Q&A with Chris Costello - Font Designer (Papyrus)

I conducted this interview with Chris Costello designer of the font Papyrus a few years ago in relation to my Masters thesis project on Stereotypography (The stereotyping of cultures through typeface(s) commonly associated with them). I hope you all enjoy.

How did you originally create the font Papyrus?
I started sketching letters with a flat-nib pen on watercolor paper. The texture is natural.

When creating Papyrus, what was your initial goal for the use of the font?
I envisioned it would have uses for very specific themes primarily related to Eastern culture.

What do you think of Papyrus now?
It's widely used without discretion.

Why do you think Papyrus is so popular when designing toward the Asian market?
I think, from a Western point of view, it has some similarities to calligraphic writing styles used in China, India and primarily the Middle East because of the extended appearance of the characters.

Do you think Papyrus is overused?
Yes, it is on every computer in the world.

If you could set the rules for every designer who wanted to use Papyrus, what would they be and why?
The only thing I can say is use sparingly, it's not for everything.

Have you ever heard of Stereotypography before?
Other than the printing process, no.

Do you think of Papyrus as a stereotype of Asian culture? Why or Why not?
No. It is only my interpretation or suggestion of "The Far East" to fellow Westerners. I'm sure the Chinese or Arabs would think otherwise.

In your opinion, what makes a font a stereotype. The creation? The application?
Many fonts are created for a specific, purpose like Johnston in 1916 for London's Underground because it's easy to read (when you are in a hurry). It was very modern for that period and over the years, has proven to be timeless. I think it's stereotypical "modern" looking font, similar to Gotham or Frutiger. Because many designers seem to agree on that point, these fonts are accepted and widely used for "hip" or "clean" looking design solutions.

What should designers do to avoid using fonts as stereotypes?
If I understand your questions correctly, I don't think this should be avoided because in the real world of design (not just in theory), you may only have enough time to pick your favorite stereotype to quickly make a design work before it's out the door to the printer, thus preserving your reputation with your client or your boss.

~end of interview

I hope that you all enjoyed the Q&A with Chris Costello. He was very gracious to help me out when I was working on my thesis. Be sure to leave comments or Questions if you have any. I will be posting a Q&A with Andy Cruz, Owner | Creative Director of House Industries (also related to my thesis) later this week.

Happy Designing!!!


  1. Nice Interview! That Font is one of my favorites next to Garamond ( I think that is correct I always misspell it)

  2. Thanks! I used to misappropriate Papyrus in my designs. But now that I have studied Stereotypography I haven't used it again. LOL Love Garamond. Especially Garamond Italic.