The ugly duckling in this story is the decorative typeface family. It’s hard to identify the origins of this category, but it exists nonetheless. But make no mistake, these typefaces can be both useful and devastating all at once.
Decorative typefaces usually don’t have an entire family. There’s typically only one version and it exists as a drawing would. You would do well to avoid this category on a professional level unless your profession is children’s birthday cards or an Etsy shop. It’s kitschy and unfortunately irresistible to small business owners. You will rarely find a business that has been around for a while that has branded with a decorative typeface.
An exception to this rule was the huge success of the movie Avatar. They used the Papyrus typeface to brand their entire film. It was used for the title, the promotional material, and even the subtitles. Although this movie was widely successful, it has since been tirelessly mocked as a result of using Papyrus.
With that being said, Decorative typefaces can find their way into good design. It just needs to be considered and used tastefully… and rarely.
Script typefaces exist somewhere in the middle of these extremes. Like decorative, script tends to be overused by the DIY crowd. Plus, it rarely varies. Many design programs come with a handful of stock script typefaces that tend to get abused the most.
However, there are some very tasteful script typefaces that have secure homes in the design world. I would suggest avoiding script for lengthy body copy and most headlines. Script, like decorative, just says too much and can get in the way of your message at times.
If you’re using a script typeface that is overly abstract and inconsistent, just make sure that your message is also that. Another thing to consider is, “NEVER USE ALL CAPS FOR SCRIPT!” It simply wasn’t designed for that and it’s messy and unreadable.
Type says so much more about you and your business than you could ever imagine. Much like the care and repair of your teeth, seek a trained professional’s help in these matters. Or, roll the dice with Papyrus. 😉
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