typographic wonders and consider font choices a little more closely on your next design project.

NOTE: Please put your coffee down before reading the commentary. You’ve been warned.

logo

“Softer please…I said softer. SOFTER! SOFT…AHH-GATHA!!!”

 

angelos

Like, maybe we could, like go for a ride later? Or like, right now? M’kay?

 

art-b-little

Typographer you are not.

 

ashley

I can see it now. Ashley is going to fill out my tax forms with multi-colored pen. Maybe even one of the metallic kind that bleed through the page, but look all shiny on the front.

 

be-very-calm

I find your request…difficult. Just give me a minute, k?

 

bruisers

Yoga mats, bamboo incense sticks, and mirror walls…could be dangerous.

 

ceramic

Well, they say the cobbler’s kids don’t get any shoes.

 

country-manor

I must hurry up and get my space pegged and claim an adirondack chair in the shade. But first I have to run to the bar to place my drink order. Shoot, look at the line!

 

daycare

Seem’s like Amanda is hiding something. An ulterior motive?

 

dr-fangser

We could deduce that Dr. Fangser Brown gives each client an application of his own unique style of cosmetic upgrading.

 

eatinwell

Ok, this example here is simply…a disconnect. There is no connection whatever between the personality and expected usage of the font with the business name or the industry of the business. Honestly now – how many times have you seen that before? How many times on the way to work today? How many examples in today’s mail?

 

fluffy-pillow

Hmm…I don’t feel so comfortable. This font sends the exact opposite feeling of a fluffy pillow. Angular, harsh, and generally uncomfy.

 

gutter-repair

I’ll let you ponder this one…

 

hire-me

No.

 

iron-maiden

This is an entirely offensive and inappropriate font choice.

 

lets-swim

What a shocking suggestion! Is it safe? Can I take my hair-dryer in to warm up the water?

 

microshack

Thank goodness we found a Computer Shack that was still open tonight! I need a new wall wart power supply for my Texas Instruments TRS-80, as well as a 50 pack of C-size batteries for my remote control toy tank!

 

playground

“Mommy, I don’t like this park. Why does there have to be old, yucky, band-aids all over the slide?”

 

remove-shoes

This is gonna hurt. I know it.

 

switzerland

I think maybe we misapplied a little something here…

 

twitter

Hadst thou not heardest of thither new-fangled tecknologies? A wee fowl didst tell me just now. But pray tell, what exactly is “Web 2.o”? And wither dirst it goe?

 

typography

This is wrong on all the right levels to indicate that an article titled like this is not worth a click.

 

willie-b-good

A lawyer who thinks he’s a comic – what a joke!

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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Paul: That “Shining” recut is hilarious! Putting that Peter Gabriel track (I forget the name) over Jack Nicholson’s character is a perfect audio example of what I’m talking about! Too funny and quite apropo!

  2. Boomsi says

    Fun post…
    however, execution aside…the example using “Computer Shack” didn’t seem so inappropriate to me.

  3. says

    Hi Boomsi: I guess I could have made this one better. The thought was the phrase “hi-tech” mixed with a 70’s tech font. Decidedly NOT hi-tech by today’s standards. My Bad!!

    I had a lot of fun making this post…looking forward to Vol. 2 :).

  4. says

    It’s sometimes difficult for people without an “eye” to recognise good design, but most people can spot the bad or downright awful. This post is great example of teaching good design by demonstrating bad design — rather like Vincent Flanders’s Web Pages That Suck: http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/

  5. says

    Hi Keith: Thanks for the kind words. I love the Flander’s website – I hadn’t thought of that parallel, but it’s certainly the same idea. It’s easier to explain good design by showing bad design. I’d add that mediocre design is the hardest to spot. Both really good and really bad can be spotted from far away!

  6. says

    Hi Ryan: The swimming one was the first one I did, actually. I was going through my font manager and came across that goodie of a font (Aarcover?) and wondered on earth I keep it for. I think I always had in the back of my mind I’d use it for a joke design someday :).

  7. says

    indeed!! scary stuff..

    what I mostly don’t get is how this got approved, and is currently being displayed on billboards along main highways.. :S

    perhaps they didn’t take a look to see what their competitors were up to?! ..and they’ve got some major brands to compete with too, being in the medical insurance industry and all.. :O

  8. Abby says

    Is is just me, or is “playground” spelled “plyaground?” Is it intentional? If so, why?

  9. says

    Wow Abby! You busted me. How embarrassing! Well, not that embarrassing. I’m hard to embarrass. But you certainly motivated me to fix that typo! If you scroll back up you’ll see the corrected version! Some people just can’t splel or cathc typso very wlle. :)

  10. says

    @ Mary: Of course these are all fake. But I’ve seen some real ones that were funnier. They are just harder to find :)

    Besides, making them up is much more fun and is an excuse to use some fonts I’ve had for the very first time. Probably last too!

  11. says

    OMG. I hope these people were not guided by professional graphic designers! I will link this article to my blog. I’m doing a series on “Save Money On Print Advertising” Articles 4 and 5 are about Fonts, Typefaces and Legibility. All of us in profession need to do all we can to educate our clients.

  12. says

    Interesting read, so many times people like a particular font and do not pay attention to the message it sends when looked at in addition to the actual words.

  13. JohnSub says

    Not only did that dentist pick a horrible font, but he couldn’t even spell his own profession.

  14. Matt says

    I don’t normaly leave comments on random page finds like this, but THIS IS AWESOME! haha good stuff!

  15. Michelle says

    Douglas- your blog is hilarious. Thanks for the disclaimer for those of us who laugh loudly and with our mouths open. I stumbled onto your page while doing some “research” for a blogging project in a writing class I am taking. If you want to see how I used your images you can visit my blog at: http://pwsatusf.wordpress.com/category/typography/

  16. David says

    Nice examples.

    However, just like in the film Weird Science, where they successfully replicate the experiment that created the ‘perfect’ woman (Kelly LeBrock), yummy; they forgot one small thing – they forgot to hook-up the doll.
    Here you have given us wonderful examples, even replicating some real examples – however the small detail you have missed out, or forgotten is – Where are their correct counterparts.

    I’m pulling my hair out trying to understand how type speaks, it would be nice to see the same above examples, but with the right font used.

    D.

  17. Publilius says

    I really enjoyed these. Minor quibble: The TRS-80 was made by Radio Shack, not Texas Instruments.

  18. says

    I would add to the one with “Eatnwells food service.” You said there’s simply a disconnect and I would take it a step further and actually says it’s opposed to the message of fresh food. The chosen typeface is similar to the numbers one would see on a microwave. So it’s actually worse than just a disconnect!

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