Designer nightmares :: Zapf Chancery

Zapf Chancery Italic — not a "fancy" font.

Zapf Chancery Italic — not a "fancy" font.

Simply put, Zapf Chancery is the font that never should have been born.

No offense to Hermann Zapf, the font’s designer. (To his credit, he also designed Palatino and Optima.) Zapf Chancery looks a lot like the calligraphy I was teaching myself when I was 12. Only uglier. But Zapf Chancery’s real crime isn’t its existence, it’s HOW and HOW OFTEN it’s used.

Unfortunately, Zapf Chancery comes standard as a system font on every computer I’ve ever seen. So that means it falls into the hands of, well, everyone. And lets face it, not everyone is qualified to use fonts beyond Arial and Times.

Because it’s standard on every computer, it’s not just individuals who have the potential to create something awful with Zapf Chancery, it’s sign shops, copy shops, art school students, and on-line quicky design services. And they are creating! From beauty shop signs and address stampers, to invitations and (blech!) business cards, Zapf Chancery seems to be everywhere!

Currently, my biggest Zapf Chancery pet peeve is the email autosignature. Oh yes, people (almost exclusively women – why oh why ladies?!) seem to like to “decorate” their email autosignature. As if a background image of a spiral notebook or cherubs or clouds wasn’t bad enough, people are formatting their signatures in Zapf Chancery. Is it supposed to look more like your real signature than Arial? It doesn’t. Is it supposed to look “fancy?” It just looks silly. (Of course, using Comic Sans is an equal atrocity.)

So please, stop using Zapf Chancery. If we all stop using it, maybe it will be replaced on the standard system font list with something useful, like Garamond or Trajan. And while you’re at it, unless you’re creating an actual comic book, please give up Comic Sans as well. (And don’t get me started on Sand and Papyrus!)

Okay? Thanks.

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7 Responses to “Designer nightmares :: Zapf Chancery”

  1. Allan Haley Says:

    How, and how often a typeface is used, does not make it a good or bad design. If this were the case, Garamond, Bembo, Helvetica, Franklin Gothic, Frutiger, etc. would all be considered bad designs.

    Most of us can only hope to draw calligraphic letters as well has Hermann Zapf – at 12, or any other age.

  2. authorjen Says:

    I agree in most cases that how and how often a typeface is used does not make it a good or bad design. Helvetica is a perfect example of that. However, the prevalence, overuse, and misuse of Zapf Chancery has turned it into a joke, especially among designers who work with and understand typography. It has become the default “fancy” font, simply because it is available and calligraphic, when using Trajan or an italicized version of Galliard (or so many others) could be much more effective.

  3. jost. Says:

    Well.. after reading your post I wondering what kind of typeface did you design that is an alternative to that horrible “font that never should have been born”?

    • authorjen Says:

      I haven’t designed any of my own typefaces, but I don’t need to be an architect to be able to appreciate architecture. Having worked with type for nearly 20 years, I am well versed in the world of typography and have a good sense of what works and what doesn’t. As for alternatives for Zapf Chancery, there are dozens — make that hundreds — of options. Galliard Italic comes to mind, but there are so many more. Of course, it all depends on the vehicle, the application, the use, the message, the concept…

  4. Dancing Girls = Good Advertising?! « fight bad design.org Says:

    […] ads all get an A+ in tackiness and irrelevance. And with their occasional use of Comic Sans, their regular use of Relfex Blue, and their inability to come up with a concept, they all get a […]

  5. Lingerfelt Says:

    Perfect posts! i love this! this is what i am looking for!

  6. Netherland Says:

    Hello! Hola from Spain.

    First time here, but not last one. I like your blog’s post even more than before I started to read it. Gracias! :* Bessos. Nombres

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