Not My Type: Why the Web Hates Comic Sans
Hate it or not, Comic Sans is one of the most popular fonts in the world. It’s on birthday cards, comic books, restaurant menus, signs, branded merchandise and all over the web.
How did such a widely used font become so famously disliked?
Comic Sans MS (a.k.a. Comic Sans) is a sans-serif casual script typeface. It was designed by former Microsoft font designer Vincent Connare, who also created other notable fonts, such as Trebuchet and some of the Wingdings. However, he is most well known for Comic Sans, which was released in 1994 by Microsoft Corporation.
The font was based on lettering from comic books Connare had lying around his office, specifically Watchmen (lettered by Dave Gibbons) and The Dark Knight Returns (lettered by John Costanza).
Comic Sans — classified as a casual, non-connecting script for informal use — has been a standard in the Microsoft font library since it was included in the Microsoft 95 package, though Connare never intended it to be.
“Comic Sans was designed because when I was working at Microsoft, I received a beta version of Microsoft Bob. It was a comic software package that had a dog called Rover at the beginning and he had a balloon with messages using Times New Roman,” explains Connare on his website.
Comic Sans is the best joke I ever told. Comic Sans était la meilleure blague que j’ai jamais dit . #comicsans
— Vincent Connare (@VincentConnare) February 8, 2010
The programmers of Microsoft 3D Movie Maker began to use Comic Sans for their cartoon guides and speech bubbles, too. After Microsoft 95, it became a default for Microsoft Publisher and Internet Explorer.
Nearly two decades later, the childlike font is one of the most recognized scripts in the world.
Why did people take so fondly to Comic Sans? Connare says it’s simple: Because they like it.
“Comic Sans isn’t complicated, it isn’t sophisticated, it isn’t the same old text typeface like in a newspaper. It’s just fun — and that’s why people like it,” Connare told Fonts.com.
Companies like TY, which makes Beanie Babies, are one of many companies that use Comic Sans to represent their brand. EA Games designed The Sims and its entire umbrella of games in the font.
There are also notable moments in Comic Sans history.
In 2010, basketball player LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. A lot of people were not happy with James for leaving his hometown team, but the most upset was Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who wrote a long epistle on the team website tearing into James. The contents of the letter went viral, not just for the subject matter — fans were abuzz about Gilbert’s choice of font: Comic Sans.
The Higgs Boson particle, discovered in 2011, quickly became a trending topic on Twitter. The announcement was fueled because scientists at CERN revealed their findings in Comic Sans. Designers were outraged and Twitter users found entertainment in the typography choice. Even Taiwanese animators at NMA created a video recapping the mocked announcement.
RT @cern: <comicsans>we have observed a new boson with a mass of 125.3 ± 0.6 GeV at 4.9 sigma significance.</comicsans>
— Santiago Orozco ▲ (@sannorozco) July 5, 2012
In 1999, the “Ban Comic Sans” movement was started by two Indianapolis graphic designers, Dave and Holly Combs. An employer insisted that they use Comic Sans in a children’s museum exhibit.
The campaign was to point out amateur graphic design and the disregard for appropriate typography in projects — specifically ones with a formal, professional tone. It started as an inside joke and a small website, but turned into the strongest anti-font movement currently in existence.
How could something so seemingly simple as a font leave designers outraged?
While Comic Sans is perfectly adequate in designs for children or designs related to comic books or cartoons, designers believe it has no place in business or professional work usage. It’s also ill-suited in content body text, which means it’s best used as a headline/heading or short quote — in other words, a comic book.
Though Dave and Holly Combs are still co-founders of the “Ban Comic Sans” movement, they are focusing on a new, more positive campaign, Department of Public Words, which is dedicated to creating positive messages in public spaces.
Believe it or not, everyone doesn’t hate Comic Sans. In fact, some are trying to defend it. The YouTube project #22songs dedicated one of its songs to “the best font in the world.” The song, which is clearly supposed to be humorous, says that the font wouldn’t be so bad if used in moderation.
French designers Thomas Blanc and Florian Amoneau tried to re-imagine the font with their Tumblr, the Comic Sans Project. The blog’s purpose was to rebrand the world’s most recognizable logos in Comic Sans.
It’s obvious that the fight against Comic Sans is still unbalanced, but there are supporters in favor of the font. Where do you stand in the Comic Sans debate? Is it really as awful as we make it out to be, or just used inappropriately? Give us your take in the comments below.