A scary font is a typeface that looks like it could be out to get you. It can take many forms, but the best are those fonts that look like they have been badly mistreated at some point. These include worn-looking fonts, ones that have been sloppily cut and even rusty ones. They work because they prompt a reaction from the reader: either revulsion or curiosity. The effect is the same as if you were to see a symbol of death on someone’s skin—or, in the case of writing, on a page.
The most famous example of this trend is Helvetica, which for decades was viewed as a cold and industrial typeface that had been designed to convey business seriousness. This reputation was cemented in the 1970s when Rolling Stone used it on its cover. But then along came hipsters, who began to associate Helvetica with grunge and unkemptness. They saw it as a bad typeface and started replacing it with other fonts they liked better. This perception led to what we now know as skeuomorphic design—the use of physical objects in digital design, such as buttons and wooden lettering—which has been seen as a return to Helvetica’s original purpose: to communicate seriousness through purity and functionality.
There are scary fonts, and then there are just plain creepy fonts. The scariest fonts are designed to mess with your mind. They can be used for advertising, when creating a horror movie poster, or even in a book. These fonts tend to have thick, heavy lines and strange shapes. They’re often accompanied by negative images so readers will associate the font itself with the negative images. For example, if you see a typeface called “Truckee” it could be accompanied by an image of a body floating in water. There are two types of scary fonts: decorative and eerie. Decorative fonts are meant to look creepy, like the ones on this list. Uneasy fonts, on the other hand, actually make you feel uncomfortable or uneasy. This type of font is usually paired with a negative image that evokes an emotion like fear or unease.