QuestionWhy does everyone hate comic sans?
Hopes&Fears answers questions with the help of people who know what they're talking about. Today we ask creatives, scholars, artists and writers about why everyone is so down on (with?) Comic Sans.
As the infamous iconic 90’s font Comic Sans approaches its 22nd anniversary, H&F is trying to uncover the reasons for the hatred.
owner of Anton&Irene design bureau, among their clients are Google, Sony, EA,
Red Bull, CNN, Porsche and Netflix
Typography is a very sensitive topic within the design community. You need different typefaces with different characteristics to express different type of content. Some typefaces are more humble and can be applied to multiple things, some typefaces have very strong personality and only work in very specific scenarios and can not be used in others. (For example, You won’t use Blacklettertypefaces in daycare brochures; it has too much character that doesn’t match the content.)
Comic Sans also has strong personality and its roots come from comic books, where it looks natural and in its place. The moment you misuse it, design community goes rogue.
It was originally made by former Microsoft font designer Vincent Connare to be used inside speech bubbles, in a completely natural environment for itself. Microsoft has done some very poor type decisions in the beginning of 90s (alongside with Arial) and included this typeface as a default on everyone's computers. This was a PC era. Pretty much everyone who owned a computer back then had access to Comic Sans, and that was one of the most distinguishable typefaces in the set available. It was not surprising that people loved it and used it all over the place without thinking where it came from and where it should be used. They are not designers; they are not supposed to know! When average Joe was making a birthday invite and had 10 typefaces at his disposal, that one looked goofy, smelled like party and wasn’t as serious as Times New Roman.
For my personal taste as a designer, Comic Sans in not necessarily “ugly” it just does not look aesthetically nice when misused. But over 20 years of misusing, same typeface creates a specific trend, where it’s almost not a crime to use it and it clearly looks like a joke. LOL Cats image with black frame, poor photography and ugly bold condensed typeface is not an aesthetically beautiful design and you don’t think of design when you look at it. In many years of LOL Cats images, this created a similar visual footprint in design. I think if you create LOL Cats image with good photography, no frame at all and a super nice typeface it won’t be that funny anymore and will look too serious; it will be a wrong design language. I think Comic Sans got similar legacy and impact on visual information.
Ink coverage of page (%)
size 12 font Windows PC
Times New Roman
— The Higgs Boson particle, discovered in 2011, quickly became a trending topic on Twitter. The announcement was fueled because scientists at CERN revealed their findings in Comic Sans. Designers were outraged and Twitter users found entertainment in the typography choice. Even Taiwanese animators at NMA created a video recapping the mocked announcement.
Lily Hope Chumley
Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU, linguistic and semiotic anthropologist with research focusing on formations of media and material culture, political and commodity aesthetics in China and Taiwan
From the 1990s on, the internet increasingly put communications that had formerly been oral or handwritten into print text, a medium that had been considered formal or institutional. Since that time people all over the world have developed informal print languages think of the many varieties of internet spelling and punctuation.
But in those early days, the Comic Sans font evoked the friendly informality of handwriting for a transitional period when typing was still a formalizing process. So, for example, one of the most typical 1990s uses of comic sans was the suburban family holiday letter typed on the "wordprocessor", printed on the dot matrix printer, and sent by snail mail the font apologizing for the letter's formularity by invoking the idea of handwriting. As the practice of handwriting has faded from memory, we've developed strategies for signalling informality through other features of text (spelling, punctuation, paragraph arrangement). Handwritten fonts have fallen out of use because handwriting is no longer a cultural symbol of intimacy.
You can have the haters out there, it's fine. Not everybody loves Justin Bieber.
— Vincent Connaré
the inventor of Comic Sans
The Guardian, 2014
artist, owner of OKFOCUS creative agency
Comic Sans is a goto font to complain about – and the act of complaining supposedly establishes an understanding of "good design." But this is total bullshit. Design is not about superficial understandings of aesthetic, often rooted in transient trends and notions of "taste." To be good at design you must be able to see past that, understand that the forms of the world are never neither good nor bad, they are all just tools. Like elements of the periodic table. Calling ComicSans a bad font is like calling bismuth a shitty element. ComicSans is a wonderful font with a broad appeal and display of use. Anyone who shits on it is lowclass and doesn't understand the ebb and flow of culture/taste.
— The order of service used during Swedish royal wedding was printed in Comic Sans.
Sean J Patrick Carney
Artist, writer, director at Social Malpractice Publishing
Hard to say anything better than Mike Lacher did five years ago for McSweeney's. But basically, hating Comic Sans is a way for people who produce nothing interesting culturally to safely slam on something that they are aware is largely perceived "tacky" or "low" in terms of design culture. It's a lazy and pseudo-elitist stance to take on something that's a terribly simple target. One might even argue that shitting on Comic Sans is classist in that awareness of its "lameness" is the result of privileged access to larger bodies of typefaces or social circles of peers who have the privilege of enough leisure time to actually care about, and make fun of, what a layperson uses when attempting to be creative.
— "Listen up. I know the shit you’ve been saying behind my back. You think I’m stupid. You think I’m immature. You think I’m a malformed, pathetic excuse for a font. Well think again, nerdhole, because I’m Comic Sans, and I’m the best thing to happen to typography since Johannes fucking Gutenberg."
ILLUSTRATION: Nikita Treptsov