I was in a committee meeting of the boys’ school council recently, and one of the other members presented a letter of some import that would be going home with each child in the school on behalf of school council. It was a very serious letter with a significant call to action (we’re raising funds to equip each classroom with a SmartBoard), and the author finished his presentation by saying he was open to the committee’s comments on the content, the layout and ‘even the font.’ At which point I pulled my tongue out from between my teeth and said rather timidly, “Well, since you asked? I hate Comic Sans font.”
It’s true. I’m a font snob. I could spend a day or three simply poking around in free font download sites, leaving the children to run feral. Fonts are like the icing on a cupcake — they can make it exquisite or awful. My personal preference runs to classics like Times New Roman and clean sans serif fonts like the Helvetica you’re currently reading, but I’m also a fan of a well-constructed and playful handwriting font. You’d think that since it more or less intersects all of the foregoing, I’d be a bigger fan of Comic Sans — but I’m not. In fact, it pains me to do this, but in the name of objective reporting I have looked up the necessary coding to turn a part of this paragraph into said Comic Sans font. Are you loving it? I’m not, I have to turn it off now!
I don’t know why people use Comic Sans. To me, it’s the font equivalent of turning every statement into a question. It undermines your credibility. It’s the open-fly and lipstick-on-your-teeth of the font world. In my very humble opinion, you should graduate beyond Comic Sans about the time you stop dotting the letter i with a heart or a star. And apparently, I’m not the only one.
To his credit, my co-committee member took my comments in good humour. In fact, he laughed that I carried such a burden of distaste for Comic Sans. And just a few days later, he e-mailed me this article from the Globe and Mail, which claims that Comic Sans will “will improve your memory retention, help your kids do better in school and make your wife love you more.”
There you go. Different keystrokes for different folks. And for all of my sweet friends who now think that I think poorly of them because of their font choice I will concede that for personal e-mail, it’s not a bad font choice — but it’s not a good one, either.
That’s exactly the sentiment that infuses this long and geek-a-licious article that had me at its title: “Why you hate Comic Sans.” It moves through a designer’s analysis of the stroke and weight of the font, goes on for quite a while using terms like stroke modulation, aperture and anti-aliasing, and then moves on to the bit that really intrigued me — the history of Comic Sans.
So, the story of Comic Sans is not that of a really terrible font, but rather of a mediocre font, used incorrectly on a massive scale. Windows 95 was the first operating system to really hit it big. Just as computers were starting to pop up in nearly every home in America, Windows 95 was finding itself installed on all of those computers, and with it, the font Comic Sans. So now, nearly every man, woman, child, and bake sale organizer find themselves armed with publishing power unlike civilization had ever seen; and few of them really had any design sense.
He also notes:
So, you see, Comic Sans is an archetypal enemy of the Graphic Designer. Its not only an unattractive font, but it also represents the invisible, evil force that is making the “print” designer less and less relevant. A natural reaction to being threatened is violence, and the hatred for Comic Sans is arguably violent.
A good old-fashioned smackdown between classically trained graphic designers and sixty million DIY publishers — how can you not love this stuff? (I have to admit, I have a vested interest in this one. In my day job, I’m a Web manager but Beloved is not only trained in graphic arts but a teacher of them as well. Apparently we’re the Hatfields and the McCoys of the digital world!)
So where do you fit on the continuum? Need a little help to find out? Take five minutes to take this clever and entertaining quiz from Pentagram: What Type Are You?
Apparently, I am Archer Hairline – emotional, understated, progressive and disciplined. I love it!
Edited to add: props and bellows of laughter to @sproudfoot on twitter, who sent me the link to one of the most hilarious pieces I’ve ever read on the web, “Short Imagined Monologues: I’m Comic Sans, Asshole”
It opens with this:
Listen up. I know the shit you’ve been saying behind my back. You think I’m stupid. You think I’m immature. You think I’m a malformed, pathetic excuse for a font. Well think again, nerdhole, because I’m Comic Sans, and I’m the best thing to happen to typography since Johannes fucking Gutenberg.
and ends with this:
I’m not just a font. I am a force of motherfucking nature and I will not rest until every uptight armchair typographer cock-hat like you is surrounded by my lovable, comic-book inspired, sans-serif badassery. Enough of this bullshit. I’m gonna go get hammered with Papyrus.
And the middle bits are even funnier than that. Really, go read it!!