How the Papyrus Font Ended Up on Every Computer

Connormah, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Connormah, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain / Connormah, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Papyrus has been called “the other most hated font in the world” (after Comic Sans, of course). But where did it come from? It turns out the vilified typeface is the creation of illustrator Chris Costello, who was paid a mere $2500 for it back in 1983.

Fast Company recently spoke with Costello, who explained that back in the ‘80s, he designed the font for fun while working as an illustrator at an ad agency. “There was a lot of downtime at this agency between projects,” he explained. “So I did a lot of playing around, illustrating and lettering things, just doing my own work." 

Papyrus started out as little more than an experiment. Costello played around with designing different letters at a time when he was “thinking a lot about the Middle East ... and Biblical Times.” 

Costello eventually sold the typeface to Letraset, a British company that specialized in vinyl lettering sheets for use in art projects. For years, Papyrus remained a little-known Letraset typeface. Fifteen years after Costello originally sold the font, however, Letraset began licensing Papyrus, along with many of its other fonts, for use in desktop publishing. Then, in 1997, Microsoft picked up the font and made it one of the standard fonts that comes preinstalled on Microsoft Office. Fast Company estimates that, as of 2012, Papyrus was on the computers of at least a billion people. 

Costello says he never dreamed Papyrus would become so famous. “When I originally designed it, I imagined this very narrow context for its use,” he told Fast Company. “These days, though, everyone uses it for everything.” 

[h/t: Fast Company]