Monday, January 4, 2010

An Open Letter to James Cameron From Papyrus

Dear Mr. Cameron,

A letter such as this can hardly do justice to the overwhelming gratitude I’m hoping to express herein. Your most recent film, Avatar, has finally legitimized my work in a way I’ve only ever dreamed of.

Goodness knows I’ve worked hard the past 26 years to make a name for myself. And it’s felt great coming to the aid of New Age spa owners, suburban party planners, and young couples looking to save money by making their own wedding invitations. But only now, by appearing in your movie, have I been given mainstream, high-level recognition as a serious typeface. And for that, I thank you.

Imagine my delight so many months ago at seeing the trailers and posters for this, your much anticipated return to science fiction movie making. To see the title AVATAR (all caps!) typeset in yours truly. Well, I practically wept. And to be rendered in such an artificial luminescent way... finally, in the hands of a true visionary such as yourself, my potential to look totally badass had been realized.

Little did I know that that was only the tip of the iceberg (no Titanic reference intended!). After seeing the finished film (in Imax 3D of course), I can easily say it is the greatest movie ever made! To think, among your many bold choices as a filmmaker—soldiers who fly helicopters despite mastering interstellar travel; inexplicable floating mountains; and humans still petty enough to commit genocide in order to acquire precious minerals such as the very cleverly named unobtainium—that I would be one of them. Kudos to you for not spending a single cent of your massive budget on an expensive, attractive font for the subtitles, and opting to put me to the task instead.

Shockingly, as if you hadn’t already done enough for me, when the title card appeared at the end of the picture, there I was again! Chills, I tell you, chills. I hardly have words, even now, to describe my sheer admiration for this final master stroke: glowing, green letters filling every inch of the screen. A lesser director man might have settled at filling the screen left to right, but not you. You saw me, in my humble proportions, and said No, not big enough. Undoubtedly, a few mouse-clicks later, your most talented technician had me soaring to new cap-heights. Let me never come back down.

Thank you Mr. Cameron, thank you!

Yours in friendship and wanton servitude,

Please note, Pr*tty Sh*tty was chosen as the forum for publication of this letter because of its long standing impartial, and unbiased stance on matters pertaining to design. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the author of this blog. They are the views solely of the author of this letter.


  1. OMG! Thank you! I hated it on the posters and then threw up a little in my mouth when I realized I would have to read that ugly font throughout the film in the subtitles. After the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on CG effects, did he just run out of money for a decent graphic designer?

  2. I only realized the hideousness of it at the end of the film and couldn't believe my eyes when the logo came on (here in Finland the whole film was subtitled, and in a neutral font).

  3. This is bad news for designers everywhere. I know some clients are going to get major boners for Papyrus.

  4. Fantastic. My friends and I play a game where we point out Papyrus everytime we see it. I'd add a few common instances to your list. Restaurant menus, antique shops, & family homepages. I was just shocked to see papyrus--seemingly unchanged in any way--all over this otherwise visually stunning movie. Papyrus?! But I refrained shouting it outloud in the theater. Barely.

  5. Great post. I thought the movie was incredible, but that horrifyingly ugly last title shot (the green "AVATAR" pictured above) pretty much ruined the entire movie for me. Who thought that looked nice? Really? Ugh.

  6. Unobtainium is actually a reference to a science fiction term (

    Couldn't agree more about the font choice and use, although I don't think it bothered the rest of the audience.

  7. Just unbelievable that they spent as much as they did on this movie, and yet COULDN'T spring the minuscule extra cash to get something more suitable selected or designed.

    Easily for a comically miniscule amount of money you could have had a unique custom typeface designed to use solely for the film marketing and subtitles, designed by any number of the worlds top typographers or type foundries. Plus, I'm sure most would have loved to jump on the opportunity to be part of this epic titanic-sized movie.

    AND, it's not like there wasn't an insane attention to detail to begin with. They created an entire legitimate language for the Na'vi to speak, enlisting the help of top linguists! Really, an entire language... from scratch... and a default font pulled off your secretary's computer?

    I can't believe on a production that probably had at least a thousand different hands touch it at some point, not a single person ever had the ability to speak up, at any stage in the game, and point out this gross typographical monstrosity. So sad.

  8. At least he didn't use Comic Sans.

  9. It isn't Papyrus. Very similar, yes, but not that particular typeface.

  10. I was shocked when I saw Avatar's movie poster. I thought, "Papyrus!? Are you f*&$ing kidding me!? This movie looks like crap!" I made all these judgements about the movie based on it's title font. I guess I should just shut up and go watch the film.

    Great blog post, BTW.

  11. Gotta agree with Lamar, the title font isn't really Papyrus. Kinda, sorta like Papyrus, which is actually worse in a way. You have a half-billion dollar budget and you had some graphic designer make you a custom font that everyone thinks is Papyrus . . . and then you torture it in the opening sequence. Epic font fail.

  12. In response to Lamar's comment, I typed out AVATAR in Papyrus and I do believe the movie uses Papyrus, but it is highly edited to get rid a lot of the grunge. If you look at the curves in the T and R in particular, you'll see almost identical curves to them, also the designer detached the connecting lines in the A's an R, as well as adding little serifs on all of the letters.

    And even if I am wrong, I have no idea what designer would choose a font that was so close to Papyrus that everyone would think that it is Papyrus.

  13. Chris, your description of the font tells us it's not really Papyrus. I agree with Lamar, the title on the posters and the end are not Papyrus. The subtitles are, however, unmistakably Papyrus. At least it wasn't a real wood-cut font. It fit for being such a stupidly bad movie. I didn't expect more. At the theater, I did turn to my g/f and scoff at it though.

  14. Excellent post.

    I think what we've got here is (what i assume to be a design TEAM) got their hands on this project and altered Papyrus, as can be seen by this design someone sent to us:

    Now, i've yet to see the movie, but the subtitles i have seen are straight Papyrus. If they go on throughout the movie it's going to be pretty damn distracting. I don't know how i'll deal.

  15. It's a perfectly serviceable font, pleasing enough to the eye, but yeah, maybe design something original. Oh wait, the whole movie wasn't original, so what's the big deal?
    I don't care if unobtainium is a "real" term, it was still stupid.

  16. Lamar is correct. It's not actually Papyrus used for the title. But I think Pariedolius's follow-up comment already says everything about that that I wanted to.

    @ assumeyes... I know the name Unobtainium is a science fiction in-joke... that's why I took a dig at it being "clever". You can't make something that important to the plot (ie. the reason humans are killing off a civilization) a point of comic relief for sci-fi nerds in the audience. At least the even shittier (but perhaps equally entertaining) movie The Core had the common sense to treat it as a joke when they used the name too.

  17. To build on what anonymous said above, at least it wasn't Copperplate Gothic either, and given the subject matter of the movie, a rustic typeface makes sense. Perhaps, since it's been a few years since Papyrus was the unavoidable typeface du jour, they were using it ironically?

  18. title aint papyrus, but its still PRETTY SHITTY!

  19. What's wrong with Papyrus? Haters always gotta hate.

    Me? I just got some beautiful business cards printed that make glorious use of three great fonts: Papyrus, Copperplate, and Comic Sans. Let me tell you, they are some damn sharp business cards.

  20. omfg - out of all the things to waste your time on the internet about, this nerd is complaining about a font? if you can recognize fonts off the top of your head maybe youve spent to much time on the computer

  21. Anonymous, this is not about being an internet nerd and everything about being a designer. In the world of graphic design, using papyrus for any serious design work is a cardinal sin, much like wearing crocs EVER is a fashion sin to those with a fashion sense but not yout average layperson.

  22. Dear Papyrus,

    I was thrilled to hear your kind words in regard to our esteemed colleague. I believe, with every fiber of my being, I can share in the revery that Mr. Cameron sees wrapped within your fleckless lines.

    It is for this very reason I chose you for your involvement in 'Tristan and Isolde'. The way your text became almost completely unreadable over the shimmering water or flowing grass fields gives me goosebumps to this day. I have made many mistakes during my professional career (including Tristan and Isolde), but you sir have never been one of them.

    Kevin Reynolds

  23. Really what is the big deal?

    Is it because "Papyrus" isn't some obscure handmade font that only the coolest of cool typographers know about that you give it a hard time? Is it because Papyrus is loaded into OS software that it's a crime that Cameron used the font in his movie?

    Maybe some variation could be all right but you didn't give a reason why it's so bad. Maybe I don't get it.

  24. Everybody relax, it could have been worse.

  25. i don't know why i don't trust in something written down on papyrus... it's like when ppl uses comic sans? maybe.. trying to put some mysticism or like an wiseman old-tale atmosphere... but you know its FAKE.. and you know it because you have used it, and you've got rid off it... and probably you'll never use it again... at least i try not to use it anymore

  26. Y'know…Cameron's original concept and the screenplay for Avatar dates back to 1994. Maybe they were just going for period authenticity.

    Maybe Cameron just wanted to piss off a bunch of reactionary graphic designers!

    Oooh…perhaps it's a part of some vast bad font conspiracy!

    Get a life, will’ya people? I hear stamp collecting is a very soothing hobby; maybe some of you should look into it?

    If you think for a second that someone with an ego the size of James 'King-of-the-World' Cameron's – someone who spends half a billion on a movie because he CAN, and because he knows that he's going to at least double his money (which he already has) and likely triple it (the film has just now been released to China) – who is eccentric enough to use a precious element called “unobtainium” as one of the story's chief plot points, and then doesn’t really explain what the stuff does or why it’s so valuable – really gives a rip about what you think is or isn't a stylish typeface? Puhleez.

    In fact, were I a bettin' man, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he didn’t do it on purpose, just to piss off the anal-retentives. Listen, if he can get away with that inexplicable homage to the Sci-Fi nerds, he can certainly use a font that while out of style, has absolutely no bearing on the success of the story.

    The fact that Cameron allowed the use of a Papyrus font look-alike is no crime. Your incredibly shallow protests over the same – if they influence even one artist to NOT see this incredibly visually-stimulating film – would be.

    Please, get over yourselves.

  27. how did this blog get so much attention from non-designers? are there people searching the word AVATAR and reading absolutely everything that mentions it?

    it's a design blog, people. that's why we're talking about the use of a piss poor typeface in a mass market application. Isn't the major appeal of this film its supposed stunning visuals? Then critiquing the typeface you SEE is especially valid. Cameron went to the exhaustive trouble and expense to have a linguist create a new language, he could have chosen a better drawn, less over-exposed font for his title and subtitles.

  28. I feel I should plug Papyruswatch here.

  29. I agree with AJ in Nashville.

  30. Non Typeface Dweeb04 January, 2010 21:52

    I am not a typeface snob.

    Why all the Papyrus hate?

  31. Dude that is way cool.


  32. I am laughing at all you dumb art kids. Complain about the choice of font, but clearly he was not attempting to market to snobbish typesetters, caligraphers, and typographers.

    Besides, clearly most of you paid for a ticket to the film, which is all that matters in the long run.

  33. yeah, WE'RE the dumb ones.

  34. @laura

    it's on delicious

  35. @laura

    .. and digg

  36. @Jordan, You comment was one of the best reads online I have ever encountered. Truly. Your point about the loads of time they put into creating another language is pure unadulterated genius. I would have never thought of the amount of effort it would have taken them to place an ad for a typographer willing to take on a project that took ten years to achieve conclusion. Ridiculous!

  37. AJ: Unobtainium was supposed to be a room temperature superconductor. That's why the sample floated, and why the mountains in the magnetic fields floated.

  38. Watching people who think they are graphic designers complain about getting sand in their vaginas makes me laugh.

  39. I don't get what this post is about? Lame blog post.

  40. much like the 'people in black' who plague gallery openings and intellectualize over what the artist was conveying in a certain piece of art .. you people are silly.

  41. Would anyone care to explain what is Papyrus' problem?

    Regarding Comics Sans, that's obvious, but it was made to look bad... the problem is people use it for their day-to-day things.

    Now, Papyrus has a simple look and the name more or less pass the idea of hand-written, runic etc etc I even find it elegant (sorry, it's my taste).

    The font even combines with the "simple, pure native" central theme. What's not to like? It's use in legends? Oh, well, they could have used Arial for that... but isn't this secondary?

    Again, please some designer (I'm not) bring some light to the matter, citing why Papyrus shoult NOT be used... TIA.

  42. For all the complaint about Papyrus its certainly a well spoken font. Such a charming letter (if a bit brown on the nose). Maybe you have all underrated Papyrus.

    Or perhaps Cameron is smart enough to know that the $$$$$$$ he will make on this movie will mostly come from the wallets of people who use papyrus on their Restaurant menus, antique shops, & family homepages. I'll admit to not knowing crappola about design, but it seems to me that one goal of a designer should be appealing to a target audience. Am I wrong? If not the mark down Cameron for an Epic Win as the 1000000000 he's already made at the box office will attest to.

  43. the reality is what part of the movie should he have taken away to spend some effort making a "better" font?
    you realise this is a closed system right? to spend a single dime more it has to come from somewhere... so lets list our choices:
    1. detracting from the story - doesn't look like that's much of an option, kinda running on broke there as is.
    2. detracting from the visual effects - seriously? yeah, like THAT'S gonna happen.
    3. Pay the actors/staff/support less - You get to explain to them that it's so the letters are "prettier".

    seriously... where should this money come from?

  44. why do so many people post anonymously?

  45. Papyrus is one of the worst fonts ever made that I would love to personally destroy or send to some part of the universe where it can never grace a design again. It ranks right up there with Comic Sans and Curlz MT. *shudders*

  46. Yeah got it but why? What makes a font good or bad and what is particularly bad about Papyrus?

  47. You people are stupid douchebags.

  48. Seriously. Based on the level of hatred isn't there one designer on this design forum that can give the rest of us a clearly reasoned description of why this font is bad? Or is it something that has to be taken on faith as handed down by the design gods of old?

  49. @ Carrie
    So many folks post anonymously because google has some sort of twitter'esque tracker that posts updated info on keyword activity, I got here by googling James Cameron, hence all the non-designer types flooding in.

  50. Should we be shocked that Cameron spent as much time choosing a font as he did writing the script?

    "THIS IS OUR LAND!" lolz

  51. Papyrus is a display font. It was not designed to be read over large amounts of text or dialogue. It has a distinct personality that is best used as a highlight, or as texture within a layout, but it's really not a great design. Classic typefaces like Garamond or Univers transcend time because they were designed with the reader in mind and the ease with which the information that they convey can be transfered. Quality fonts should blend in, should not try to imbue personality into a layout, but should rather be used in a manner where the layout (or usage of the typeface) can dictate the tone. Display fonts like Papyrus have too many distinguishing features and lose their unique/hand-written quality when they are used in great quantities because the elements which distinguish it are repeated to often and cease to be unique any longer. We read classic fonts better because we read them more often and they don't detract from the message. Display fonts become distracting if they are used for anything other than display purposes.

  52. Did any of you actually WATCH the movie? I don't think I was paying much attention to the font when the movie was so great. I detected the sarcasm in the letter but the comments just blew my mind.

    Just goes to show that people will complain about literally *anything*.

  53. Which ever of the Anonymouses explained the superconductor nature of Unobtainium, I thank you. If that was mentioned in the movie, I'm sorry I didn't catch it.

    If Laura's comment was directed at me (and I'm not necessarily assuming it was), I am not a non-designer. I've been a working graphic and web designer for more than 28 years.

    I had no problem with pr*tty sh*tty's post. I thought it was subversively smart and funny and cleverly delivered.

    I'm not defending Papyrus. I've never used it and am not a fan of it. What I am a fan of is common sense.

    Several earlier commentors made it sound as though Cameron's use of Papyrus-ish in the movie title and language subtitles was tantamount to taking a dump on Herbert Bayer's grave.

    It is not, and that's all I'm saying. Don't potentially poison the experience of a great movie for someone else by inciting contempt over things that really don't matter.

  54. God I hated Papyrus for so long. But that all changed when I saw it in 3D! From now on I'm using 3D Papyrus for all of my design projects. Comic Sans and Curlz MT, you're next.

  55. No AJ, I was not referencing you personally when I said non-designers. But clearly there ARE a lot of non-deisgners participating in this conversation. This blog typically gets 3-6 comments per entry and I usually know half of them.

    However, you are included in the category of commenters who are crying "who cares?" and I find that baffling...not that you find it unimportant, but that you (and the others who share your opinion) are commenting. Again I say this is a design blog. It exists so we can examine and discuss design. If this was a movie blog then sure, this could seem like "anal-retentive", nit-picking to talk about the typeface used in the film and its promotional materials.

    I don't expect non-designers to understand the importance of typography in all its applications (from setting book copy to billboard headlines to movie subtitles). I probably don't understand the importance of what some of you do for a living and could roll my eyes, hurl insults and demean you for taking your bean counting, rocket science, widget making or brain surgery so seriously. But that would be myoptic and juvenile.

  56. THIS IS NOT PAPYRUS. Funny article anyway though.

  57. "Elemeno" implied that Papyrus is a font designed to be used non-excessively correct? And that its letters have too many "distinguishing features".
    Well If I recall, I don't remember seeing any novel long captions, just simple sentences. Thus it was not a large text amount.
    And maybe the fact that the title font has those "distinguishing features", it was simply used for display purposes.
    But then maybe they decided to tie in the dialogue font with the title font.
    I mean, doesn't any good designer want to try and tie in different elements with one another throughout the entire piece of work in question?

    - Aaron

  58. Laura, thanks for letting me know, and FWIW, I agree with you about the glowing green closing credits version of the logo.

    As far as all the comments from outside sources, I think what happened here is a product of the super-popularity of the movie, and as such, any blog dealing with Avatar is going to have a much wider reach than normal in the search engines.

    But at the risk of over-stating my position, I'll shut up and get out of your hair with one further comment.

    Let me emphasize that I'm not necessarily saying 'who cares' but rather, 'is it so bad that you have to act like it's the end of the world?' And while your comments may not have been that bombastic, others were indeed going off the deep end. And that was my problem, mostly because it was so incongruous with the spirit in which pr*tty sh*tty's blog post was delivered.

    And if you want someone to blame for ME being here, this post is ALL OVER Twitter. That's where I found it.

    Take care. :)

  59. Just be glad that it's not Trajan.

  60. They use helicopters because its a cheap and effective way to get around. They obviously havent invented anti gravity yet, even the shuttle had to generate downward thrust to get around although that would have been very expensive. The same reason we still use sled dogs today maybe. The interstellar travel may have used exotic stuff that is of no use in the atmosphere (ion engines maybe), dont forget it still took 6 years to get there.

    Just because its the future not every thing has to be like magic (we still use projectile weapons based on the same principle as a musket), oh and i like papyrus i thought it looked good and thats all that counts...

  61. Most of the people have commented in the negative but remember guys creating something is a difficult thing. If you cannot appreciate someone's creation at least don't pull it down. Anybody can criticize but only a handful (James Cameron is one of them) can create/invent and they definitely stand out from the crowd.

  62. I knew I wasn't alone in the first-subtitle groan.

  63. I've got it on my PC. Cool!

  64. Good article. I thought this movie was rather disappointing, but I couldn't put my finger on exactly why. Then I saw an ad on TV for McDonald's Happy Meals with Avatar toys and it all made sense.

  65. But Papyrus is so awesome though...

    - hair salon and spa owner


  66. I used this font because I was fucked up with the boys about 10 years ago and we went to this Greek restaurant that had THE best fucking hummus, and they used Papyrus in the menus.

    I mean, this fucking hummus was so good, but I don't remember what it tasted like.

  67. God, designers are a pain in the ass.

  68. Uninspired, mass market Hollywood (read 'Disneyesque') film targeted to the fast-food/Walmart crowd. The only redeeming feature being mind-blowing special effects.

    Is everyone really surprised about the choice of Papyrus???

  69. Okay the original post was funny but some people are just being... I mean it's unnecessary. I am a graphic designer and printmaker, and I personally thought the font for the title was almost fitting of the feel of the movie, and I thought hey, wow, they kinda almost made it work. It was irritating to see it throughout the subtitles but at least it was legible, which is more than I can say about a lot of subtitles in movies.

    So poke fun, sure. But some people are acting like someone was in blackface or something. Honestly, I feel like if you can create a movie that is so visually stunning and changes the history of the art of filmmaking, you can be forgiven a couple of mistakes like using a bad font or naming the plot-moving prop something as silly as "unobtainium."

  70. I run a online magazine that we put out for free. I could always use help on fonts and layouts if anyone wants to help contribute some of there skills id be willing to trade your time for some free ad space in our issue's if anyone is interested in helping me make my fonts and lay outs better please contact me at since the magazine is put out for free i dont make enough to pay so like i said free ad space is what im offering. you can view our current issue's here

  71. Who give's a s... about the fonts used in the title.

    Really, unless you're a designer.

    It would have been Times New Roman and I wouldn't have cared. I didn't go see a logo or the credits. I went to see a movie. That's what I got.

    Colonel Moutarde avec son ordi dans son sous-sol.

  72. What a bunch of pixel pushers! Geez, oh, man...the pontifiction of graphic designers around here is hysterical!

    I'm a designer myself (product) but I gotta' say, your font snobbery is just too funny - you're taking it way too seriously...

    Wait, lemme' woulda' preferreds Helvetica. No, wait...Univers...ooh, ooh...Avant Garde...Demi, not Light.

    It's a shame you couldn't have 'switched off', enjoyed a bag of popcorn and actually watched the film...

  73. @Mike Higdon: Really, you turned to your *girlfriend* to *scoff* at the *font chosen for subtitles*?

    Uh-huh. And *my* girlfriend agrees with me that the packaging on the new Star Wars action figures uses too-think plastic for the blister pak.

  74. I'm starting to think designers and lawyers have a lot in common...

  75. Thank you elemeno. That's a well-reasoned argument against using a certain font for a certain job and makes sense.

    Too bad it nearly got lost in the nerdrage.

  76. Meh, Dude, it's just a font choice. Get over it.

  77. @laura (

    you can thank Twitter for this.

  78. I like how every ass wipe that calls themselves a graphic artist is trying to tear down this movie because they think they recognize the name of the font used in the movie. Pathetic.

    I guess you guys have nothing left besides belittling a movie's choice of font to make yourselves feel superior? Wow you guys are so cool, can I hang out with you guys and hope to be as cool some day?

    It's like if a bunch of car guys got together and made fun of the Geo Metro some guy in a movie drives around. OMG WHAT A SHITTY CAR OMG OMG SUCH A BIG BUDGET AND THEY COULDN'T SPRING FOR A BETTER CAR? OMG OMG


  79. like highway signs and nutrition labels, the main function of subtitles is to convey information quickly and clearly. a legible, neutral font is best suited for this job. subtitles in french script don't make the actors sound more french.

  80. first, no one hates papyrus more than myself... but not sure if this was mentioned, the title Avatar is not in Papyrus, its a custom or modified font... you can tell due to the two letter "A"s are different and the R is not a papyrus R... the subtitles however are in papyrus i think. But regardless, smack the designer that wanted to make it look like papyrus

  81. I believe the font used is actually based on Herculanum, not Papyrus.


  83. I have been complaining about Papyrus for YEARS. When I saw it in Avatar I could only amaze at their hesitance to pay some jerk $12 to design a new font or to just buy a lesser used and more deserving font for $29.99.

    Thanks for this.

  84. i'm not a graphic designer, but i don't think this post is about snobbishness or graphic design elitism. graphic designers just notice things that other people don't, like the fact that James Cameron made a movie that was supposed to be some kind of visual revolution, but didn't take the time to find an original, attractive typeface (which plenty of other filmmakers do).

  85. http://xkcd/590/

    That seems to fit nicely.

  86. I take the lawyer comment a little personally -- I'm a lawyer and also a typography buff. As the child of a linotyper, I sometimes dig out the old ATF catalog to compare with some bit of Bitstream dreck. I haven't seen Avatar yet, but I'm sure the typeface isn't exactly Papyrus -- with the budget Cameron had, it's more likely he had a font custom-made (it's better for trademarking, too). Whatever it is, I think it really looks skinny and insubstantial for the kind of film it is promoting, and I think that is most people's issue.

  87. Wow, graphic designers are kinda lame. You guys really don't have anything else to worry about?

  88. Seriously? The typeface is what pissed you off?

    Not the God-aweful script, the God-aweful characters, the God-aweful cliches, or the God-aweful collection of "Greatest Scenes from Other Movies"...but the typeface.

    Seriously? Wow, man. Wow.

  89. What the fuck do you care what font is in THAT kind of movie? Half the graphic designers I encounter don't know how to use a grid, I think that's a much bigger issue.

  90. Coulda been worse - they could have used Comic Sans.

  91. I tried, but didn't manage to explain the ridiculousness as well as this post did.

  92. Good for you, papyrus watchers!!
    Who cares? It was an entertaining movie, a great story; like someone said above, "haters gotta hate". I found this all amusing at first - funny blog. but... Forest for the trees people. Can you say nit pick? Bravo for noticing. I would have never even noticed unless someone pointed it out. Ha! it's funny if anything. I thought it went well with the landscape and made it easier to read, something different than basic print which you usually see. BS! Cameron will be laughing all the way to the bank. You're just pissed he didn't hire you. Why don't send him your resumes? You geniuses you.

  93. Here, here, let's criticize designers for having an opinion!

  94. I'm sorry, but when designers here are criticizing a typeface for how it looks and that they don't find it attractive enough, it goes beyond the 'little subtle things that designers notice' this case, it's an expression of a personal opinion.

    As far as Mr. Cameron not picking a 'custom' or 'attractive' enough font...please...he spent his money on a lot of different things, ant not the typeface. Perhaps he liked the typeface. Has that occurred to anyone here?

    Oh, and by the by, he didn't make the movie for anyone but himself. Yes, he wants us all to enjoy it, but no artist typically wakes up and says, "Boy - what a good day to get up and make an object of art that a bunch people will find entertaining!"

    An artist has a vision and wants to make something so that he or she can show others what their great idea is. And so, that's what James did. So what if you didn't like his typeface choice - perhaps he did?

  95. I don't mind criticism for this movie. It wasn't the best written movie, nor was the acting any better than the likes of "A New Hope", but it was visually stunning as a whole. Makes me wonder how one could honestly judge movies by font style, or just simply hate a movie because of what Cameron and his marketing people chose for fonts. Does anyone here not care for the overall product?

  96. Wow, Twitter users are a humorless bunch.

    I liked this post and thought it was funny.

  97. This is a satirical post about a poorly/cheaply designed font being used in an even more poorly concepted/executed movie. As a design-related blog, pointing out a specific design flaw is expected. Because it is a design flaw in a movie fraught with flaws is what might be coming across as petty. There is just a cornucopia of crap smeared all over this film, but it's some of the "best looking" crap ever made, apparently.

    I've read review after review for Avatar and almost all of them have said that despite a lame, vastly unoriginal plot and uninspired writing, this movie is great because of the special effects and imagined world that is Pandora. Since when, in the history of cinema, has a pretty face meant you could forgo content?

    Back on topic: the use of Papyrus (OR a font made to LOOK like Papyrus) is just one extra piece of "WTF?!" that this movie adds to its credit. The majority of movies seek custom font design for titles. Even if this was a custom bit of design, it was so lazily done and obviously pulled from Papyrus that it defies any "custom" monicker. The fact that the subtitles are very clearly straight Papyrus should be enough evidence that the title is, at best, a modified version of the same font.

    The design community is laughing at Cameron for this because it's ludicrous to the point of hilarity. That this big-time director would allow such a low-end, system-included font to represent the name of his film is absurd. It’s putting spinners on a Bentley. Fuzzy dice in the mirror of the Lambo. Water, instead of milk, in your pancakes.

  98. Goes to show how oblivious the average consumer is. I mean, I'm not surprised, I've had to deal with it for years as a designer. Sometimes you have to dumb it down for the masses.

    But this movie ceased to be visually stunning as soon as the font appeared. Careless on Cameron's part. Just like his casting job - I'd love to see Sam Worthington vs. Megan Fox in an "Act Off", ha.

  99. I've got an idea - if you don't like the font, can't get past the font chosen, or can't believe that a font you don't like was used in something you wanna' see, stay home then.

    Go rent 'Helvetica', sit in your Eames chair, play with your Adobe fonts and create something more inspiring than what Cameron did.

    And, by God, you better pick a font I like...

  100. uh... its.. a.. font.. ..? does it have a history of strangling babies or something?

    well, maybe that's not fair. i'm not a designer.. i haven't had to stare at it for years now or something.. maybe it's not burned into my eyes by now or seared into my nightmares.. i suppose it's one of those things i wont' understand.. how a typeface could raise such ire..

  101. I think it's pretty.

    *dodges all the flying tomatoes*

  102. Hey AJ in Nasheville, I don't know if you responded to anyone else's post, and frankly I don't care.

    I just want you to know that I think you're a cock ass.

  103. It's not papyrus. Similar, but not. Get over it.

  104. Wow, what a bunch of bitchy designers. I don't particularly like Cameron but I doubt one of you could direct yourself out of a bathroom much less a film of this magnitude. Your ire seems petty and contrived- kinda like when the popular girl in school wears a nice dress and all the other girls can talk about is how fat her ass is.... pathetic.

  105. Hey Josh (Pr*tty Sh*tty), if you're still reading the comments (which I wouldn't be, if I were you) I just wanted to let you know that I'm with you. It was a crappy choice of font, true. And, more importantly, it was just a blog post. A funny, sarcastic blog post at that.

    As many people have already stated, this is a design blog. For all of you commenters saying things like "get over it" -- hello, this is our job. We're graphic designers. Noticing small details like font choice is what we do. I don't know if the OP liked the movie or not. I for one thought it was one of the best movies I've seen in the last 10 years. And the fact that it's over a billion dollars now means a lot of other people liked it too. But that doesn't mean that I, as a graphic designer, can't think that Cameron's choice of subtitle font was crappy. It just was a bad choice. Yes, helvetica or even the god-forsaken arial would have been better.

    The point is, this is not a movie review. It's a review of a font. On a design blog. A font can't ruin a movie. But it can still be a bad font. Which is the case here, and that's all the OP was trying to say.

  106. Those anti smoking groups are hypocrits. They are even against the e cigarette... Why? Because they are being funded by pfizer which makes chantix.

  107. Well, now that I realize this is a design blog, by all means - bitch away! It IS a funny blog, though.

  108. Daniel - couldn't agree with you more. Bitchiness like this I expect from high schoolers and Stupor-model talk shows. :-)

    Who are all these people to judge this typeface so harshly? Isn't variety the spice of life? What makes it so very bad, its lack of nobility or pedigree? Someone even pointed out, it isn't quite Papyrus. How about some ANALYSIS or REASONING?

    OK, wait, I admit... I love bitchiness sometimes. I do not mean to deter from the fun. It is a valid point.

    He SHOULD be ashamed - I aspired to design typefaces for a living at one time and still doodle them out. It wouldn't have been that hard to search for or even CREATE something suitable and visually unique - I mean, they only had like 15 years, right?

    It was supposedly all about tech so the visual effects would be so good you wouldn't be noticing them and wondering about them, being pulled out of the story. I didn't get pulled out by the typeface. It seems many people did.

    Yeah, but I can't help but feel it is s bit like The Princess And The Pea.

    I would MUCH rather the time had been spent on story ideas, improved dialog, and LOGIC.

    To me Science Fiction means SCIENCE. I can deal with them having spacecraft to get to Pandora. I have seen that before. They didn't say, as I recall, whether they had time dilation. Yes, helicopters seem silly when you have spaceships like that. And no real advances in weapons tech, either, or so it seems. Unobtanium was used in The Core and it made me laugh.

    But the most extraordinary science is never even mentioned: Two way, faster-than-light communication between sleeping human and their Avatar (no - INSTANTANEOUS communication), at all distances, uninterruptible by the 'weird' forces in the floating mountains which cripple the tech of the MILITARY craft.

    I still liked the movie. :-)

  109. Cornell... your post is spot on. Papyrus has drawn the ire of designers for many years, and the blog post was just poking fun.

    I hate papyrus for two main reasons.

    1. Fake distressing.
    2. The proportions of thick and thins are weird to me.

    I could name a few more reasons, but I don't want to bore people with my nerdom.

    Personally, I think the poster works, however the subtitles are heinous.

  110. true, papyrus is overused and anyone with a computer probably has it, but it's a perfectly serviceable font and wasn't misused in any way. papyrus fits in fine with a movie meant to have mass commercial appeal. if you were actually good designers with open minds instead of snobs following the herd you'd recognize this. you might also know that there is a world out there that is snickering at YOU and your dumb prejudices.

  111. You font geeks sicken me!

    "Oh my, look at the offending angle of that decender...I can't believe the tiddle is heavier than the overall typeface...I can't believe they used all-caps" - blah blah blah and boo hoo hoo.

    Get real, douche bags! You guys try to substantiate your - more often than not - meanial and derivative design professions and creative existence by scrutinizing what 99.9% of the population can give two shits about. So what if your clients demand Papyrus over the almighty Helvetica? Boo-hoo!

    I would've "accidentally" capsized my Regal Cinema super-tanker of Sprite down the back of your bed-head and hipster vintage track jacket the moment I heard you sniveling about Cameron's choice in fonts. Good lord! I mean, REALLY?

    Ha! I know my choice in all-caps just then made the shit in your scrawny little "artist" bodies percolate - upsetting your thin little guts. Sorry, pussies. Try not to let any of that gut-wrenching shit spill out and stain the Italian leather saddle on your awesome fixie.

  112. May almighty Zapf forgive you!

  113. There are good songs and bad songs.
    There are good books and bad books.
    There are good beers and bad beers.
    There is good food and bad food.
    There are good fonts and bad fonts.
    Papyrus is a bad font.

  114. Anonymous 21:28

    Anger management... try it. Don't be so bitter, it was just a joke.

  115. Papyrus likely only disturbs .000001% of all those who see Avatar. I was one of the 99.999999% who weren't at all bothered by the font in the context of this particular film.

  116. Anonymous 21:47

    Balls......suck 'em!

  117. Scoreboard, you nerds... $232 million the opening weekend? It goes to show how important these issues are in the grand scheme of things. Self-important, masturbatory design bullshit is the reason that I sometimes hate this business. Get over yourselves. At the end of the day, the designer of Papyrus (or something like it) got his font on one of the biggest movies of all time, and that movie is making mad amounts of money. End of story. I'd love to see the horse-shit that some of the experts posting to this blog actually work on day-to-day. Hate on, haters - you're probably working on bill-stuffers and bullshit local work, while this cat got to work on a project that has more exposure than all of your careers put together. As much as you wish it would, this typeface - love it or hate it - has seemingly not had a fucking lick of impact on the success of this movie. What does that tell you?

    For the record, I am actually not a fan of the face itself, and have no affiliation to the movie or the Papyrus typographer (I am also 10+ years into the business and have/do work with the majors). However, on the posters/title card, I think it works fine. Maybe not the subtitles. Whatever. The point is that the 9-15 age bracket really don't give a shit about it, for them it probably feels dead-on to what the movie represents. So fuck you - you need to realize that those kids don't read Eye, CA, Graphis, or whatever you use as your barometer of "cool." Your personal taste as a super-awesome-dope CD/AD/GD has nothing to do with it. It is gonna be marketed like a motherfucker at Target and Walmart and McDonalds, not American Apparel and the MCA.

    AARRGGHH!! You fucking nerds are the reason I dream about a career in social work or something that has an actual impact on people's lives. Get over yourselves.

    If I see you in the lunchroom, that milk money is MINE!!!

  118. OMG .. i hated that font so much i left the half way through the movie .. next you guys will talk about how the little blue people were representing african anerican or Injuns

  119. umm who cares about a stupid font GET A LIFE PEOPLE i didnt even notice the font

  120. what a bunch of wankers designers are!!!

  121. For me, the dislike of Papyrus comes not from the typeface itself, but from its over and inappropriate use.

    By itself, I really have no problem with it. It has some unique characteristics that I actually do find appealing. However, because it is so distinct, its use is, in my mind, instantly severely limited. As someone else pointed out, it's a display typeface. More than that, I think it only works in very limited use.

    The problem that I, as a designer, have with it is when I see it used in so many places. What's more, when I see it used in a manner that is discordant with the nature of the business/design piece. Or when I see it used beyond its capacity as a display typeface.

    To me, this use shows either laziness or inexperience. The typeface is used as a crutch to attempt to create a certain mood -- much like the "swoosh" was used as a crutch when creating a "dynamic" logo.

    I have long maintained to my other designer friends that I would not hesitate to use Papyrus for the right project were it not for the fact that mere mention of it causes such unrestrained hatred. It's almost unfortunate because prior to the overuse, or even if you look past it, there is really nothing wrong with the font that isn't subjective. And nevermind that there's a good chance that all of those hating it now probably either thought it was an interesting typeface or were indifferent to it the first time they encountered it.

    Back to the point: The typeface in the poster for Avatar may not be exactly Papyrus, but it is close enough. I will admit that when I first saw it, like every other designer, I snickered a bit and cracked a few jokes. However, the more I think about it, the more I think the typeface works very well -- for THIS movie. It fits the tone, the mood and the setting. Furthermore, used for the title of a movie, it absolutely fits the "display" nature of the typeface. Were it not for the overuse by lazy or non-designers, I'm betting many designers would equally find the choice fitting.

    Having said that, I do think it was a poor choice to use Papyrus as the subtitle typeface. It was distracting and sometimes difficult to read during rapid conversations. That, in my opinion, is the true design failure because in the realm of subtitles, clarity is paramount.

  122. Papyrus sucks. I know this, and all the designers on this blog know this. Apparently the only people who don't know this work in an office reading blogs unrelated to their profession.

    I don't come to your waste management job and tell you whats good and bad.

  123. @ Anonymous 1/6/10 10:30: I love how in one fell swoop you:

    1. Speak as an authority for all designers.

    2. Imply that no one is allowed to read blogs unrelated to their profession.

    3. Imply that those non-designers who respond here are garbage collectors (who work in an office?!??).

    Great job promoting that "arrogant, b*tchy, closed-minded designer" stereotype. I was worried it was slipping.

  124. -Papyrus- sucks... there are some bad designers in some pretty high positions out there BUT at least they didn't use -Comic Sans-

  125. Alrighty, here's a challenge to the designers critiquing/bitching on this site...

    Give Cameron (and us) a better font choice for Avatar. Simple as that. Pick a font you think should have been used, how you would use it, why you would use it and what makes it better than what Cameron used.

    If you can't make a better recommendation of a font and post it publicly here, then I have no respect for your opinions, critique and font snobbery...

  126. the titles are not set in papyrus, but the subtitles are.
    and yes this font is heinous.

    The problem with this font, you ask? It's a cheap, ubiquitous, FREE font. Regardless of whether it's good or not, when spending 500 million to produce a film, you do not use a cheap, free font, especially when it's regarded as UGLY by people that aren't even designers.

  127. As for the comment regarding a better font choice - there are tons! Anything from YouWorkForThem, Lineto, or Hype For Type would have worked...

    I would have chosen something gothic, but modern. Maybe something like Garage Gothic ? Or HFJ Gotham ?

    Something "futuristic" could have worked too, like Wim Crouwel's New Alphabet... Or maybe something classic - like Kubrick would have used - like regular Futura in yellow.

    There are tons. A font should be chosen carefully, though, and not quickly and carelessly like you are suggesting we do. And it certainly should not be chosen from the fonts on any old Business PC...

  128. @sspeier - First of all, Papyrus is *NOT* a free typeface. You can certainly find free versions, but they do not contain all of the characters or spacing rules as the true, full typeface. Papyrus -- the REAL typeface -- is a licensed, purchasable typeface that ranges from about $30 to $40 depending on where you buy.

    Perhaps you are confused because it can come packaged as a system typeface. This doesn't make it any more "free" than Arial, Helvetica, Trajan, or any other system typefaces are. It merely means it has been licensed for inclusion with the OS.

    Regardless, you cited a budget of $500 million to produce the film. Likely an inflated figure, BUT it's not fair to lump the production cost of the film in with the marketing, which was likely more around the $150 million range (estimating high).

    Even so, when talking about $150 million dollars, the difference between a "free" typeface and one that costs $40 to license is so insignificant as to render your argument ludicrous.

    Not to mention the fact that your argument also presumes that any use of a so-called "free" (i.e., system) typeface is suspect. Helvetica is a system typeface. By your logic, had the designers chosen Helvetica, the design of the Avatar poster would have still been a fail.

    Come up with a better argument. Even "I personally think it looks like dog crap" is better than "because it's free."

    If the stuff in the comments here is the best people can come up with, then the "let's hate Papyrus" bandwagon has a flat tire. Is it over used? Yes. No one disagrees with that. But for a supposedly creative group of people, why is everyone saying the exact same thing? So far, other than this feigned outrage at seeing it all over mom-and-pop menus and coffee shops, hardly anyone is coming up with a valid reason why it was inappropriate to use a Papyrus-like typeface for the Avatar poster.

  129. I would love to see an interview with the original creator of Papyrus. This was probably the apex of his career...yet I do not know his name, and he was probably not compensated for it's use. Okay, so it was the apex and the depths of his career.

  130. Well I can't help but add to this ginormous comment stream. I thought I was a typeface nerd, but I don't hate Papyrus, except when I couldn't convince my coven to drop it from their logo and go with something more 21st-centurty-looking. Frankly, I didn't notice the font in the movie, and to hear that some poor typographer had to create a font that was almost Papyrus (probably to avoid having to pay Microsoft a royalty) is really ironic.

    I do have to comment on "Anonymous" who came in here begging for free design work, and whose post was rife with spelling and grammar errors - he needs way more help than picking out fonts!

  131. Mann, you people will pick on anything for a decent movie....... OH NOZ, A CHEAP FONT!! ..... you people suck

  132. You're all missing the point as to why Cameron likely used this particular font. Clearly he didn't choose it to satisfy the likes of snobby font nerds - nope.

    Never before has the use of Papyrus made more sense than its use in this movie.

    It's my opinion that Cameron chose this font because of it's deep connection of universal familiarity to the viewing audience. By no accident does the choice of font play right into the plot of the movie itself - and our subconcious minds. It shows us something that we know and recognize. It's use as a texture to the mood is secondary to the "connection" factor.

    The use of this familiar font transcends traditional (original) movie titling choices...Similar to the plot of the movie in that every living thing is in one way or another "connected" by some kind of system. The font connects the audience by displaying something they know and (for some) can appreciate.

    It's really easy to dismiss this font choice based on it being a free universal "system" standard on computing devices. Again though, that's Cameron's point...It's part of a "system". You're part of this same "system". Cameron has immediately connected you to his "system" simply by choosing this universal font.

    Almost the entire movie is about systems and how they connect universaly. It's rare that something so ordinary as a movie title can connect with an audience to such a profound degree - be it subconcious or otherwise - but it does. Cameron connects his audience in more ways than one by his brilliant choice in font titling.

    That's my opinion.

  133. interesting. i posted a similar "letter" back in November.

  134. @Robert, yes you are correct. When I said free, I was simply dumbing down my argument so that non-typophiles could understand. While you are correct in assuming that what I meant was that it is a system font, you are wrong about the licensing royalties for Papyrus. I worked on a movie credits contract for Kyle Cooper, whereby I met a person working on the Avatar SUBTITLES (not TITLES) and he said that they didnt NOT license Papyrus. As long as the Avid suite has the Font installed, no licensing is necessary for subtitles... Such is not the case with the TITLES, but I do believe they had someone redesign Papyrus so that it did not have to be liecensed. And while you are also correct that my argument is nothing more than font snobbery, this is the nature of being a graphic designer - I am PAID to make these choices. This is an industry, and whether you like it or not, I have the right to be a FONT SNOB.

    Whether the argument has a "Flat tire" or not is a red-herring. We are sharing our opinions, and we don't think that it was a very wise decision to choose such a distasteful font when there were easily thousands of other better options for the job. We're talking about BUDGETS because there is no reason why someone should use BAD things instead of GOOD things unless they do not have the resources to do so. But resources were clearly not an issue.

    Now please, stop being an asshole, and let our Papyrus gripes continue. If you are the designer of Papyrus, however, I am sorry, but you are a terrible person who has brunch much anxiety to many people today.

  135. A mental health professional06 January, 2010 15:29

    What an asshole you are.

  136. Taking potshots at a font is not helping anything.

    It's like going to a crit and stating 'I hate it.' But not offering any sort of 'Why' or any reasoning other than, "'cause I hate it." Or, in this case, "'cause it's a free system-font." Saying that is a waste of time for anyone reading this blog and comment thread. Save your breath and offer an insight, a constructive suggestion or the like...

    One intrepid designer above mentioned 3 fonts in a post. Good on ya' mate. But for you to say there are thousands that would be better is just a copout, allowing you to be dramatic in order to make a personal point, and not constructive in the least bit.

  137. Sadly, this is how ridiculous people are. No matter how incredible something is, people always have to find ONE reason why its bad.

    I couldn't give a flying fuck as to what font he used!! I'm not going to watch that whole movie and have my opinion based off the FONT. Are you guys THAT pathetic?

    Personally, I think that the font looks just fine.

    But once again...who gives a shit!! All of you trying to find a reason as to why the movie is bad need to find a hobby!

  138. @sspeier -- First of all, thanks for calling me an asshole. Great to see this ridiculous, slathering of hatred for Papyrus has reduced you to personal attacks. Good job. You're a pillar in the design community. We should all aspire to such lofty morals.

    No one is denying your right to be a "font snob."

    My point is that the blanket hatred for Papyrus is incongruent with its use as a title typeface for Avatar.

    Your own argument was merely because it was "free." Again, that logic would also exclude Helvetica, Arial, or any other type of system font from serious use in graphic design.

    Further, I also pointed out that saying you personally hate the typeface would be a better, more valid argument than some of the stuff going on here. At least it would carry the truth of personal preference, rather than "oh me too" sentiment.

    People complain about Papyrus because it is over used. I DO NOT DISAGREE. Yes, it's over used -- probably exactly because it is widely available and a somewhat "exotic" looking system font. However, the fact that it is abused by lazy designers and non-designers doesn't mean there is never a use for it. If you're really an experienced designer, then you've seen design elements and trends abused all the time. That still doesn't stop someone from coming along and doing something interesting with a cliche.

    I've seen many, many comments about the other options available (you even said there were "thousands" of better options), but not once have I seen either a reasoned argument for why this typeface was inappropriate for the title of the film or a suggestion for a better alternative. How, exactly, was it BAD for use as the title typeface? Just because you see it misused elsewhere isn't logical. Clearly an argument can be made against its use in the subtitles. But in what way was it the wrong choice for the title? I mean, what's really the issue here? James Cameron? Because I don't recall seeing nearly the hatred spewed at Joss Whedon for choosing an unmodified version of Papyrus for the title of Serenity.

    A big bitch-session about how Papyrus sucks is flat boring and, frankly, takes away from the wit of the "letter" here that kicked this off. At least that letter had the spark of wit. As I said before, I would have thought that a bunch of designers would be a bit more creative than this.

    A discussion about why the Avatar typeface sets the right or wrong mood and what might have been better alternatives would be far more interesting.

    P.S. I am not the designer of Papyrus. As I've said, I also believe it is over used. However, like any design element, I think it does have its uses (however limited). But I'm sure designer Chris Costello would be thrilled to know you think he's a terrible person. If you want, you can go call him an asshole and a terrible person yourself:

  139. Hahaha! This was a very entertaining letter, good job!

    After seeing this movie, (and hearing all of the hype in the design community about the font people are really fired up about this!) I have seen Papyrus more and more. I was watching reruns of The Office the other day, and noticed it on Jan's 'Serenity by Jan' candles. There's even a website! silly

  140. Bad movie uses bad typeface. That's all I got to say about this.

  141. Effin' brilliant. Wish I could comment in Papyrus.

  142. wow..
    so the font actually ruined the ENTIRE movie for some folk?..that's just sad..sounds like you have other problems..
    & i thought this article was a joke at first..i bet the author thinks they're quite clever with this..
    however, it is pretty amazing to see just how small of a thing some people can find to gripe about..but moreso, it's sad..

  143. get a life people - I suppose you all think he should have used Goudy or Garamond.

  144. Dear Papyrus... I was just having a conversation about you the other day (someone wanted to use you as their font on an invite). For the life of me, I couldn't recall you visually. My friend tried to remind me that you were one of the oldest fonts around. I think she meant that respectfully. So I want to apologize for forgetting you, and thank the genius, Mr. Cameron, for giving an old font like you some work in a town we all know is pretty harsh on the aged. Congrats all around!

  145. ^Yeah cause being a 28 year old font makes it one of the oooooooooooldest fonts around.

    I think cameron should of used cuneiform.

  146. If you don't know what's wrong with Papyrus, then you're probably one of the people who thought up a great business idea... maybe are deciding to self publish your mind-bending theories on how to get rich? I don't know... but you took that vast knowledge, you slapped papyrus on it to make it look legit and now you're very sad that you found out it's not cool :)

    The fact that they have it on "serenity by jan" on "the office" is just proof that it's a joke... they are making fun of it! And it's so funny! Laugh!

  147. This comment has been removed by the author.

  148. Thank you! I've been taking so much grief for condenming Cameron's choice of tpye-face for Avatar! The worst of it is, my partner worked on the film. I wanted to go in to dailies and scream "Hire me, Jim! I won't let your posters look like sh*t!"

  149. It took me a minute when the subtitles first popped up to realize it was Papyrus, mostly because I don't think my brain could accept the fact that they would voluntarily use something that's routinely packaged with friggin Microsoft Word. I mean, come on, people. Let's at least try. Totally blew most of the scenes with subtitles for me, because all I could see was that font.

  150. Ok, great (if somewhat arcane) post. The comments? TL:DR

    I came here because The Rejectionist called it the greatest font joke ever, and has offered her hand in marriage to the author. Had to come and take a look.

    What I see here is:

    A) Someone who obviously knows (and cares) a lot about typefaces making a mild joke.

    B) A few others of the same *ahem* type (sorry) making some fairly intelligent comments.

    C) A bunch of anonymous kindergartners who obviously neither know nor care about typefaces at all screaming "Stupid-face! Stupid-face! Neener-neener-neener!"

    And then C has the gall to tell A to get a life.

    See ya.

  151. It should have been Comic Sans or nothing.

  152. @Robert - This is a designer's blog - by a designer, for designers... If you really need elucidation of why Papyrus is poorly crafted, terribly unreadable, and an all around blunder of a typeface, then you probably shouldn't be reading this blog in the first place, let alone be offended at the gripes we might have. It is assumed, by most of us, that we all know that this font is terrible.

    Just so that you don't reply with another "your reasoning is shit" and "your argument has a flat tire" response, I will tell you to go look up the importance of READABILITY, and the importance of READABILITY with SUBTITLES.

  153. Levi;

    I think most of us 'C' people are laughing at the 'B' people who, to date, have had little intelligent to state about what 'A' first satirized.

    You're giving 'B' people here to much credit. A lot of them are just calling Papayrus a 'poopy' font and berating James for picking a 'poopy' font in the first place. They really aren't adding anything intelligent to this exchange.

    As for us 'C' people, well, we get 'A's joke and are having more fun with the comments that 'B' people are making...

  154. Really...all this over a...font? You folks must be really bored.

  155. @ sspeier -- First of all, I'm not offended at all by your gripes. Of even any of the others here. Contrary, I think many of them are ridiculous. I'm not even offended at you calling me an asshole. That just makes me think YOU'RE ridiculous.

    Second, it's not your place to tell me I shouldn't be here. Just as you have a right to voice your gripes, I also have a right to offer my opinions -- which might include the notion that your gripes are witless. Notice that I'm not telling you to go away (but it would seem you'd rather I did, if only to save you from the trouble of crafting a response devoid of name calling). All I'm asking for is a discussion a little more intelligent than "Papyrus sucks."

    Now, had you actually read any of my comments, you'd notice that I have stated repeatedly now that I AGREE that Papyrus was a poor choice for the subtitles for exactly the reasons you repeated -- that it is difficult to read.

    Papyrus was designed as a DISPLAY font. It was never intended to be used for large amount of text. That point is not in contest here. Again, as I said previously, it was a very poor choice to use it for the subtitles. And yet, that still doesn't address the use of a Papyrus-like treatment for the title. People here aren't just complaining about the subtitles. They are complaining about the use of Papyrus *at all.* Even you write it off as an "all around blunder" while only citing as your evidence its use as a subtitle typeface. By that logic, let's trash Helvetica Black, too. Or any other display font that has ever had the misfortune to suffer the poor decision to be used for body copy.

    The initial letter in this blog post was a witty rebuttal to the choices made to use a typeface that most designers recognize is WAY over used. And instead of an intelligent discussion of the issue, most of the comments here are just boring vilifications of the existence of Papyrus. And the primary underlying reason most designers hate it? Because they see it everywhere. Had it not the misfortune of being easily available and therefore used in inappropriate ways by a bunch of non-designers and uninspired designers, I'd be willing to bet this wouldn't even be a blip in anyone's consciousness.

    I'm still waiting for your enlightened suggestions about what would have been a more appropriate typeface for the title. Or at this point, I'd even settle for your intelligent comments about how Papyrus is an "all around blunder" as a DISPLAY font.

  156. All those who are non-designers who comment on designers being assholes are bloody vaginal farts with nothing better to do then to assert their narcissitic internet persona on a forum for design dialogue. But, waah, it's so easy to do! I love being the bully on the internet because I was made fun of in my real life!

    There. Taste of your own medicine. I'm tired of seeing the same three types of people post on things like this 1) Troll assholes who just write gibberish to get everyone else mad, 2) Those who try to defend themselves by insulting the intelligence of #1, 3) The rational person trying to actual contribute to the conversation.

    Although it's unfortunate a modified Papyrus was used in a movie at all, its use in the title is disappointing, but use in the subtitles is deplorable. Display fonts are meant to be using sparingly for the fact they cannot be read as clearly as serifs, especially by those losing their eyesight.

    Write on, author of the blog, write on!

  157. How do you guys answer the phone over there with those two **s in your logo?

    What if Cameron calls?

  158. sspeier wrote:
    "Just so that you don't reply with another "your reasoning is shit" and "your argument has a flat tire" response, I will tell you to go look up the importance of READABILITY, and the importance of READABILITY with SUBTITLES."

    Okay, you say readability, and then you suggest a bunch of blandly futuristic fonts with square edges? Far less readable! I thought Papyrus (or Papyrus-esque) was a dumb and distracting choice for the subtitles, but I liked it for the title card and poster. Subtitles, IMO, should be a neutral font like Helvetica or similar.

    Your suggestions also don't make sense when it comes to an appropriate alternative. "Futuristic" was NOT what the filmmakers were going for in choosing Papyrus as much as "rustic/exotic/New-Agey." To provide a real "acceptable" alternative, you'd have to pick something from that font family.

  159. Have not seen the movie, but have seen Papyrus and have used it! Thanks for a great read and comments.

  160. Well, this is going to be yet another unwanted anonymous post, I was redirected here as a link was referenced in a movie critique site I frequent and while I hadn't originally felt inclined to respond. . .after reading the majority of ensuing comments I did wish to share my own thoughts on the matter.

    I believe it was Sun Tzu who stated that if one concerned themselves with perfecting the smallest aspects of a thing, then they would never need to worry about how it would be recieved. The analogy he used was preparing for a banquet and not having to worry whether or not those intended would enjoy, but I think it applies here as well.

    The decision regarding font, which as elemento illustrated was a poor choice on more than one level, is reflective of a total lack of concern with the details of this picture. Cameron has an eye for visualistic flare and a masterful understanding for the technical aspects of shooting a picture, much like Michael Bay, but that a pretty film is not the same as a quality film. Character development, dialogue, subtlty in exposition, and yes even font designs are all aspects which when carefully address lend themselves to the over the over quality of the final product.

    So, where others see snobbery, I see discernment. Don't let the people that live on Hamburger Helper convince you caviar is best left in the sea.

  161. Got half way through the comments, and not a single gripe was followed up with an alternative. Bitch away, but offer some sort of alternative too?

    Times New Roman maybe? *runs*

  162. Take a second to think about Chris Costello who designed Papyrus back in 1982. According to Wikipedia it was originally hand-drawn over a period of six months by means of calligraphy pen and textured paper. Just because everyone then decided it was a nice font and they wanted to use it too doesn't make it evil?

  163. @assumeyes: Disagree. I know little about design or fonts, except what I like. And yet I was shocked at the ridiculous choice of font and its size, luminosity and colour in that final splash. It was really unfortunate in the outer extreme.

  164. It was like something out of Mummy or Species or Indiana Jones Temple of Doom.

  165. ha... oh, the irony. Witness graphic designers routinely licensing stock photography (often cheap RF stock photography), instead of commissioning the creation of original images :)

  166. bob, I assure you, most designers only do that when we are not given adequate time or budget to shoot explicitly for the project. James Cameron had 300-500 million dollars and supposedly took 20 years to make this film...

  167. Honestly, how important is this isse to warrent 176+ posts in reply?

    If you're not a designer the choice of Papyrus over any other font is arbitrary and considering Avatar, with its 'crappy logotype' is the 2nd highest gorssing movie ever, shows the negligible impact the logotype has. Infact, the only impact it seems to have had is to raise the ire of a few style snobs.

    Design has a far more relevant role to play in life and furious debate about the aesthetic unsuitability of a logotype confirms the myth that design is only concerned with irrelevant surface details and is full of whimsical aesthetic decisions of little importance.

    Nothing could be farther from the truth, but as long as designers take 'issue' with things like this, then you only have yourself to blame if people don't take the profession seriously.

  168. El Propheto, I've managed to stay out of the fray in regards to all these comments, but I feel obligated to offer some rebuttal to your statement - a statement that others here have offered up but maybe not is such finite terms.

    You say the logotype has had no impact on the success of the movie. And while that's true from a numbers point of view, that is not the point behind my criticism. In fact you missed the point of this blog entirely.

    When something as huge as Avatar puts a sh*tty product like Papyrus at the fore of their marketing efforts, it perpetuates the use of sh*t in our everyday visual experience. Just look around. The world is covered in an obscene visual clutter. If you don't agree, then I feel bad for you. Because there's a lot of beauty to be seen too, if you can cut thru the clutter. This blog endeavors to show that beauty, or to at least identify the potential for it. And anyone that prefers to dismiss it as whiny bitching, can go suck an egg.

  169. @Anonymous, sure there are the few that still commission art. But the general convention portrays an industry that has embraced the cheap and quick option. With as much mark-up as the client will swallow ;-^

  170. HILARIOUS! And the best part...he hired people to make up an entire language, but couldn't come up with a font.

  171. Thanks for the reply.

    I think you've completely missed my point. However, I see you were probably replying en masse to a lot of other posts. Just to reiterate, I was commenting on the validity of this debate and its impact on the wider design profession and exactly what sort of signals this sort of debate sends. And to who?

    There was no comment on the purpose of your blog in general.

    I questioned whether 176 replies in regards to the use of a font that I consider, is really the kind of debate that deign should concern itself with. There are bigger fish to fry, so to speak: Environmental issues, designs roles in excessive consumption and its relationship to a world with diminishing resources, not to mention designs relevance to developing nations, minorities and its impact in doing social good.

    These to me make a debate about the use of Papyrus rather lightweight. It also feeds the preconception that designers are style snobs that can contribute nothing other than aesthetics. As Victor Papanek said: "Only a small part of our responsibility lies in the area of aesthetics"

    So apologies if you felt my comments were an attack on your blog, they weren't. As to your concern, almost 'pity' with regards to my ability to appreciate beauty through a world 'visual clutter', well its appreciated but you can sleep soundly in the knowledge that everything is fine with me in that department.

  172. It's commonly known that designers are basically trained to hate Papyrus, not dissimilar to New Yorkers being trained to hate New Jersey (not a new gripe, just an example).

    While it's an oversight on their part, the non-designing contributors to this blog also need to understand that they know next to nothing about choosing the correct typeface for a project and I would challenge them to start paying attention to how the type in their everyday lives affects them. There are a few people on this blog saying they didn't even notice the font. Congratulations. I'm so happy your retinas have become vestigial out of self defense. Sarcasm aside, whether or not you "noticed" the typeface, it had an impact on your reception of the movie.

    As papyrus is supposed to replicate the penmanship that was popular at the time that papyrus paper was being used, it is effective in maintaining that feel of that specific time in history. The problem with the use of Papyrus in this film is that the typeface is not being put to use in its proper environment. The movie attempts to gain a vision of the future but instead pulls a typeface from the distant past which leads to a clashing of historical accuracies. A more appropriate typeface would have been something with a more organic, futuristic feel (please understand "organic" in this sense to read as "natural." Papyrus, while appearing rustic is not considered organic as the making of the typeface is almost forced in its stylistic tendencies).

    As far as my personal opinions go, I would be more interested to hear James Cameron's reasons for using that typeface. He must have had preconceptions about his audience and their reactions when choosing that face and I would personally love to hear what he was trying to convey.

  173. These comments are hilarious.

  174. OMFG
    there are two sides to this argument and they both hinge on the vital marketing aspect that this movie is alleged by the great and the good (if you can describe professional Movie reviewers as such) to be "Visually stunning"
    Well Papyrus, and it's derivative for the Titling, just doesn't really hack it any more. It's not, was never intended to be and never will be a design classic, unless this blog post inadvertently turns it into a kitsch underground classic.

    Some designs, yes people fonts are /designed/ they don't just appear as a fully formed system font from an immaculate conception, stand the test of time, but this one is just old and tired- though still perfectly serviceable in some scenarios; a technological masterpiece of cinematography that has taken over 10 years to bring to the screen really shouldn't be one of them.

    Posters have gone on ad nauseam about how can the typographers here be so picky when this film is supposed to be "all about the visuals" and the "technology" and the "stunning design"? Well folks the news hot off the Guttenburg press is that fonts /are/ visual, fonts now use a great deal of technology, and most definitely fonts are design.

    So yes for all you non-typos out there, get over it, this was a perfectly valid and very amusing initial posting from somebody who cares about this type (sorry) of thing so much that most times you don't even notice you are using their product. I didn't notice anywhere in that posting the suggestion that the world was about to come to an end because of the use of a font (Not to self: Must check to see if he posted about "2012"), nor that Cameron should be rituallistically slaughtered in front of a Pay-per-view audience for crimes against fonts, and in no part does it direct you to submit abuse to the original poster or others that have expressed an opinion on either side of the argument.

    And for all you Typos and designers out there- there's no doubting the fact; you //were// visually stunned…… just probably not in the intended way.

    and for all of you that have made it this far and still have a sense of humour left try this link to see if you understand that font designers have a slightly skewed but wonderfully self-deprecating sense of it themselves.

  175. OH you snotty elitist designers, always hating on this poor font. Well I see a beautiful future, and it's written in Papyrus as far as the eye can see! You have no choice, conform, resistance is futile.

  176. Anonymous 14:19 probably used Papyrus for his/her wedding invitations.

  177. Very funny letter :) Papyrus is a truly awful font—if you want any sort of credibility in a design don't use it. Seriously.

    Unfortunately, as much as I'm not a fan of the AVATAR font, it's not Papyrus. Looks like it's a custom job for the movie logo (very common) that's probably based off of Papyrus since they're pretty close.

    It does, however, look like the subtitles are Papyrus, which despite it being an ugly font, it's just not an appropriate body copy font. You need to read subtitles quickly and easily. While Papyrus is nice and large, it's characters are not easy on the eyes. It's a headline font at best. I question whoever approved that idea...

  178. Firstly, I disagree with the assertion that Papyrus is OMG EVILS *everywhere*. Not only that, I also don't see the problem using it as the title of Avatar. (Subtitles, yes; title, no.)

    However, I do have to say that I found the "letter" rather humorous. I also found some of the comments relating to "font snobs" ridiculous.

    This is a blog. The entire point of blogs is to present a personal opinion. If you don't like that opinion, either *don't read it* or form rational reasons why you don't like it and post those.

    Not only is it a blog, it's also a blog about *design*. Therefore, it seems pretty obvious that this is going to showcase personal opinion about *design* (and therefore, fonts) and, to the layperson, many of these opinions are going to seem really nitpicky.

    That doesn't matter. You always have the option of, again, not reading. You also have the option of engaging in rational debate. ("ur a font snob and sux" is not rational debate.)

    (That goes for the OMG PAPYRUS SUX people too, in my opinion. "omg papyrus sux" isn't rational debate either.)

  179. Would have been better in Helvetica.

    'Nuff said.

  180. while i hate seeing papyrus everywhere, this is a purely mainstream movie, every part of it is designed to appeal to a wiiiide mainstream audience. my guess is that they thought papyrus would be vaguely familiar enough to attract an extra smidge of subconscious love from those who have seen it on the neighborhood restaurant menu/spa/etc. let's face it, regular people think it's kinda cool.

  181. Very funny.

    The commentors and/or wankers who wailed about the silly waste of time spent on this subject wasted the same silly amount of time reading through a lot of comments...just like I did.

  182. ALMOST didn't see the movie because of it. hahahahah

  183. It's a fucking font...Get a life you silly little pigs

  184. why does papyrus exist? why does anyone care?

  185. First of all I loved the movie don't hate me, and it did bother me when I saw they used Papyrus. I just couldn't get over it!! But I was thinking. Cameron is a nerd and he poked fun in the movie several times at things only nerds would get. Cameron is also innovative and a genius. I think you all underestimate him. I think his graphic designers probably had some glorious custom font design and he said use Papyrus. And his designers all said, YES SIR and waited until he left the room to freak out! But little did they know it was his intention all along. He said hey, why not make it Papyrus and sit back and watch the world lose their minds. Kind of like we are doing here. Nothing better to generate a little after discussion about the movie then loads of forums discussing the movie!

  186. COMIC SANS MAN approves!!

    We will fight together against the evil fonts!

  187. HNNNNGH I cannot stand something using a font I despise!

    This is like people getting butthurt over comic sans being used, ever. Pathetic.

  188. You guys are seriously arguing over what font was used for AVATAR?

    WOWWWW... humanity is screwed.

  189. Wow. I wish I could be like you guys - relieved of the burden of having to think for myself.

  190. Damn, lots of hate for the designers... here's a good question though, how in the world did you nondesigners find yourself on a blog called "prttyshttydesign"? Did you just google AVATAR and spend the day slamming anyone who has something negative to say about it? I think, perhaps, it's YOU who needs to get a life.

    Loved the movie, laughed at the font choice on the "most expensive movie ever made." I almost thought it was a joke, but then realized a good 95% of the movie was made by computer geeks working on souped-up PC's, then it clicked.

  191. James Cameron drove trucks for a living. I bet you'd fucking tell him how to do that too yeah?

    Just for future reference : unobtainium is a real term. People who work for a living ("engineers" which is also a real word used to describe someone who works for a living) use it to describe rare materials.

    Helicopters are great for getting around jungles - Just ask the hardworking people of Viet Nam. They had some sort of incident awhile ago, you might have heard of it, where helicopter transports came to the fore. Can't remember what it was called though, being such an obscure event.

    But hey, great burn on the font. Seriously. Cameron : -infinity PSD : 1.

    Now go "design" something.

  192. Hey Sean,

    Unobtainium is a "real" word in the sense that it's a jokey way to describe an impossible material that can solve a difficult problem. I know what it is, as do all sci-fi geeks. Which makes it an in-joke. Basing the motivations for attempted genocide on a material with a jokey name is simply bad writing.

    The Viet Nam war happened close to 200 years before this story is proposed to take place. In the meantime, humans figured out how to get to a star system that supports life at close to the speed of light*. What you see as a likely reality (i.e. useful helicopters), I see as a lack of imagination incongruent with other plot points.

    Also, for you and anyone else here who wants to tell me I don't have a place telling JC how to do his job: whether you believe it or not, a movie is designed. In fact everything you touch and see everyday was designed by someone not unlike myself... those "engineers" you seem so fond of... they're designers, my friend. And there's always room for improvement in the world of design. And yes, that includes the use of an ugly fucking font in a otherwise (purported) visual masterpiece.

    Now go "fuck" yourself.

    *By the way, it took 6 years to get to Pandora. When Jake arrives there, we learn that he lacks the proper education and training to operate an avatar. So what the hell was he doing sleeping for 6 years?! Seriously dude, put that time to good use you lazy cripple!

  193. this was the bestest birthday present ever!!!
    man or woman, i love pr*ttysh*tty!

  194. Wow--anal retentive doesn't even begin to characterize this pointless blog. The masses could care less about the font in the title--and last time I checked, the movie wasn't made for design snobs whose cleverness is only exceeded by their own futility. And I'm sure JC will care will the $2 billion his movie will make.