The tragedy of the Fourth Font

What’s tragic about it, of course, is that it never should have happened in the first place:

Using more than three fonts is not a sign of talent; using more than three fonts is a sign of laziness and a sign that you simply own a “1,000 Great Fonts” disc. Using so many fonts doesn’t create more visual interest in a website or in a publication; it causes your eye to flit from font to font, never giving the eye a chance to take in what any of it says. A good designer allows the eye to rest and a rested eye can read, can appreciate.

Who knew there were a thousand great fonts?

(Disclosure: I have at hand, counting each variant and weight as one, 751 fonts. In practice, I may dig out twenty in a year’s time. On this page, I use, um, three.)

Obviously, something set me off. It was a professional organization’s newsletter. Completely assembled by an “experienced graphic designer”. Said designer does not even have their own website to display their handiwork or I’d send you there so you could point and giggle or shriek in horror. Said designer has another website, though, but I refuse to link to it since it’s so poorly designed (with all sorts of embedded players that start at the same time) it’ll crash even the hardiest of computers. It frightens me to think someone somewhere is paying such a person good money for work that has not evolved since 1985.

Of course, anyone can hang out his shingle as a “designer.” Then again, anyone who’s ever eaten in an Army mess knows to be suspicious of shingles.


  1. fillyjonk »

    9 December 2012 · 7:49 pm

    In my profession, multiple fonts in a paper is kind of a big flashing warning sign: “Part of this may well have been plagiarized from a website.”

    Too many fonts on a website = the website equivalent of what those of us who do statistics call “chartjunk.” (IMHO, of course)

  2. CGHill »

    9 December 2012 · 7:55 pm

    You’d think a careful plagiarist would fix these matters before submission, but apparently not.

  3. fillyjonk »

    9 December 2012 · 8:26 pm

    It’s the education version of my mom’s aphorism about smart people not becoming criminals.

  4. GradualDazzle »

    9 December 2012 · 9:49 pm

    If someone uses more than a couple of fonts, I *will* judge. True story. :) And I occasionally break this personal rule… but it’s something I insist on, as a yearbook adviser for my high school.

  5. Da Goddess »

    9 December 2012 · 10:10 pm

    Thank God! There *is* hope for this world! I honestly thought I might be overly sensitive fontwise. But now I see…I have a tribe!

  6. McGehee »

    10 December 2012 · 8:28 am

    In the code on my site I believe one would find precisely three fonts: “serif,” “sans-serif” and “monospace.” That way the visitor chooses the exact fonts that display — and only three of them.

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