Avatar’s use of the Papyrus font was brilliantly trashed in Saturday Night Live’s season opener. Host Ryan Gosling tracked down the greatest typographical conspiracy of our time: How did this multi-billion-dollar blockbuster end up with a lowly Microsoft Office font as its official graphic design? “[James Cameron] just highlighted ‘Avatar,’ clicked the drop-down menu and he randomly selected Papyrus,” Gosling tells his therapist (Kate McKinnon) in the bit, “like a thoughtless child, just wandering by a garden, yanking leaves along the way.”
Now, Chris Costello, the creator of Papyrus, has responded: “I designed the font when I was 23 years old. I was right out of college. I was kind of just struggling with some different life issues, I was studying the Bible, looking for God and this font came to mind, this idea of, thinking about the biblical times and Egypt and the Middle East. I just started scribbling this alphabet while I was at work and it kind of looked pretty cool.” Costello said he loved the SNL joke, but stands by the font: “I really think — and again if I can take this time to apologize to my brother and sister graphic designers — I believe it’s a well-designed font, it’s well-thought out.”
Costello sold the font for $750 and told CBSN he receives “very low” royalty payments now that it has been a computer standard since 2000. “So that’s when I began to see it turn up everywhere: mortgage ads, construction logos,” Costello said. “It was kind of out of control. It was not my intent to be used for everything — it’s way overused.” Lucky for us, Cameron is busy conjuring up four more Avatar movies in the pipeline that will surely keep Papyrus in heavy rotation.