Comic Sans walks into a bar, and the bartender says, “We don’t serve your type.”
It’s true, if typefaces could walk and talk, I would discriminate against Comic Sans. I hate the font.
Maybe it was the time I received my first Beanie Baby in second grade and ripped off the tag. (Any beanie baby enthusiast would know that it’s against beanie baby etiquette, they even sell tag protectors). Or maybe it was the garage sale sign (I didn’t go), restaurant menu (I didn’t eat), midterm exam (I stared at it for a full five minutes before I began), or countless club posters around campus (I ripped them all off the wall).
I don’t know exactly when my hatred for Comic Sans began, but one thing still remains true: It’s time to kill the overexposed font. It’s time to ban Comic Sans.
According to graphic communication professor Brian Lawler, type is one of the most eloquent means of expression. Comic Sans however expresses something much different.
“It’s unfortunately ugly and unfortunately overused and abused,” he said.
The favored typeface of human resource managers and high school librarians, Comic Sans was designed by Vincent Connare and released by Microsoft in 1995. Connare was inspired by the lettering style of comic books he had in his office, including Batman and Watchmen.
Connare originally designed Comic Sans specifically for comic book style talk bubbles and not for general use. The font’s initial name was Comic Book, however Connare didn’t think the name sounded fit for a typeface. He used sans referencing a sans-serif font because most of the lettering (except for the uppercase I) doesn’t have serifs, the small features at the end of strokes.
Fifteen years after Comic Sans induction, the font has been abused so excessively it threatens to erode the foundations upon which centuries of typographic history have been built. From Gutenberg’s letterpress to the digital age, type, like music and art, has a rich history.
Throughout history, the design of letterforms has been influenced by the prevailing cultural climate. The letters printed in Renaissance Europe by Johannes Gutenberg were a direct interpretation of the ornate gothic handwriting of the day — blackletter. Blackletter influenced the italic cut type, Bembo, which was informed by 16th century Italian handwriting.
Contemporary typography functions as a kind of weathervane for the era, with designers expressing themselves through type. Type is a voice; it’s very qualities and characteristics communicate to readers a meaning beyond mere syntax. This voice speaks louder than the text itself.
For example, when designing a “Do Not Enter,” “Danger” or “Caution” sign, the use of a heavy-stroked, attention-commanding font such as Gill Sans Bold or Bell Gothic Bold is appropriate. Traffic signs are set in sans-serif typefaces (actually called Highway Gothic) which are developed by the United States Federal Highway Administration to maximize legibility at a distance and high speed.
Typesetting such messages in Comic Sans would be ridiculous. Though this is sort of misuse is most common on posters around campus, it is unjustified. Comic Sans as a voice conveys silliness, irreverence, absurdity and is too casual for such a purpose. Writing your résumé in Comic Sans is analogous to showing up for a job interview in a clown costume.
Additionally, sans serif fonts are not typically used for large bodies of text. If you examine most textbooks, they are set in serif type. This is because the serifs in text lead your eye from one letter to the next and promote easy comprehension. One more reason why Comic Sans shouldn’t be used for lengthy e-mails, college essays or exams.
On campus, typography is most effectively expressed through The Type Directors Club, the current show at the University Art Gallery. The Type Directors club is an international organization founded in 1946 whose members include design professionals, typographic designers and typophiles. The exhibit features excellence in the use of typography, calligraphy, hand lettering and other letterforms.
The show clearly exemplifies the power and clarity of a well-chosen typeface. They’ve made it a point not to include Comic Sans.