Unanimous opinions are hard to come by, but there are a few value judgements that come close: puppies are good, toothaches are bad, and Comic Sans is the worst font ever. Worse even than Curlz and Papyrus.
Bubbly and childlike, it was originally created to imitate the text of comic books, in an attempt to make computers appealing to kids. At least that’s Vincent Connare’s explanation. A typographer who worked for Microsoft in the ‘90s, he’s the man behind Comic Sans. Today, in The Guardian, he discussed the making of the font.
One program was called Microsoft Bob, which was designed to make computers more accessible to children. I booted it up and out walked this cartoon dog, talking with a speech bubble in Times New Roman. Dogs don’t talk in Times New Roman! Conceptually, it made no sense.
So, he started flipping through comic books like “Watchmen” and “The Dark Night Returns” for inspiration. He tried to capture the spirit of their lettering, and found that he enjoyed ignoring the conventions of font-making. The resulting typeface caught on in the Microsoft office, mostly used for fun contexts like birthday parties.
Soon after Comic Sans was inducted into Microsoft Word’s font suite, a band of decriers approached Connare about starting a group devoted to banning the typeface. Connare ― who says he’s only used Comic Sans once, and believes the font fulfills its purpose of appealing to young typers ― gave them the go-ahead, describing the backlash as simultaneously “silly.”
“Type should do exactly what it’s intended to do,” he added The Guardian. “That’s why I’m proud of Comic Sans.”
(Microsoft program manager Tom Stevens had his own take in The Guardian piece: “The level of hatred, was just amazing ― and quite frankly funny. I couldn’t believe people could be so worked up over something as simple as a font. It’s almost an anti-technology typeface: very casual, very welcoming.”)
The font’s creator isn’t its only defender; last month The Establishment reported that hating Comic Sans is ableist. For some readers with dyslexia, its unique characters make differentiating between letters easier, and in fact, Comic Sans is among a handful of fonts recommended by a number of dyslexia organizations.
So, before you write it off completely, remember there’s no one-font-fits-all solution. For some, the jaunty angles of Comic Sans are an aid, and for others, it’s simply a playful alternative.