Oh the horror, the horror – typography battles for your affection

Oh the horror, the horror – typography battles for your affection

Remember this:

Sample of Comic Sans

If you didn’t slam your laptop’s lid down and run screaming from the room, read on. For those who remain uninitiated, it’s the much reviled Comic Sans font. I don’t think there is another font that evokes such an extreme reaction.

Comic was designed by Vincent Connere when he worked for Microsoft way back in 1993. His name may not be familiar to you, but his other fonts (far more respected) Trebuchet and (fun) Webdings might be. Even if you aren’t a designer, you’ll be familiar with those cute little Webding icons like _ and !.  Ah, but will he be forgiven for Comic Sans?

According to most designers, the answer seems to be a resounding nope.  Why is it so hated? For years it was inflicted on an unwary web browsing public. Pretty much every blog writer and amateur web designer plunked it into their site back in the 90s when it was a novelty. It was almost derigueur.  It has popped up on webpages, signs, newsletters, emails, and in true face palm moments, on business correspondence.

It’s one of those fonts that people tend to either love or hate. I have to confess, I don’t loath the font – I’m guilty of trying it out when I ventured into creating my first site, back in the dark ages. However, I’m not a fan and actively dislike it’s continued over-use.  It is a little crude and elementary schoolish looking when it comes from a typography design point of view. The irregularity between each letter can drive a person to distraction. For instance the q slants noticably to the right but none of the other letters do. My brain sceams out “WHY” every time I see it. The spacing is squished and erratic feeling as well and that destroys any sense of linear layout. That last criticism can be blamed on my love of straight, clean lines more than a fault of the font itself.

It’s enduring popularity can be attributed to it’s perceived conversational feel. People also gravitate to it because of inertia and the lack of formality seen in other fonts packaged with home software.  But face it, it isn’t graceful. It lacks clean lines and on the most page, looks loud and cartoonish.

I think the nub of my dislike isn’t the font itself, but the misplaced use of it. It’s ok to have it on a greeting card or a folksy kind of poster, but websites that want to be taken seriously shouldn’t even consider it. Louise McWhinnie, Associate Dean Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, University of Technology Sydney, wrote an interesting (and excellent) article on how typography evokes feelings:

The choice of typeface is not simply about how it “writes” words, but what the choice of its design and letterforms all combine to actually “say”.
Beyond Words: how typography makes us feel, Louise McWhinnie Oct 27, 20131

That’s it, isn’t it – typography creates a mood, emotions, whether the reader is aware of it or not.  Imagine War and Peace printed in Comic Sans? Aside from the difficulty in wading through anything beyond a couple of paragraphs, it would set the wrong tone for the serious nature of the book. To me, it’s less about Comic than it is about how it’s been used over the years – and over used. I’m to the point where I sigh and roll my eyes when I see it pop up. I don’t see it as often, either that or I’ve been afflicted with Comic Sans blindness and my brain blots it out. Regardless, it’s fine for a school newsletter for the students or a notice for a local community event. But seriously, everyone else stop using it. Just stop.

1. Read more: read the entire article at The Conversation – https://theconversation.com/beyond-words-how-fonts-make-us-feel-18562