Algerian, The Worst Offender

I consider Algerian the worst typeface ever. Let’s see why.

I understand why regular people (not design professionals) use Comic Sans. It’s fun, readable and useful when telling co-workers to clean after themselves without sounding too preachy. Imagine writing that sort of message in a business font like Times (New Roman) or the default aseptic sans-serifs Arial and Helvetica. Comic Sans makes those signs look friendly. It tells your co-workers that what they do is just a minor nuisance (when in reality it drives everybody crazy). But Algerian? Why do people love Algerian?

Apparently Philip Kelly created Algerian in 1988 to embellish “any work which suggests the Victorian era”. It seems the Eighties didn’t spare typography either. As you can read in Philip’s comment he did not design the typeface. It was redrawn from older references. Fortunately for us, there is a typeface that suggests the Victorian era and is well crafted, versatile and very easy on the eyes: the Phaeton font by Kevin Cornell and Randy Jones.
It’s the font I used in the logo of Icon Kitchen, my little icon shop.

It looks like I’m not the only one who can’t stand Algerian. Other people suffer the existence of this offending typeface. This fun article lists the most overused typefaces around and, sure enough, Algerian made the list. Also don’t forget to hurt yourself with the Flickr pool, “The Algerian Font, a burning hate”.

How can anyone ever think of using this?!
Algerian sample image

Please note the Polish text at the bottom of the sample image. Algerian is eerily popular here in Poland. In fact it’s time for a confession:

I used to work for a company whose logo is set in Algerian.

Agro Polska sells pet products. Here’s what their website looks like:
Agro Polska website

Before you ask, yes, while I was “employed” there (I won’t elaborate on the contractual conditions, or lack thereof) I was asked to redesign the logo and the website.
My boss (a Frenchman) was adamant about keeping the font but of course he wanted me to add little animals sitting on the words:
Agro Polska logo
That’s a rainbow gradient ladies and gentlemen.
This was my desk:
Agro Polska desk
The reason cat litter is sitting on the desk, along with bird feed, is because I had to design the packaging for those products. There are dead computers sitting on the floor too…
I had just got laid off and I needed the money. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.
I’ll close this shameful confession with a Lionel Richie quote: “I’ve paid my dues to make it”

I have pictures of signs set in Algerian from over here in Poland but I won’t publish them because I’m a nice guy.
Folks, next time you cringe at Comic Sans remember: it could be much worse!

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18 Very Welcome Comments:

  • Alan says:

    I feel your pain, it seems everywhere i look people have Papyrus as their font, and i hate it. I have been doing alot of work getting my wedding preperations ready(even though its still 2 years away) and it seems that just about every company involved in doing things for weddings, use Papyrus.

    It may just be a Scotland thing, but the amount of small business’s using them is unbelievable.

    • Andrea says:

      Papyrus is used for the subtitles in Avatar, I believe, so that doesn’t help.
      I hear weddings all the rage these days, congratulations!

  • I like your defence of Comic Sans. It does make sense in some contexts. Sometimes the very crapness of a font can make a document seem more friendly and approachable.

    At Packt, we’ve been criticized for using Impact in headings for Beginner’s Guides. I chose it for these reasons: it looks “lively” — i wanted the books to feel fast paste and action-oriented, it makes the books seem accessible (if only because it’s a font everybody has access to), it’s bold enough to use white on black.

    What do you think of Impact?

    • Andrea says:

      I don’t really like Impact, it’s too tightly spaced and vertically stretched. It probably makes sense if used at big sizes and then it’s a matter of personal preference. Most designers frown upon it but, as you know, a little snobism comes with the territory.

  • PS This is a really well written article too. I’m not honestly all that interested in the subject but it made me read right to the end, and then wonder what else you had to look at. Funny confession also.

  • Dan Sweet says:

    I agree with Alan’s statement about Papyrus. Not only is it used by every wedding coordinator and “funky” small business in the history of the world, I see it all the time as an “ethnic” style font for any wide variety of conflicting cultures. Primarily–but not limited to–East Asian, South American, Native American, Middle Eastern, Canadian, etc etc, and yes–the blue Avatar people of course.
    Thanks for the entertaining rant on Algerian. Unfortunately I will now be noticing it everywhere I go.

  • tessa says:

    I don’t mind Algerian as much as i do Papyrus, that’s for sure! I think you are right about the geographical differences. Here in the states, I can’t say I have seen Algerian anywhere.

    But Scriptina and Papyrus are far overused from signs to invitations, to billboards.

  • Brandon says:

    Yea.. Not a fan of either one. Especially Papyrus(a.k.a church bulletin font). But how could everyone forget the most worldwide infamous user of Algerian.. Patron tequila! They use it on EVERYTHING.

  • Carson says:

    Solid article Andrea. Truth is, I’d never given much attention to Algerian, not one of the top 3 worst offenders on my radar. But, now I’m sure I’ll see it everywhere!

    Great approach on the topic, and kudos for defending Comic Sans. It was the favorite font of an ad guy at an agency I worked for a few years. Until reading your defense, it only brought back bad memories of said ad guy. So, it really does have a purpose being annoying designers.

    Cheers,
    Carson

    http://www.twitter.com/carsonsamson
    http://www.facebook.com/SamsonStudios

    P.S. Just stumbled upon your site today. I love the playful style you’ve applied to the website. Your work is fantastic too!

    • Andrea says:

      I wasn’t actually defending Comic Sans. It is a truly ugly typeface. Unfortunately people who lack design training think it’s cute and overuse it. It’s Microsoft fault for including it in Windows, but we know Microsoft and design never go together well.

  • Steve Shaiman says:

    I’m the guy responsible for Algerian shipping in the Microsoft font pack, and I can assure you that I never would have let it happened had I imagined how it would be abused! The worst is probably in used book stores at about 12 point, where it is used to label what books reside on which shelves.

    So why does my friend, Vinnie Connaire, get totally trashed for Comic Sans a font that is hard to make look bad (even if you think it looks bad no matter where it’s used it’s even legible at small sizes on a cellphone) where as Algerian and Papyrus (for another example) are misused more times than not?

    • Andrea says:

      Steve, I hope you were not offended by my article. Just yesterday I saw Algerian in a bookstore here in Krakow…aaargh!

  • Hahahaha! Here in Brazil, Algerian is very famous too! I loved your post, I had so many identification with your words… There is lots of people here that thinks that if it’s not Times, Arial or Verdana, it’s kind of, an unknown font! It’s like “oh, Algerian is so original, it’s not Times New Roman…” By the way, congrats for the blog!

  • Philip Kelly says:

    Philip Kelly (Philip has a single l) wishes to put the record straight:
    ’Actually I did not design Algerian. There are some web sites that have this wrong information. I did work for Letraset and I did cut some of the master artwork for the condensed version, but it was not my original design. My original Letraset designs are can be viewed here on my web site: :http://www.pkfont.co.uk/page4.htm
    At Letraset, I worked on hundreds of weight changes and modifications, but these are my only self-created Letraset typefaces. I would have created Algerian Condensed only because I was asked to by my superiors at Letraset, not because I felt there was a need for it or I simply wanted to. So in a nutshell, the original Algerian is re-draw / cut from some Stephen Blake 1911 references. Whilst Algerian Condensed is an optically condensed version that I was asked to work on, under a senior designer’s direction. As the normal width Algerian was such a good seller, a condensed version was decided upon.“

  • mmm says:

    I stumbled on this post while Googling for the phrase “why does Patron use Algerian,” and while I’m none the wiser on that front, I am delighted by the thought of a Frenchman fighting to hang on to a font called Algerian.

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