Why You Shouldn’t Use Standard System Fonts

By November 6, 2015May 24th, 2021verve

You’re working on a dreamy design project, and are ready to add your amazing text copy – but wait! Don’t reach for a boring old standard system font! (At least, not if you want your message to shine!)

Standard system fonts are those that come pre-installed on your computer – for example, the ones that come up in Microsoft Word.

I can hear you now…”But it’s just text,” you’re saying. “System fonts must be good enough – those fonts are popular for a reason!”

Consider this, though: every element you use in your design, including your text, is an opportunity to represent the uniqueness and individuality of your brand. Will the overused fonts, pre-loaded on millions and millions of computers all over the world, really help you stand out?

Fonts that have been used over and over again communicate directly to your brain that it’s looking at something “dated,” and it’s detrimental not only to the image of your brand, but also its credibility and seriousness.

That’s a pretty good reason to switch things up, right? But what should you use if not the same old, same old?

Here are some great designer-approved alternatives to the standard system fonts:

Instead of: Times New Roman

Try this: New Baskerville

Why: Originally created in 1929 for the Times of London British newspaper, this font is one of the most ubiquitous in the world. Its usage makes sense for newspapers, because its narrow appearance allows for more text per line. However, because it comes installed on practically every device ever, it’s taken over documents and advertisements everywhere. Times New Roman is, perhaps, the most “standard” of all standard system fonts – demonstrating no effort, let alone creativity, whatsoever. New Baskerville is a lesser-used, but still readable and elegant, font that works just as well.

Instead of: Arial

Try this: Din

Why: Arial was designed in 1982 to mirror the popular Helvetica font, so that documents using Helvetica could still be displayed and shared without the need for a Helvetica license. Perhaps for this reason, it’s become as common in modern documents as Times New Roman (if not more so). In fact, one of its creators even described it as “a generic sans serif, almost a bland sans serif.” Assuming you’re seeking a font that’s simple and readable – not so much generic and bland – Din shares many of Arial’s positive qualities without appearing everywhere.

Instead of: Papyrus

Try this: Ventana

Why: Hand-drawn in 1982, and intended to look as though it was actually written on papyrus 2000 years ago, the Papyrus font (along with the next font on our list) seems to be one of the most reviled typefaces still in use. (One website even called it “the king of bad fonts.”) Unlike Times New Roman and Arial, Papyrus isn’t simple, elegant or even particularly readable – yet it appears in marketing everywhere! If your project requires an old-fashioned font with a stylish twist, consider Ventana as an alternative. It was created using a Chinese ink and a bamboo pen, and evokes some of the same things Papyrus’ creator was probably aiming for, before so badly missing the design mark.

Instead of: Comic Sans

Try this: Noyh

Why: If Papyrus is the enemy of designers, Comic Sans is the enemy of everyone. It was created in 1994 with comic book lettering as its inspiration, and intended for use in informal documents and educational settings. Since then, it’s practically become a punchline, with many designers also composing serious critiques – the most significant of which being that the font’s childish appearance often conflicts with the seriousness of the message it’s sometimes used to convey. (Some folks in the Netherlands may disagree, as they celebrate a Comic Sans Day every July!) For projects where a friendly, less-serious tone is suitable, the Noyh font family is a good choice. It’s modern and geometric in appearance, and pleasing to the eye – as opposed to causing eyes to roll!

Instead of: Bradley Hand

Try this: Blend

Why: Another attempt at a casual font, Bradley Hand was created in 1995 to mimic the writing of its creator, Richard Bradley. While its felt-marker-on-paper effect may be well-suited for fun design projects, it’s also so very common. Blend, a customisable font family with a creative, hand-drawn feel, is more interesting, more versatile, and doesn’t appear in a million designs already. It’s a great option for projects with a little whimsy.

Keep in mind that it’s totally okay to use system fonts for your body copy in Word documents like internal reports – especially when the document needs to be shared across multiple computers, requiring everyone has the standard system font installed. Even if you need to rely on standard fonts, you can still take steps to create a document that’s otherwise well-branded. Enhance your document by incorporating a professional logo and flat header- and footer banner graphics that complement the system font, but also make your branding unique.

Interested in purchasing one of the alternative fonts we’ve suggested? All are available for purchase here! We’d also love to hear about your favourite fonts off all time (designer, standard or otherwise)!

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