“If you love it, you don’t know much about typography. If you hate it, you really don’t
know much about typography either, and you should get another hobby.”
~ Vincent Connare, inventor of Comic Sans
Comic Sans: It’s THE font guaranteed to get a reaction out of just about anyone, graphic designer or otherwise. Created in 1999 as an inside joke, the Ban Comic Sans website has grown into a popular anti-font movement. On the other hand, you have The Comic Sans Project (“We fear no fonts and we will make the whole world Comic Sans.”) and The Comic Sans Song, which may or may not be soaking in irony. Frankly, it’s hard to tell. Also of note: The Oatmeal, one of the web’s most popular comics, makes fun of Comic Sans in “How a Website Goes Straight To Hell.”
We designers have been complaining about Comic Sans for over two decades. It seems like the mainstream finally caught on to our plight at the start of this century. So now we have tons of people constantly hatin’ on Comic Sans—and they don’t even know why. But hey, no need to feel ashamed at your tendencies toward font cruelty.
Like most anything, there’s a time and a place for Comic Sans: It’s not very often and in not many places.
WANTED: Dead or Alive
“There was an age when fonts were things in the hands of designers and professionals, but the arrival of PCs and laptops changed all that. Software allows people to instill their emotions into type and Comic Sans has an approachability—it looks as if people have written it themselves.”
~ Simon Garfield, author of Just My Type
Since its release in 1994 (along with and due to the desktop publishing boom), people with no formal understanding of typography have been overusing Comic Sans to death. You end up with a whole bunch of uninformed DIYers using this comic strip font for important messages. Getting fired? Really bad news. How would you feel reading a pink slip written in Comic Sans? (I’m picturing a disgruntled former employee stomping into the boss’ office yelling, “WHAT? IS THIS FUNNY TO YOU?”)
And that’s just it: Comic Sans somehow became the go-to default font to lighten up the situation, without the general public realizing that its use can be totally inappropriate. It used to be one of ten fonts that came with your PC, hence the oversaturation. But nowadays, people are still picking Comic Sans out of hundreds or thousands of fonts to choose from—and that’s just plain lazy.
The Real Deal on Comic Sans
I can’t say I’ve ever used Comic Sans for anything but comic book character bubble script. But as a designer, I understand fonts are art and come with their own personalities. However, most people consider fonts as a functional piece and neither see nor care about those nuances. Regardless, subconsciously we all feel fonts.
Over the years, certain font families have been trendy—meaning they go in and out of style over time. Comic Sans is a trend that hasn’t lost much traction. Why? Probably because it taps into those unconscious feelings that stem from purer childhood memories. Lambasting Comic Sans doesn’t quite explain all that, but if artists tried to explain this touchy-feely stuff, we’d be ignored.
Plus, it’s just easier and funnier to blame our designer woes on Comic Sans, and there you have the reasoning behind the title of this blog post. I think it’s silly to want to actually “ban” a font. I think Comic Sans does have a place, just like every other font. But on the side of an ambulance or on a DANGER sign? Um, no.
Plain and simple: Comic Sans makes a brand look amateurish. I’d never recommend it.
Hey, now that we’ve discussed Comic Sans, how about roping in Papyrus, another tired and predictable font that should only be used in moderation and only when appropriate. Unlike Comic Sans however, I’ve NEVER found an appropriate use for it—but that’s another blog post.
This article inspired by this Spot-On Branding Facebook post.
How do YOU feel about Comic Sans? Does it hold a special place in your heart, or does it tear at your faith in the human race? Tell us in the comments!