Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Die, Comic Sans!!1!

That seems to be the opinion of nearly everyone I've ever come across in the design world. Seriously, they don't just dislike it, they hate it. They hate it so much, in fact, that they automatically malign anyone ever stupid enough to use it, even if they don't know them - maybe especially if they don't know them.

And if you think I'm kidding or being facetious, there is even a website called Ban Comic Sans. Browse that website for a moment and you'll think Darth Vader himself is looming behind it somewhere, harnessing all the hatred for the Dark Side.
Use Comic Sans. I dare you.
(Thanks Stuckon.co.uk)
But ... why?

Yes, I know, I'm probably going to be blacklisted from every UX job for the next two years just for asking the question, but I seriously don't quite understand this level of hatred for, of all things, a gods damned font. It just doesn't make any sense.

I mean, look at the little guy:
Love me :(
Sans serif, relatively even spacing, legible even when extremely small, and even just a little bit fun. And, look, here's a bonus for web developers: it's one of 15 legible fonts guaranteed to be installed on any Windows or Mac machine that anyone could possibly be using to visit a website. I'm no typography wizard, but I'd say those are pretty decent stats for a font. (Apparently typographers do quibble about the kerning and weighting, but they're not real people anyway. [/Joke])

Sure, I can understand how people might not like the look of it - I'm usually not terribly fond of it myself - but, believe it or not, there are people who hate the oft-celebrated Helvetica.
It's a love/hate thing.
(Thanks Typophile.com)
So, why is Comic Sans discussed with such disgust? After a few Google searches and a perusal of the Wikipedia entry for Comic Sans, I've discovered that the most-cited reason is because the font is seen as being trite, overused, and cliche. As the Boston Pheonix article cited on Wikipedia explains, "It's used everywhere: on fliers, on fax cover sheets, on signs of every shape and size. And Indianapolis graphic designers Dave and Holly Combs have had just about enough of it."

Again, this doesn't make a lot of sense. People hate the font because it's cliche and overused, but one can infer from it's cliche status that lots of people actually really like it. So ... lots of people really hate it simply because lots of other people really like it.

Oh. On second thought, that actually does make sense.
Edit: Someone shared this Imagined Monologue from Comic Sans with me, and it's absolutely hilarious. You should read it (but not at work).


Lucas said...

Hey Dustin,

I might be able to explain a bit. I think a reason for hateage is distaste for the state of digital typography in general. Comic Sans is second only to Arial in ubiquity and they all represent what's wrong with the industry. The fact that they are compatible across so many platforms points to the problem: They've established an environment where compatibility and variety are antithetical. That makes it really hard for typographers to sell their work, let alone be taken seriously. It's become an industry in which the common public trends, Arial & Comic Sans etc., have been dominant for almost 2 decades. Does that happen anywhere else? True that most people trashing Comic Sans is from its overuse, but it's overused because there are no alternatives. It benefits from and reinforces the problems typographers face.

Tee said...

Erm. I happen to love comic sans. It's just not professional looking. Maybe that's why people hate it so much? For example, SHAME on you if you ever make that a font for a resume but other than that...I think its great. I've been using Comic Sans and Arial bold as my default instant messaging fonts for about a decade :-P


Dustin Hodge said...


I totally agree with you. As someone who has designed himself, it's annoying to find a bunch of great fonts that people will never see if they put it on a website. I've seen some creative solutions to this, though.

Anyway I suppose my point, which was purposefully buried, is that I feel that sometimes designers dismiss (or accept!!) things without thinking because they take them for granted. "That's just the way we've always done it." Therein lies an opportunity for innovation just waiting to be discovered.

Anna said...

Another problem with it is that it's just plain *ugly*. Heh, let me elaborate here: it's completely unvaried. For most typefaces, that's not a problem, Helvetica or Minion don't need to accomplish variation. But Comic Sans is supposed to be a "fun font", it's the kind of typeface plebeians use to liven things up, to remind them of handwriting. But there are dozens of typefaces out there who does that better, or just as well, by maintaining some of the inevitable variations of real human writing. Comic Sans is just a standardized sans-serif with rounded corners and occasionally a hint of a vertical line that isn't at a 90 angle. Like Lucas said, it cheapens the actually good work done by type designers.

Another thing that I find really depressing is that both the Really Popular With Non-Designers typefaces (CS and Papyrus) are so damn juvenile an cluttery. I don't understand why popularity requires stupidity.

Dustin Hodge said...

I note and respect your completely subjective opinion on the ugliness of Comic Sans. :) "Juvenile" . . . yeah, that's an honest critique. It's used with children's stuff a lot. But isn't that the quality people are going for when they choose to use it? I think "cluttery" is more subjective, though. I, myself, have never had any trouble reading Comic Sans.

As for the typography stuff . . . heh, it's funny. That "good" work you speak of. Not only do people who aren't typography nerds not care at all about that but ... that doesn't really matter either. I quickly found out when writing my resume that it doesn't matter whether it is Comic Sans or just something that vaguely resembles Comic Sans (or is just something "fun"), hipster designers and typographers deride it equally. And let me tell you, the typefaces I tried do not come standard with Windows or Mac OS.

Anna said...

a) No, I don't think people go for "childish". I think they go for "less strict, less corporate, more human." That doesn't have to mean childish, and I think it's unfortunate that it does. For a daycare sign? CS is fine. For something for a fundraiser, for the kitchen in an office, for a leaflet? No. Just no.

b) I am well aware that most people don't care about good type design. *That's the problem.* In most other areas, we're pretty well educated. People don't buy lime green, fluffy sofas with purple dots and cushions that make their back sore, they don't paint their houses bright orange, and if they have to choose between a beat up old car and a new, streamlined, shiny one, they'll pick the latter. Because they've been properly educated about that's better design. We're never going to get there if we just work with what's standard in the OS.

Post a Comment