Comic Sans is like that retarded cousin you try to avoid

January 20, 2010

I don't have any retarded cousins, but you get the idea.

There was a time when Comic Sans was cool. I think it was back in 1995 or so when Microsoft shipped it as part of the default font pack for Windows 95, and then in Microsoft Office, as part of the Publisher program.

It was created by a guy named Vincent Connare as a font designed for comic books, and similar usage. That’s just about the only place it;s useful.

In the documentaries I’ve watched about typography, I’ve heard something said again and again; that a typeface should be like a crystal wine glass, where the typeface is like the glass, and the actual content is the wine. A well-designed typeface becomes almost ‘invisible’, or uninvolved in the conveying of the message. In other words, the glass is transparent, so we can make adequate observations about the wine itself, which is what we use the glass for in the first place.

Comic Sans is like a gaudy, gold, jewel-encrusted goblet. It distracts us too much from the wine itself.

I notice it used a lot in the educational materials I deal with day to day. I’m sitting in front of a box covered in it, talking about how this product will ‘allow for processes which help their perceptual development, which is a necessary skill for learning to read and write.’ This is of course targeted at kids, so alright, the use of a non-serious business font is ok with me.

It’s when companies use it in their logos that I start to get confused. I can’t show you concrete examples, but here in Seoul, many companies use it where it’s completely uncalled for. A candy store, ok. A restaurant that isn’t targeted to children? No.

Inspired by a documentary I saw, I’ve whipped up a couple of common logos, using Comic Sans, instead of the typeface that the company chose. Here are the results:

It’s kind of hard to imagine someone trusting their important documents with FedEx in Comic Sans, isn’t it? Same for Adidas.. it makes the brand feel kinda fat and slow-moving.

I shouldn’t say I’m against the font itself. It does have its uses. But what gets me is how it’s overused, and used in situations where it’s not appropriate.

Typographers will criticize its default kerning.

To be honest, I don’t know nearly enough about typography to start talking about that stuff, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself, lest a real designer visits this site someday.

I think this post will be a work in progress. I’ll see if I can dig up some examples of Comic Sans used when not appropriate.


2 Responses to “Comic Sans is like that retarded cousin you try to avoid”

  1. Tom Risi said

    Thanks Mike

    I use comic sans on some of my reports… It makes total sense now so I will stop using it. Can you suggest a more suitable font??

    • mikejrisi said

      Verdana is a nice font that’s not too ‘serious’. It’s very readable and laid-back. Arial is also good.

      Of course, there’s always Helvetica. 🙂

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