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A Font Farewell: Avatar Says Goodbye to Papyrus

3-Minute Read.

Papyrus. Dramatic sigh.

When designers are asked to name their least favourite fonts, Papyrus just might make their list, right under Comic Sans.

While you can expect Comic Sans to be a typographical standby on bulletin board posters in staff rooms, you’d certainly never expect to see it make a professional appearance on a movie poster. Papyrus is a different story. Papyrus has certainly been in the spotlight—of a comedy club stage. Avatar, the 2009 film, notoriously featured the font as the voice for the movie’s brand. For nearly ten years, the choice to use the font has been such a widespread subject of ridicule that it made it’s way into Saturday Night Live fame:

 

 

If you’re scratching your head wondering why Papyrus was seen as an unfavourable choice, the issue designers seem to commonly share isn’t with the voice of a font if it serves the purpose for which it was created. For example, in the 90s, Comic Sans creator Vincent Connare, a typographer for Microsoft, designed the font for a specific audience: children. In an effort to make computers more kid-friendly, he took inspiration from comic lettering to craft a font with more appeal to young eyes than Times New Roman. Similarly, Papyrus creator Chris Costello designed his eroded font with inspiration from biblical times and the Middle East. After selling the font to British company Letraset, Papyrus was licensed to desktop applications, leading to its existence on computers worldwide.

So, what is it that designers can’t stand about these fonts? Misuse. Specifically, overdone misuse. Avatar faced such criticism over its Papyrus logo that it recently revealed a font change for its upcoming four sequels. But why? As the movie centred on a tribal world dedicated to nature, was the simple, eroded font not a suitable choice? Was the backlash worth a rebrand? We asked the Generator Team to weigh in with their thoughts on the decision:

Papyrus is one of the most over-used fonts with new graphic designers. It’s the not-so-funny Comic Sans of the business. While my art senses say they have made an improvement to the logo by changing the font, part of me would have loved for them to have embraced and owned Papyrus as their font choice. A little kerning would have gone a long way.
– Alan

Papyrus is the Nickelback of fonts. I think it’s popular to say you don’t like it and leave it at that, even if you do kind of like it in secret. No matter how you use the font, the text is going to all sound the same. Used with Avatar, a story about a tribal alien world rooted in nature, I can accept pairing the voice with the vibe of the movie. I just find that as I identified the font by name first, it made me feel the film would be as predictable as the font choice. Even though to me it was, I still love the movie. Bandwagon me is happy to see a less obvious font used for the sequel which is still able to give off an ancient feel. The secret me feels Avatar should remain synonymous with Papyrus.
– Jess

I think they should have stuck with Papyrus regardless of the backlash from designers. We are only a portion of the market in which they are marketing to. I like brands that keep a kind of loyalty to their own style, like IKEA; if you look at their old logos they’ve still use the same style font throughout the years.
– Katie

I believe that Papyrus was initially a poor choice of font, but because of the attention and the potential of rebellious reputation in the graphic design community, it should not have been changed. It would have been a memorable, graphical fail. Now, with the new logo, it will be forever be referred to me as the “unobtanium sell out logo”.
– Jose

Some people might see changing your logo just because of what the public has to say as an unfaithful action against your brand. I think they should have kept things as they were being only one movie into the series.
– Natasha


There you have it. What do you think about the new Avatar logo sans Papyrus?