I needn’t mention the font that rhymes with Atomic Fans—public opinion has already ratified it as the archetypal example of a bad font.
Yet among bad fonts, that one doesn’t tend to annoy skilled typographers. At least it’s honest about what it is. And inept typographers will always be attracted to inept fonts.
No, the truly bad fonts are the ones that lure inexperienced typographers with false virtues, and then become entrenched as hallmarks of amateurish typography.
Papyrus is just such a poseur. Papyrus is meant to look historic and hand-drawn, but it is neither. It’s an alphabet from the early ’80s wearing a week’s stubble. Skip it.
Bookman and Bodoni are probably better described as skunked fonts, because we can imagine a time when they were used well. But that time is long gone. Bookman evokes the Ford administration. If fonts were clothing, this would be the corduroy suit. As for Bodoni, its high-contrast design is flashy and attractive, but annoying to read after three words.
Copperplate is a novelty design that’s overstayed its welcome by forty or fifty years. It remains popular on the signage and menus of businesses that want to signal
Script faces have improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, as type designers have used OpenType features to better effect. Therefore, in comparison, the script fonts from the beginning of the digital age—like the dozen or so bundled with Microsoft Office—can’t help but look clunky and cheap. (Brush Script, originally designed in 1942, is shown above.)