60-Seconds #316 : What's the most overused font?

by Fred Showker

60-Seconds #312 : The Age of Bad Photography Sometimes I run into conversations that I just can't resist passing along. Such is this one I ran across on LinkedIn. But what are your thoughts when asked "What's the most overused font of contemporary design?" I have my ideas, and you'd expect passionate responses from any designer of some background and knowledge. Let's see what the LinkedIn graphic design professionals believe the answer is. . .

The Question:

Kurt M. Macdonald, Web Designer, Red Evolution from Aberdeen, United Kingdom asks : What's the most overused font of contemporary design?

The Answers:

Lovett J. Hines : Helvetica?

Daymon Allen : Probably Helvetica, Bodonitown, District, or Foro. [Ed: Foro couldn't be found, so we doubt it's the most overused.]

Peter Ankelein : Any Helvetica or similar (Aksidenz Grotesk, Swiss 721, etc.). Also, couple of the Hoefler & Co. (née H&FJ) typefaces such as Gotham and Archer.

Also, Mrs. Eaves got a bit over-used for a while there but has calmed down a bit. Still see it quite a lot in the invitation side of design (wedding invites and whatnot).

Andrew Meza: Definitely Helvetica. But it is so practical and fits many purposes. I prefer Proxima Nova over Helvetica these days.(Pic)

Robert Bennett : Helvetica because for over 50 years it works.

Chad Chelius : I wouldn't say this font is used in contemporary design per se, but I can swing a dead cat and hit something set in Papyrus.

Darnell Brown : Thirsty Rough, Veneer and Trend. They're basically ubiquitous now (at least in my area).

Steve Dallape = Lately, I've been seeing a lot of Roboto, probably due to the fact that it is a quality font available for free from Google fonts. And, it IS a very nice one, too - I am as guilty as anyone of overusing it. [Ed note: Roboto is Google's rip off of another commercial font in order to avoid copyright issues.]

John Farnsworth : Helvetica because of the movie of the same name. People who know next to nothing about typefaces (even though we now call them "fonts") know to ask for Helvetica.

Jim Branstetter : Hobo?

Adam Hartlaub : easy: 1) Gotham 2) helvetica nueue. [Ed: Gotham is Hoefler & Co's lift of the famous Bauer Folio font and/or Venus ]

Dawn Vandenhouten : If I see one more small store front marquee in Mistral.... I may picket the place :)

Henk C. Meerhof : As the question is 'Most overused font of contemporary design? ', we should ask ourselves what is the definition of 'overused', on the assumption we define 'font' and 'contemporary design' in some same way as designers around the world.
      If overused is just the amount of Helvetica used in my designs yes, maybe I have overused Helvetica a bit, but there are designers who use H a lot more. And if we do how are we supposed to measure this overuse? Is it a 'so many characters per hour' type of thing or more a limited amount of projects using it per year/decade/designers lifetime?
      I see overuse more as an inappropriate use of H in relation to the project as a total. Now it is getting more interesting but also more difficult to judge. As for 'who are we' to say H isn't the right choice of typeface. Under this definition it could be that you favor a typeface in your work, but never the less you chose it to get the best result, so overuse is ruled out. That makes most previous post to this discussion change from 'overused' to 'much favored'.
      Overuse of a typeface in the last definition will be using any form of Times or Arial, because it is the initial typeface in your text editors template at start up. Also the zillions of adds in local news papers will contribute, as their makers clearly have no notion about design at all and just choose from a few pre installed typefaces.
      Also - just to drag an old friend in - it is the reason why we designers reacting allergic on the use of Comic Sans. It is not a bad typeface, it is just used wrong for more than 300% of the cases, no Comic Neue can change the fact that non professionals think it make their add stand out. In everyone choosing the same to stand out, they just formed a new crowd.
      It would be nice though if there could be a digital version of decay of fonts, so a much used typeface will look shabby and worn, just like ill treated and much used leaden type did.
[ED: Note that Comic Sans was the only "human" font shipped on Windows computers -- therefore became grossley overused, and thus hated.]

Aleksandar Topolac : All I would add to Henk's brilliant comment is that whichever typeface we are looking for here, it is probably represented in color - black.

John Caruso : To say Helvetica is 'overused' ... is like saying water is overused.

Aleksandar Topolac : John Caruso, funny, but actually water is overused or better term would be overspent in certain areas of the world. Furthermore, some bottled forms of it are also overpriced. That being said, I do get your comment.and agree with it.

fred_c_125Notice how many agree with Helvetica, and only one mentioned Times or Arial. Remember which fonts came on the original desktop publishing systems, and which came with which platform. Those lead the general population to learn terms like Font, Helvetica, Times, Arial and Courier -- not to mention Comic Sans. What's the font you use most frequently? Let me know.

And, thanks for reading

Fred Showker

      Editor/Publisher : DTG Magazine
      +FredShowker on Google+ or most social medias @Showker
      Published online since 1988


Please share your discoveries with other DTG readers:
GO Send an email to our editorial staff
GO Contribute your own article
GO Join the Design Cafe forums, or
GO Follow DTG on Facebook!

30th Anniversary for DTG Magazine