Ancient superstition said that by learning a spirit’s name, you would gain power over it. I’d like to think this is true of bad fonts.
Tonight I learned the name of one of the worst fonts in the world. It’s called Souvenir Bold. Contrary to the title, it might not actually be the worst; there’s plenty of room at the bottom. But this eyesore has haunted me namelessly for too long, and it’s high time to stab at it with some harsh words. Irony would seem to dictate that to do the most damage, those words should be written in that same font—but that would just be unpleasant to read.
For those who can’t be bothered to look it up, Souvenir Bold is that horrible puffy font that made it big in the 1970s. Souvenir was designed way back in 1914, but in 1971 the foundry ITC hired the artist who had revived the font a few years earlier to design additional weights, such as bold and demibold. And so a crime against humanity was born. Souvenir Bold had that certain special extra ugliness, like the color avocado, that made it a perfect choice for the ’70s. Back then, failing to splash aggressive hideousness onto literally everything with the slightest smidgen of creative design was apparently a capital crime. This applied to audio as well as visual media; see also folk and disco.
Bizarrely, Souvenir Bold has made a bit of a comeback lately. It’s understandable, and somewhat acceptable, in a retro context, but outside of that not so much. Still, people use it inappropriately all the time. This is of a piece with similar resurgences of terrible ’70s misfortunes. (One of the most obvious revivals is in the form of terrible haircuts for boys. It seems like every fifth TV commercial has a kid or teenager in it who needs to be shaved and his parents slapped. Who’s responsible for bringing this crap back?)
If you spend too long on the Internet you’ll eventually cross paths with a pitchfork-wielding mob that’s bent on sending Papyrus and Comic Sans to their graves. Papyrus is that font you always see that reminds you vaguely of Egypt, and the problem is that it’s ubiquitous; you can’t get away from it. (There’s a similar font called Tempus Sans ITC that leans more Asian.) Comic Sans is regarded these days as just a terrible font; although I admit in its heyday I liked it fine, it’s too much in large doses over time. These fonts have gotten overused to the point where typography enthusiasts foam at the mouth at the sight of them, which is a little like what I felt yesterday when that annoying new Bruno Mars song came on five different radio stations within the span of five minutes. (Only obviously, I can hate on a song several orders of magnitude harder than a font connoisseur can hate on a typeface.) But the only serious problem with either of these fonts is their overuse; the same cannot honestly be said of Souvenir Bold.
If there’s any justice in the world, that mob will spare a few minutes from their crusade and take a detour to the mausoleum where Souvenir was unsuccessfully entombed. There, they should stake it repeatedly, shoot it with a metric crapton of silver bullets just in case, wrap it in industrial quantities of garlic, and bury it so deep that it will never rise again.