Avatar / Papyrus

Fucking fuck.


Above: Dan Sinclair, from an earlier post. Geotypografika readers may remember Dan’s experiment as a serious attempt to create an appropriate design/interaction given the limitations of Papyrus. A successful experiment to say the least, and also worth the debate, a good designer should be able to design something beautiful/good with Papyrus (insert any ‘limitation’). Maybe we would all agree, however, that they shouldn’t be made to.

Papyrus / I see you.
Enter Avatar, the now $1Billion plus worldwide hit (and, as entertainment, worth every penny). I am sure many have reflected on what this means to our small world of typographic and graphic interests. In my opinion, it has troublesome implications.

A 300-million-dollar movie made with cutting edge technology, which includes a new language for the film’s native speakers, stunning computer screen grid animations and more visual wizardry, fell back on fu*king Papyrus for the subtitled sequences and a thinly veiled main title. Worse still? They made it in 3D… It’s true, brothers and sisters,
I have seen it.

What did we do to deserve this insult?
The biggest blockbuster, the most famous director, blah, blah, blah… It’s fu*king Papyrus! Highly competent and intelligent people made this decision, and can one say they were wrong? Look at the numbers! Was their reasoning that it is so universally recognized they found it advantageous, aesthetics be damned? Or, did they think the aesthetics fit?! It is a fatal flaw in the film, aesthetically, clearly?! It seems to me, all of the potential variables in this situation lead to graphic and typographic seppuku.
What does all of this mean?

Simply put, despite the rich variety of contemporary graphic and typographic projections in our world, it means we still have much work to do in terms of advancing public knowledge of what graphic design and typography are. An online friend remarked, when I included a lament about this, that she loved “people who could identify fonts.” I know, I know. Geotypografika readers will also understand that there are much more important things to worry about, but c’mon y’all!

It’s fu*king Papyrus.

I mean, it’s depressing. The Star Wars of our time, and it’s Papyrus.
What does that tell you?

More on this, out there: Pr*tty Sh*tty, Gizmodo, Papyrus Watch.

15 Responses to “Avatar / Papyrus”

Avatar / Papyrus: Fucking fuck.

Above: Dan Sinclair, from an earlier post. Geotypografika readers may remember D… http://bit.ly/58yIKj

Erik Brandt added these words on Jan 06 10 at 4:56 PM

re: avatar and the papyrus; my typo prof @geotypografika basically says it better than I could've: "fucking fuck." http://bit.ly/58yIKj

C Billadeau added these words on Jan 06 10 at 5:38 PM

Hey Erik,
I was just having a conversation about this. I am reminded of a documentary I saw last year at MCAD. We were granted a special screening, (via a bootlegged copy) of the film, and everyone in class agreed it was powerful, yet all the titles and credits were in papyrus, I think to give it that “precious, from-the-earth feel”. My good friend (a film major, and comic artist) noticed the fatal flaw and took such offence to it that he emailed the director. Who thanked him for his concern and suggestions, but was curious how he had seen a film that had only screened at an international film festival!

Hope all is well in the frozen tundra, I’m just trying to beat the heat here.

Colin Trechter added these words on Jan 07 10 at 1:53 AM

Fresh snow here last night, Colin. Thanks for this story, it underscores the point that they must have had an inkling, even well before your friends email, and had decided it was appropriate. More power to ’em, I suppose. I wonder though, given the global typographic outrage over the IKEA font change, where is the response from our community now?

Erik Brandt added these words on Jan 07 10 at 9:28 AM

erik, it sounds like you aren’t a fan of papyrus…

but if everybody uses it, doesn’t that make it good?

i mean, come on! those curves, the spacing…and i just love that rough edged treatment…mmm…its like eating a big,old,american, country/western, deep fried cheeseburger!

joe added these words on Jan 10 10 at 10:45 PM

You are killing me, Joe! :-) I’ve asked that same question for years.

Erik Brandt added these words on Jan 11 10 at 10:50 AM

man oh man oh man…do I love papyrus.

Dolly Vu added these words on Jan 11 10 at 5:17 PM


I know of no snow but yo snow, I follow weather here and there! (Pathetic perhaps). But I had to return to this conversation because I just had a meeting that turned into drinks, where the Avatar papyrus convo came up, which tangented into the Ikea Verdana debate. It was decided that given the internet’s propensity for turning mundane gossip and tid-bits into snowballing mega-trends, the most genius approach is to capitalize on this viral activity. Intentional faux-pas…. that said, we think James saw papyrus on the script cover and became immediately attached, nothing could deter him.

Colin Trechter added these words on Jan 15 10 at 6:17 AM

Excellent, Colin! Glad you returned and happy for your summer as well. I bet you are not far off, it had to be something as simple as that.

Erik Brandt added these words on Jan 15 10 at 8:50 AM

Papyrus is something that seems to function for society at large. It is used over and over again for similar things. Its the default for expressing tribal cultures amongst so many other things. Its sad but what is more depressing is that it’s used continuously. I know I am not saying anything new here but its true. This typeface is used to compare ancient/tribal cultures and now it seems to represent many things in American culture. Its comparable to Entertainment and advertising culture that is not concerned with good promotional design, or more specifically poster design. Its all the cut corners that make a poster design now, especially in entertainment, and Papyrus is one of many things that reflect half ass effort, at least when it comes to people who should know better, such as avatar design people.

Dan Sinclair added these words on Jan 20 10 at 3:11 PM

Sound words from the man himself, thanks for taking the time to comment, Dan.

Erik Brandt added these words on Jan 21 10 at 10:51 AM

The first thing I thought of, back when I first started thinking about this, was that James Cameron had that font in his library and decided that because he had the set of fonts he did, that they were the most universal, best, most good fonts of all the fonts, and that getting something else would be deterring from the art. The art being the film. Like people choosing a standard size for a poster, or deciding to have your CD put in stores in the standard jewel case.

But no matter how much I want to believe that the creators of this film simply did not want to or did not know that they should go there, make that effort with the titles and such, it does come back to two things for me: 1. they used it for the subtitles, which sort of wrecks the idea I had that they just wanted to remain standard. 2. At the end of the film, the title is stretched to fill the screen.

Someone let someone be very irresponsible.

Chris Burns added these words on Jan 31 10 at 1:32 AM

The mystery remains, thanks for your time, Chris.

Erik Brandt added these words on Jan 31 10 at 10:08 AM

Considering the story line being that of Pocahontas (sorry guys, never seen Dances With Wolves. I saw Grandmother Willow in Avatar, and I’m pretty sure Dances With Wolves didn’t have Grandmother Willow.), and an insane lack of swearing, ie: an expensive film made for both children and adults, I’d like to think they were aiming the font more towards a child-recognizable one (while, y’know, outraging certain adults for no *good* reason). Kids are now going to recognize that font as the Avatar font, whether they can read or not. You’ve only got one shot with adults, and nowadays that shot’s mostly used up in Who’s Got Best Graphics (Avatar’s got that, so adults are taken care of). Now they’ve got a font that, whenever a five year old sees it, in regards to Avatar or not, will subliminally (or perhaps not so subliminally?) think, “Avatar! Mommy, I want Avatar for my birthday! Daddy, will you buy me an Avatar stuffed animal? Santa, can I have some Avatar toys for Christmas?”

And guess what? Kids are going to get their super-cool Avatar lunch boxes when they go back to school! Everyone ELSE has one…

Every damned one of them is going to have Papyrus on it.

Heather Tatarek added these words on Feb 26 10 at 12:09 AM

Thanks for the comment, Heather, I want one now too. :-)

Erik Brandt added these words on Feb 26 10 at 8:40 AM

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