Papyrus font

Papyrus (Font)

Updated Mar 21, 2024 at 12:37PM EDT by Owen.

Added Oct 03, 2017 at 10:24AM EDT by Matt.

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Related Explainer: What Are 'Papyrus' Memes? The Instagram Font Turned Ironic Meme Trend Explained

About

Papyrus is a widely used and available typeface that was created to mimic and evoke ancient text on papyrus paper. The font, however, has been criticized for its overuse in graphic design, particularly on the signs of small businesses, and was the subject of mockery after its inclusion in the logo and marketing materials for 2009's Avatar, the highest-grossing movie of all time. The criticism is similar to Comic Sans.

In the early 2020s, a genre of Hood Irony memes called Papyrus Irony spread on Instagram because Papyrus was a secret "Easter egg" font that could be used in story posts. Papyrus then became associated with the Wait I'm Goated shirt and memes, among other trends.

Origin

In 1982, graphic designer Chris Costello developed papyrus at the age of 23. The designer described[1] the process of developing the font as:

"I designed the font when I was 23 years old. I was right out of college. I was kind of just struggling with some different life issues, I was studying the Bible, looking for God and this font came to mind, this idea of, thinking about the biblical times and Egypt and the Middle East. I just started scribbling this alphabet while I was at work and it kind of looked pretty cool."


ABCDEFGHIJKLM NOPQRSTUVWXY ZÄAabcdefghjklmn o 7 234567890(S£.,!?) 48

Spread

The following year, in 1983, the company Letraset, who produced sheets of typefaces and other art supplies, released the font.

In the mid-90s, Costello sold the font for $750. Starting in the year 1997, Microsoft began including the font on several pieces of software for the Windows operating system.[2] The company describes the font:

"Papyrus font is a popular and unusual roman typeface that effectively merges the elegance of a traditional roman letterform with the hand-crafted look of highly skilled calligraphy."

On October 24th, 2003, Apple released Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther" operating system, which became the first to offer Papyrus on the Mac.[3]

Criticism

On Septmber 26th, 2006, Urban Dictionary[11] user SaraCook described the the typeface as "A microsoft font that is used on the door of EVERY day-spa, salon, small zoo, and cheap advertisment pamphlet/billboard out there!" The post (shown below) received more than 100 upvotes within 11 years.


papyrus A microsoft font that is used on the door of EVERY day-spa, salon, small zoo, and cheap advertisment pamphlet/billboard out there! "This town must be CHEAP! Every billboard and local sign is in Papyrus font!" "SEE!! There it is again! It's EVERYWHERE!" said the sign maker named E! #not pronounced pap-i-roos #usually used to describe somethingjungle-like #or exotic #font used most by microsoft users #hated most by graphic artists by SaraCook September 26, 2006

On July 1st, 2008, the website Papyrus Watch[4][5] was registered. The blog documents the overuse of the font, describing[5] their mission as "What? Papyrus. The font I once used on a 5th grade paper about Egypt is now everywhere. Papyrus is taking over logos and products, print media and even websites. Papyrus Watch sets out to document and expose the overuse of the Papyrus font."


Papyrus in Dublin Red Rose Café Up The Dubs

Use in Avatar

On August 24th, 2009, the website Bleeding Cool[6] published an article entitled "Font Watch: Has The Recession Affected The Avatar Papyrus Choice?" In the piece, writer Rich Johnson criticizes the marketing for James Cameron's then-upcoming mult-million dollar film. He writes:

"Avatar. The biggest, greatest, most eagerly awaited blockbuster from James Cameron. With a marketing budget that will cost almost as much as the movie itself. And a cheap-ass design font. Well, you know, there is a recession on."

In addition to using the font in the marketing materials, people mocked the film for using the papyrus in the film's subititles. Through out 2009, people on Twitter expressed their confusion and distaste for the font. (examples below). On December 19th, 2009, Gizmodo[7] published an article entitled "I Spent $300 Million on This Movie and All I Got Were These Lousy Papyrus Subtitles." The article describes the outcry against the font and calls it the "second most hated font of all time (because nothing is worse than Comic Sans)."

On January 4th, 2010, the blog prttyshttydesign[8] published an open letter from the font Papyrus to Avatar-director James Cameron openly mocking the director.


Avatar gets a F- for bad hawaiian music and use of Papyrus. I thought the typeface Gods smote that font in the 90s. It takes a twisted man to work on a movie for 15 years, have it come out as well as Avatar, and then decide to use Papyrus for the subtitles Really enjoyed Avatar, it's going to make a lot of money. Didn't enjoy the use of Papyrus in the subtitles. Really James, Papyrus???

On May 23rd, 2017, Saturday Night Live writer Julio Torres tweeted,[9] "Every day I wake up and remember that Avatar, a huge international blockbuster, used Papyrus font for their logo and no one stopped them." The post (shown below) recieved more than 2,100 retweets and 8,700 likes in less than six months.


julio torres ~* @juliothesquare Every day I wake up and remember that Avatar, a huge international blockbuster, used Papyrus font for their logo and no one stopped them.

Later that year, on September 30th, Saturday Night Live aired a sketch about one viewer's obsession with the supposed negarious actions of the typographer who decided to use papyrus in Avatar. When posted to YouTube, the video (shown below) received more than 2.6 million views. The following day, Redditor [9] fftamahawk009 posted the video to /r/television, garnering 16,000 (87% upvoted) and 960 comments in two days.



The following day, the creator of the font, Chris Costello, spoke to CBS News[10] (video below).



"I woke up this morning Sunday and my email was full," said Chris Costello. "I had a lot of people telling me, 'Did you see this 'Saturday Night Live' thing?' I took a look at it and me and my wife were like cracking up, I mean we couldn't stop laughing. It was one of the best things I've seen."

On the criticism of the font, Costello continued:

"I really think -- and again if I can take this time to apologize to my brother and sister graphic designers. I'm a graphic designer as well, I'm an illustrator … I believe it's a well-designed font, it's well-thought it."

"It was sold to Microsoft, it was sold to Apple … it came packaged with Mac OS. It ended up being a default font set on every computer since 2000. Since that point, it's been on every computer in the world … anybody who has a Mac or Microsoft operating system. With that broad range, that broad appeal, anybody could use it, not just graphic designers," he said.

"So that's when I began to see it turn up everywhere: mortgage ads, construction logos. It was kind of out of control. It was not my intent to be used for everything -- it's way overused."

Instagram's "Easter Egg" Font

On August 13th, 2021, Instagram[12] user @ec.wife became the first to report that an "Easter egg" font was included on Instagram stories, the Papyrus typeface. @ec.wife demonstrated that one needed to click on Comic Sans in a story post and type "Papyrus" to unlock the font. Over two years, the post received roughly 13,900 likes (shown below). On the same day, @ec.wife posted her video to TikTok,[13] gaining over 77,300 plays and 760 likes in the same timeframe.



Soon after, in August 2021, other TikTokers[14][15] posted videos about the secret font, gaining viral engagement. News outlets, such as Mashable,[16] also started to publish articles on the phenomenon.

Papyrus Irony

Predominantly starting in 2023, usage of the Papyrus font became increasingly common on Instagram meme pages, specifically within so-called "Hood Irony" circles. The Papyrus trend was widely popularized by Instagram[17] user @ug2sick (formerly @bug2sick) and Instagram user @schassisirony who both started using the font sometime in mid-2023.

One of the earliest, still accessible uses of the font on Instagram in 2023, was a post shared by Instagram[18] user @schassisirony on June 21st, 2023, using the Squidward's Suidice image, gaining roughly 5,000 likes in five months (shown below, left).

The trend became commonplace on other social media sites in late 2023, evident in a post shared by X[19] user @sugarsmorecake on November 9th, 2023, gaining roughly 10,000 likes in four days (shown below, right).


How I be looking at n----- having fun Melbourne eugene PLCS90 > jonjon JonJon may everyone say name Eugene This N---- named Eugene Bru thats not your name

Wait I'm Goated

On July 19th, 2023, the Instagram[20] account @wtmgtd (an outlet of Instagram[17] user @ug2sick) started posting images of a t-shirt with the phrase "wait I'm goated" written in Papyrus. The shirt (shown below) became well-known online, evident in collabs with influencers like Henry Kava and Diddybop.


wait im goated

The shirts and its Papyrus-related trend also drew criticism from many, such as underground rapper phreshboyswag in a tweet[21] shared on August 30th, 2023.

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