Comic Sans is known as the font that designers love to hate. Many designers will simply cringe when you say the font’s name. However, others will turn up a nose at the thought of even using the font anywhere but a comic strip. In the design world, Comic Sans is definitely persona non grata. In fact, some people hate this font so much that they’ve come together to create a movement to ban Comic Sans.
On the other side of the aisle are laymen who believe the font is fun and designers who think all fonts have their purpose. There’s even a Tumblr page called the Comic Sans Project that shows the many useful uses for this font. One thing can definitely be said about this font — it evokes strong emotions. Not many typefaces evoke such intense hatred, after all.
Comic Sans is a sans-serif typeface that is considered to be a casual script. It was designed by Vincent Connare, with Microsoft releasing it in 1994. The inspiration behind the script was comic book lettering. It was created specifically to be used informally and for children.
Probably the main reason people began to hate this script so much is that it has been used widely for purposes it wasn’t intended for. Specifically formal documents or headings on business materials.
Connare himself has stated that he developed the font to be used within message balloons for a comic package called Microsoft Bob. A dog named Rover had thought message balloons pop up over his head, but those were written in Times New Roman font. Connare felt that Times New Roman was inappropriate for that use. Thus he came up with Comic Sans specifically for the comic message balloons.
Unfortunately, it took Connare a bit of time to finish the font, and Microsoft Bob was actually released without it. Instead, Comic Sans was used for the cartoon guides and speech bubbles in Microsoft’s 3D Movie Maker. The typeface was then included with a Windows 95 expansion pack. Over time, the font was used as a default font for Microsoft Publisher and Internet Explorer.
Mechanics of Comic Sans
Comic Sans is made up of strokes that do not change in thickness. This creates a heavy, childish look, such as on the letter “n.”
Those who criticize the font state that this visual weight makes Comic Sans less legible. This is quite noticeable in some letters in the font, in particular, the “e” and “t.” The kerning between letters in Comic Sans is also uneven, which is caused by the heavy letterforms. Critics state that the letters weren’t designed with any thought of how they would work together in words and sentences.
Some letters almost appear italic with a slight slant to the side, such as with the letter “e.” Note also how the counter on the “e” is very small. This makes the letter pretty awkward compared to other fonts, such as Helvetica or Arial.
What Does the Font Imply?
Comic Sans has a fun, childish tone with a handwritten quality. Even though the font was never used for its original purpose, it took off anyway. One reason might be that many fonts are rather formal or serious in tone, and this one is lighthearted.
Connare himself has stated that the font is fun. He thinks that’s why so many people have used it over the years and why Microsoft packages it for regular people. He points out that those who use it are not typographers or graphic designers. They simply choose the font because they like the fun look of it. He even jokingly states that people who claim to hate it secretly like the font but are jealous.
Where It’s Commonly Found and Used
In addition to comics, where the font seems to fit almost perfectly, you’ll likely find Comic Sans on school programs, preschool flyers, school fair literature and anywhere that is seen as a fun and casual atmosphere.
The 2000 version of The Sims game also uses Comic Sans font. Additionally, it makes up the “S” in the Superman logo. Levi’s has used it at times as well, and MTV even used comic sans in their logos as late as five or six years ago.
Look around, and you’ll probably notice its unique signature in even more places. You might also find it used where it really shouldn’t be and is far too informal for the occasion, such as on a wedding invitation.
What Should It Be Used As
Comic Sans is probably most popular for use with kids. This caters to places that work with children, such as schools and daycare centers. Because each font has a specific personality, Comic Sans simply doesn’t work well on formal documents or as a font in a business email, etc. Most would argue it is too informal for that type of use.
It is good for use inside comic book style bubbles, thus the inspiration for the name of the font itself. It also is suitable for a banner for a child’s birthday party, a logo for a business that sells toys or anything aimed at children under twelve years of age.
That isn’t to say you can’t use Comic Sans where you please. Even though other designers may cringe at the thought of using it, if you feel the fun, informal look of the font suits your brand, then you should go with what speaks to you as a designer. Sometimes the smartest marketing moves are those that sit a bit outside the box.