The new rage sweeping my company is the widespread use of Microsoft's Comic Sans font. Bulletins in the cafeteria, instructions for brewing coffee, quick memos for upcoming meetings - one guy even used it as the default font in a Lotus Notes database, which annoyed me so much that I deleted the font from my system. I really don't understand the excitement behind the Comic Sans font. It really isn't that great.

First off, what's it supposed to look like? Is that supposed to be comic book lettering? Well, it's not. It's just silly, off-kilter lettering that doesn't look very clever, and certainly doesn't look at all professional. While I'd imagine that Comic Sans looks great on an eight-year-old's birthday invitation, the fact that you have to do something to install this font begs the question, "Why not download a cooler looking silly font?" Granted IE installs Comic Sans automatically, but is it really much more work to go to fontaddict.com or Larabie Fonts and get a better one? There are plenty of much better cool, silly fonts out there, like Yikes! or Mufferaw, if that happens to be your thing.

Really, I just wish people would stop it with their dumb ass font usage. What the hell is the matter with Verdana or even plain old Times New Roman? Sometimes I dream, and in those dreams we use only 10-point unadorned Courier.

At some point, someone on the internet decided to hate the comic sans font. Hatred can be a troublesome, difficult thing, but it is also natural enough. But finding targets for hatred can be difficult. Hating people might make them hate you back, and living in a state of stomach-churning anger at people from the South Sandwich Islands might make us doubt our status as good people.

The solution then, is to hate a font. Someone came upon this idea sometime in the last decade, and it was such a nice solution to the hatred problem, that it quickly spread to the point where hatred of comic sans has reached a point of our tacit cultural heritage, a type of hundredth monkey phenomenon. It also gives one cachet to have a strong opinion about such a seemingly obscure topic. People in flyover country are too busy eating grilled cheese sandwiches and watching reality television to have the type of virulent opinions on fonts that those of us who lunch daily with Brad Fitzpatrick do.

Comic Sans is a font that gets its name from the fact that it looks like it could be used in comic strips, and it is sans serif. It has rounded letters. The font is meant to be casual, used for "fun" messages and announcements. It would probably be quite draining to say, read War and Peace in Comic Sans. But then, no one is asking anyone to do so.

Comic Sans is one font amongst many, and it is probably well suited for some purposes. It is probably very annoying when overused, but then, most things are.

But there is nothing I can see about Comic Sans that would lead to its wide geek hatedom. In fact, if not exposed early and often to the subcultural fervor against it, I don't think many people would hold an opinion on Comic Sans. And of those who did, and decided that it was somehow unpleasant, I doubt many would decide to make an emotional issue out of it.

The internet's reaction to Comic Sans is a meme in the original sense: an idea that is passed from person to person and spreads, quite outside and behind the original context of the idea and the magnitude that it warrants.

P.S.: After I wrote this, I went and looked, and I do admit, the "m" does look pretty ugly and crooked.

"If you love Comic Sans, 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


Comic Sans is a popular font -- many would say too popular -- that was designed to be friendly and lighthearted in appearance, to be easy to read on a computer screen and non-assuming.

It was originally designed by Vincent Connare, a 'typographic engineer' at Microsoft (the same typographic engineer who designed Trebuchet). In 1994 Microsoft was putting together a project called Microsoft Bob, a cartoon house with cartoon characters that would help advise and organize users. Microsoft Bob was originally written in Times New Roman, which does not really go well with cartoonish interfaces. It looked cramped and stodgy, and Microsoft was willing to replace it if a suitable alternative could be found.

Mr. Connare was willing to take on the challenge, and decided to model his new font on the text found in comics -- he remembers that Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen both helped influence him. Of course, these books were lettered by hand, meaning that each letter was slightly different, and that the text could be highly nuanced, with infinite variation in the darkness, size, shape, and mood of the text. The lettering also tended to be upper case. Comic Sans emerged as an idealized and simplified version of comic book text, with simple, clear lines, slightly off-kilter and with joins that are just barely imperfect. It looks like good, simple print handwriting, something that a very neat 12-year-old might write. As you might guess from the name, it is a sans serif font, and the lines, if you look closely, even have rounded ends.

Comic Sans gives text a cheerful, clean look. It is intended to be used for small text, at the standard 12-point font size. When blown up larger it begins to look more childlike, but this is not what it was designed for, and if you want child-like handwriting there are better fonts available. Sadly, Comic Sans never fulfilled its original destiny; the entire layout of Microsoft Bob was built around Times New Roman, and the slightly wider Comic Sans just didn't fit into the text boxes and speech balloons. It was, however, used in the later Microsoft Movie Maker, which ended up being a much more popular program.

Comic Sans became ridiculously popular when it was released to the general public, as a supplementary font in Windows 95. It was immediately recognized by the masses as a fun, informal font that was easy to read. Just the fact that it was designed for the computer screen put it well ahead of the cramped Times New Roman, which designed for narrow newspaper columns, and was packed tightly to save space and avoid disconcerting patterns in the white space between the letters. Unfortunately, too many people set Comic Sans as their default font, and it has wormed its way into nearly every inappropriate setting you can imagine; there are tales of it appearing in college essays and textbooks, of people being fired in Comic Sans e-mails, of it appearing on the side of ambulances, and of its finding its way onto at least one gravestone.

Over time, there has grown a surprisingly large and sometimes dour movement against Comic Sans. I shall not dwell on this movement, but if you would like to learn more, the Ban Comic Sans website is still up and running strong after a decade of good-natured grouchiness. I say that while it is important to recognize that your choice of a font does influence what people think of you, and that Comic Sans is widely disapproved of, it is also important to remember that sometimes it's okay to talk like Batman.


Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.