Following is a diddy I recently wrote for my Book Design class. Just might be my favorite class so far:
Where did it come from? And why has it become the laughingstock of the typography world?
Comic Sans MS (often referred to as simply Comic Sans) was designed by typeface designer and former Microsoft employee Vincent Connare. This is the typeface that has gained the most attention, though he also designed Trebuchet MS, as well as helped to finalize the design for Marlett and Webdings (the one that was launched along with Internet Explorer).
Connare studied at the New York Institute of Technology, and got his master’s degree in Type Design at the University of Reading. He created the Comic Sans typeface while working for Microsoft, when he was working with a team on a children’s software program called “Microsoft Bob.” The programmers had created a test version of the software with a welcome screen that featured a cartoon dog speaking in a speech bubble. Much to Connare’s travail, the speech bubble featured text that appeared in the not-so-comical Times New Roman font. He decided they needed a font that mimicked what you could find in comic books. He proceeded to pull out some comic books that he had on hand in his office, used a mouse to draw the font on his computer by hand, and created the typeface in less than a week. He originally named the font “Comic Book,” but decided “Comic Sans” sounded more like a font name, and almost all of the letters (besides the capital “I”) were “sans” (without) serifs.
Comic Sans has gained most of its notoriety, however, as there have been movements against the use of Comic Sans - claiming that it is a disgrace to the typography world. Websites such as Ban Comic Sans (a campaign specifically designed to do away with the typeface), Comic Sans Criminal (a website dedicated to helping people use Comic Sans appropriately), and even an Inappropriate Comic Sans tumblr account have allowed designers from all over to unite in their mockery of the typeface. One designer even took the time to outline why it’s a painful font, citing offenses such as mismanagement of visual weight, poor kerning, but ultimately coming to the conclusion that “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.”
An article in the Wall Street Journal illustrates Connare’s feelings on the Comic Sans controversy: “Mr. Connare has looked on, alternately amused and mortified, as Comic Sans has spread from a software project at Microsoft Corp. ... to grade-school fliers and holiday newsletters, Disney ads and Beanie Baby tags, business emails, street signs, Bibles, porn sites, gravestones and hospital posters about bowel cancer.”
The best hope for Comic Sans is that it can be used when appropriate. To quote the Comic Sans Criminal site, these situations would be:
- When your audience is 11 years old
- When you’re designing a comic
- When your audience is dyslexic and has stated that they prefer Comic Sans