I have recently been introduced to the fury of graphic designers. Comic sans is a font created in 1994 and made popular by Microsoft. I was originally designed to imitate hand-written comic book lettering, but has since become too popular for its own good. The passionate folks at bancomicsans.com make their case in the form of a manifesto:
We believe in the sanctity of typography … Type is a voice; its very qualities and characteristics communicate to readers a meaning beyond mere syntax … Like the tone of a spoken voice, the characteristics of a typeface convey meaning. The design of the typeface is, in itself, its voice. Often this voice speaks louder than the text itself. Thus when designing a “Do Not Enter” sign the use of a heavy-stroked, attention-commanding font such as Impact or Arial Black is appropriate. Typesetting such a message in Comic Sans would be ludicrous. Though this is sort of misuse is frequent, it is unjustified. Clearly, Comic Sans as a voice conveys silliness, childish naivete, irreverence, and is far too casual for such a purpose. It is analogous to showing up for a black tie event in a clown costume.
We are summoning forth the proletariat around the globe to aid us in this revolution. We call on the common man to rise up in revolt against this evil of typographical ignorance. We believe in the gospel message “ban comic sans.” It shall be salvation to all who are literate. By banding together to eradicate this font from the face of the earth we strive to ensure that future generations will be liberated from this epidemic and never suffer this scourge that is the plague of our time.
Wow. These people are serious:
The interesting question now is: why did comic sans become so popular? I confess to having used it myself on several occasions in the past. The process goes like this:
- You don’t really care about the font. You’re just making an invitation or a PowerPoint and just want to get it done.
- You are presented with a huge list of fonts, arranged in the least helpful way possible (alphabetically).
- The list seems to contain ten thousand kinds of fonts which are in one of the following categories: medieval, boring, unreadable, “who would ever use that“, typewriter fonts, etc.
- Come on, you think, I just want something simple. Then, from amongst the chaos emerges comic sans – it looks just like neat, printed handwriting. That’ll do, you think, I don’t want to spend an hour looking through every font on this list.
So rather than castigate the poor amateur graphic designer for their clichéd choice of font, perhaps the makers of software like Word, Powerpoint/Keynote, Publisher and the like could put more thought into how the fonts are presented to users. Ditch the dropdown list – it makes it too time consuming to view a large number of fonts quickly. Don’t arrange the list alphabetically, as if “Centaur” gives us any idea at all of what the font will look like. Arrange them thematically. Allow us to search (and even assign) keywords – formal, fancy, hand written, etc. Have a wizard to suggest fonts. Have a “find fonts like this font” option. Maybe then we can save that poor bunny.