Teen Titans Go! Zimdings is a love letter to typography nerds

by | Feb 16, 2024 | Design Behind The Mask

My kids are pretty obsessed with Teen Titans GO! They watched it for around five hours straight in an evening. No breaks. It’s enough to drive someone mad. Lucky for me, I enjoy the show as well, but I tune it out. During one of their binge-watch sessions, I overheard Cyborg taking vicious, accurate shots at some basic ass typefaces, so I tuned back in. The episode was Teen Titans Go! Zimdings and it’s the best typography lesson for anyone looking to understand why designers hate your type choices.

The premise

Teen Titans GO! Zimdings - The I-Land
Teen Titans GO! Zimdings – The I-Land

The episode follows Cyborg and the Teen Titans trying to stop the Typocolypse. Choosing the Wingdings-esque font titled “Zimdings” for a presentation triggered every typeface in the world to disappear. The Titans head to the Island of Garbage Fonts in an attempt to hunt down and stop Winston Q Dingbert, the creator of the Zimdings font.

The episode’s main focus is Cyborg’s pure hatred for all system fonts. He has an entire monologue on the importance of typography and how choosing the wrong type could break a design in half. When they land on the I-Land (it’s in the shape of a capital “I”), All the objects and animals there are made of different fonts. Cyborg is disgusted with the entire island, most notably anything using the infamous Comic Sans. Long story short, the Teen Titans must merge with captured fonts, gain their powers, and defeat Dingbert to restore typographic order.

Teen Titans GO! Zimdings is a love letter to snobby designers

The entire episode is a love letter directed at type nerds and designers. They cover almost every aspect of graphic designers’ and typographers’ pet peeves in their own bombastic, inventive, DC Comics way. It’s truly an enjoyable episode, and I found myself laughing at all the times I was a Cyborg in my life.

Graphic Designers are snobby about type, color, form, and hierarchies, but mostly type. When you learn what makes a typeface good, you can’t unsee the “bad.” Then you get shoved out into the real world and are inundated with terrible type usage and poorly cut fonts.

I remember the first time someone told me they liked Arial. If I remember correctly, I audibly scoffed in their font-loving face. I probably zoned out and went into some fugue state monologue about how Arial is a bastardized version of Helvetica and how Helvetica is a bastion of Swiss ingenuity. You know, all the weird culty design stuff people taught me in school.

Today, I am even MORE of a type snob, but only to myself. I have been in this profession long enough to know you can’t win every font battle. Bosses love super hip fonts like Calibri. People also love PowerPoint, and PowerPoint hates good type. It just does. And that’s OK.

There is no such thing as bad fonts…

Teen Titans GO! Zimdings - Winston Q Dingbert
Teen Titans GO! Zimdings – Winston Q Dingbert

At the end of the episode, Cyborg learns a lesson and says, “I’m sorry for being a font snob. I guess there is no such thing as a bad font. It just depends on how you use it.” That is true. Every font and typeface has a specific purpose. Comic Sans is for children. Papyrus is for off-brand tea companies and Shakira CD Covers. Impact exists for old-school memes. Everything has a purpose.

That being said, there are bad typefaces. How do I know? I have eyes trained to spot them. It’s like I am wearing the glasses from They Live, only it spots terrible kerning. But, as a designer, I can only suggest alternatives to people’s terrible choices.

See, I am being a snob again. Sorry.

Back to Teen Titans GO!

In true Teen Titans GO! fashion, the episode turns a mundane subject like typography into a fun, kinetic, action-filled 11 minutes. As a guy always searching for a way to incorporate my love of superheroes into my daily life, I found the result impressive. Turning the Titans into superhero versions of garbage fonts was genius. Specifically from my perspective as a DC Comic’s loving professional Creative Director. Just look at these heroic fonts:

In the process of making fun of these system fonts, the crew makes them powerful and important. Super, even. The Garbage Fonts save the day and demonstrate Cyborg’s lesson later on.

There is no bad font. It all depends on how you use it.

Watch Teen Titans Go! Zimdings (Season 6, ep 52 or Season 7, ep 3, depending on where you watch it), and let me know what you think. Also, let me know your favorite Garbage Font.