Comic Sans: It’s no laughing matter

September 14, 2013

A font walks into a bar. Bartender says, “We don’t serve your type.”

The font is Comic Sans (the headline above), and there’s a conspiracy to eradicate it. And it’s not funny.

Do you know there are people out there with misplaced energy and so-called discriminating tastes who dislike certain fonts?

They’re characters.

They’re dingbats.

Get my point?

Comic Sans turns 20 this year, the same year I started appreciating typography when I began learning the graphic design part of the print world.

We’ve come a long way in a short period of time when it comes to fonts. Remember the IBM typeball or the Daisy Wheel?

We had some font choices back then, but certainly not like the thousands that we have now. My efforts to find a definitive number of fonts available today failed, but I did run across an article at bbc.co.uk that estimated there are now 200,000 fonts from which to choose.

Font selection can be important for several reasons including readability, but before the words are even read, the font sets the tone.

There are many people who dislike Comic Sans, an informal child-like looking font. I recently read that a couple of disgruntled graphic designers went as far as creating a website in an attempt to ban it.

What started out as a tongue-in-cheek movement has started some interesting dialogue on various websites. It’s comical, really.

The problem is not so much that the font is faulty technically (some typographers might disagree with me), it’s more that people select it without regard to the tone of their message.

For example, you wouldn’t use Comic Sans on presidential letterhead, but you could use it for a sign on the office bathroom door.

NOT FOR PUBLIC USE

The poor little font was not created for common public use. Comic Sans was created by Vincent Connare, a typographic engineer, who worked at Microsoft in 1993.

He was asked for some input on a software program’s fonts. When he loaded the CD a little cartoon dog popped up on the screen and had a speech balloon like a cartoon character, but the font used was Times New Roman.

Like a nerdy typographic engineer, he decided that dogs don’t talk in Times New Roman – they should talk in comic book style. Thus, Comic Sans was born.

Interestingly, there are benefits to the font.

Princeton research published in the January 2011 issue of the scientific journal “Cognition” asserts that unattractive, hard-to-read fonts – like Comic Sans – help students learn.

According to the study, fonts that are relatively difficult to read (including the much-maligned Comic Sans) help people learn new information. The font effect works both in lab experiments and in real classrooms, perhaps by forcing students to work harder to process the information.

Also, I read at dyslexia.com that some dyslexic people find that Comic Sans is one of the more readable of the commonly available Windows fonts.

Just goes to show you that even if many people don’t like something, it does not mean it has no value.

If you don’t like the font, just don’t use it. If you do like the font, use it wisely.

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