Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to Design a Font that Really Sucks

If you had asked me, a few years back before I was heavily into incorporating text as an integral part of my daily routine of artsy what-nottery, if a font could suck, I mean really suck, suck to the point of drawing all goodness out of the project in which it was used and make me want to stick sharp objects in my brain as a result of its absolute unmitigated suckery, I would have said no. I would have likely said “pffffft, of course not, it’s just letters, it may not be exactly what you want but how can it actually suck?”

Little did I know. So very little. There are fonts in this world that exist at a level of sucking that Stephen Hawking, Stephanie Meyer and James Dyson can only dream of someday understanding.

But if you too dream of creating something that really really sucks, it doesn’t have to remain merely an impossible dream. You will be well on your way to Hall of Fame Sucking Greatness if you can design a font that includes any or all of the following characteristics.


Few things thrill me more, when I am trying to lay out a block of text as a single block rather than a dozen separate lines, than using a font with padding that exceeds the size of the letters themselves coded into it. Seriously. I love a 12px pad on 10px characters. It rocks. I have specially choreographed happy dances for just these little moments. To Ricky Martin songs, even.

Then there's...


Go ahead, call me old-fashioned. When I type letters, I like the letters I type to look like the letters I type. So it’s a little wake up call for me, a much-needed nudge into the present, when I find a font that makes, for instance, a lowercase ‘k’ look exactly like a lowercase ‘f’, and the ‘f’ look just like a ‘t’, and the ‘t’ like an uppercase ‘I”. This is not a bad thing, in no way a flaw in the font. II’s me, clinging Io a pasI IhaI has no place in Ihe now, insIead of loofing torward inIo a brighIer Iomorrow.

And finally, a recently discovered favorite...


When I first encountered the “craaazy” font that manifests its craaaziness in the form of adding extra characters to text, characters that the user didn’t actually type, my initial impulse was to drive to my mother’s house and slap her for not letting me know sooner that my life could ever be so good. It was like every wordy dream I never knew I had coming true all at once. Particularly when my text included a URL and I was just giddy imagining all the fun people would have trying to find my website! They wouldn’t know which of the craaazy mystery characters was the extra, it could keep them occupied for days! Why do we not play Hide & Seek on the Internet more often? What is this insistence on making businesses so easy for people to just waltz into? WHERE’S THE CRAAAZY FUN IN THAT?!

And that, boys and girls, is how you make a stupid font that really sucks.

This post is dedicated with gratitude to the creator(s) of Monotype Corsiva, my new go-to font. Mr. and/or Mrs. Corsiva, I heart you with all of my heart.


  1. when i finally find cs3 (no luck yet ;_;), you can be introduced to the wonderful world of kerning/leading adjustment in photoshop, which will help at least with number one on your list. <4

  2. I know that very often you CAN go in and adjust padding/leading/whatever-the-kids-are-calling-it-these-days (and I use "pad" because every time I DO have to change the code, that's the value I'm changing so I'm sticking with that term), I just think you shouldn't HAVE to. What possible reason could there be for leaving that much space?

    And yes, please, I REALLY REALLY need that disc, let me know if there's anything I can do to help you find it.

  3. Grunge Fonts make me insane. I can't imagine how much effort was required to make a font look sloppy or faded... I just don't understand why.

  4. I'm with you on that one, there are a number of fonts that just make me wonder... why?! Why are you people not using your gifts for good?!