This may come as a surprise to some.
I don’t (quite as much as I used to) hate Comic Sans.
I used to be vehemently opposed to any use of the font – there was, I said, no excuse. The reasons for such an attitude probably require little explanation – it is hardly a unique stance on the matter, and it’s easy imagine many taking it simply as the ‘socially orthodox’* view on the font.
Vincent Connare’s Comic Sans serves a purpose however (beyond that which he outlines on his website). Without it, what other font would communicate the cosy openness of your local church’s jumble sale? And would you really feel secure dropping your child off at a daycare centre using Old London and a badly alpha’d clip-art to advertise its services? Every font has its time and its place, and sometimes when openness and accessibility on the most basic level is required, only ol’ curly-drawers Comic Sans will do.
What people seem to hate – and the reason I have shirked its use – is what is associated with the font, not necessarily the font itself. It may not be the simple fact Comic Sans has been overused, but the type of situations in which it has been overused that is the problem. It is the clip-art of fonts; imagine someone relatively new to computers, making a poster to advertise their knitting circle, congratulating him or herself after surveying the work of 30 minutes with the glare of their CRT monitor (it’s a very 90’s image) illuminating the desk. If you shudder at such an image then perhaps you understand where I’m coming from. Such a picture is a large part of why I believe there is such widespread distaste – it is a snobbery based on technological savvy. It’s the home-made look that people recoil from when they groan at the sight of a local business poster cheerfully advertising through the Devil Font. People tend to respect something more when there is obviously money involved – and the image projected by Comic Sans is arguably anything but.
Even apart from its usefulness to those wishing to communicate the details of a fun and friendly dog-walking service, Comic Sans is, I gather, incredibly useful in education settings. An unintended result of its comic-book look is that it is, for those learning to read, perfectly formed for when differentiation between letters is key. It is this aspect that is perhaps a crucial nail in the coffin of its credibility. What this means is an inevitable link is formed in the heads of many between Comic Sans and the most junior of schoolrooms. The snobbery extends then from a geeky ‘in-the-know-about-computers’ crowd to almost anyone schooled since the early to mid 90’s. A generation gap is formed. Older readers don’t necessarily see the problem – younger readers associate Comic Sans with their elders and immediately, it can be considered out of touch and embarrassingly eager to connect with ‘the young crowd’. No matter what the service, product or event, Comic Sans can immediately discredit it.
It must be said that such an effect is not limited to Comic Sans, and without it I fear another font would take its place. Yes, there is much to be considered unique to the curves and whimsical stems of Comic Sans – much that gives valid reason for objection and distaste – but without it, another would surely be as equally reviled as this typographical pariah. We should care less, then, about Comic Sans and all its foibles, and perhaps focus on our own attitudes. What is it that makes you dislike Comic Sans? What needs to change? What is it to you that someone wants to make a poster for their study club in a font so annoyingly jolly and carefree it would make you embarrassed to be a part of it? Are you guilty of a little typographical snobbery? I am. Sometimes Comic Sans works – a Primary 4 class’s bake sale is unlikely to be negatively affected if its posters use it; in fact, the home-made look may even make people feel more inclined to help out.
This all being said, I must admit that while I don’t mind others using Comic Sans, I just wouldn’t want it in any of my posters.
To conclude, I have learned to ignore the improper use of Comic Sans, and instead of angering up my blood when I see it staring back at me, I have begun noticing Papyrus in places you wouldn’t imagine.
Got have a hobby, I suppose…
* Did I just imply it’s cool to have views on fonts?