Chris Costello, a designer and calligrapher as well as typographer, created Papyrus by hand, drafting the font on textured paper with a calligraphy pen over a six month period; the lettering was drawn to emulate what the designer felt the English language would have looked like, had it been written on papyrus 2000 years ago. The Letraset foundry published the type, producing as a series of transferable lettering sheets otherwise known as “presstype.” Subsequently the font was digitized and the rights sold to ITC (later Monotype).
Costello, who studied advertising, design and illustration in college after being encouraged into visual arts by his father, conceived papyrus during a quiet period at his first agency position. He later submitted the design to ten foundries including Compugraphic and Varityper, who rejected the design initially; ironically, Compugraphic later became a subsidiary of Monotype, who currently hold the rights to Papyrus.
Papyrus’ unique appeal includes its use of high horizontal strokes, rough edges and sweeping curves - a merging of Roman typography with calligraphy. Papyrus continues to be popular in design and desktop publishing both commercially and privately; the Elsner+Flake company have produced a Papyrus EF™ font family variation, featuring multiple new swash additions and lettering changes.
Since its publication in 1983, Papyrus has become very well known around the globe, finding itself in use on everything from coffee shop logos to mainstream advertising. The design community – and even the font’s creator Chris Costello – acknowledge that the prolific usage of the typeface has split the creative world in two regarding its allure.
Nevertheless, popular television shows such as Medium use the font in their title credits; The Crocodile Hunter, a show featuring the late Steve Irwin, uses the font in its logo. The band Lamb of God use the font on album covers and other merchandise; Arizona brand ice tea also makes use of Papyrus on product packaging.