It’s safe to say that most designers know that Comic Sans is a no-no except in extremely relevant circumstances (and according to this article, it works well for dyslexic children). This article explains why, and includes some relevant notes for my major project. It would be impossible to do a project like this without mentioning Comic Sans, but I don’t want to focus on it – it’s been done to death.

If you wrote these questions in Comic Sans you’d have something that was warm, inoffensive and rather unsuitable, a typeface that’s gone wrong.

Comic Sans is unique: used the world over, it’s a typeface that doesn’t really want to be type. It looks homely and handwritten, something perfect for things we deem to be fun and liberating. Great for the awnings of toyshops, less good on news websites or on gravestones and the sides of ambulances.

Stating a few facts about the underlying feeling/meaning of Comic Sans. Warm, inoffensive and rather unsuitable. I would agree, and suggest it comes from the way the typeface looks like a child wrote it. Yes, Connare had legitimate reasons for creating and using the typeface, but when it comes to communication between adults and other adults, Comic Sans just doesn’t have enough authority in it’s tone of voice. It’s young, innocent and naive.

Holly and David Combs, the husband and wife cottage industry behind bancomicsans.com, argue that the misuse of the font is “analogous to showing up for a black tie event in a clown costume”. Some of what the Combses have to say is tongue-in-cheek, but it is hard to disagree with their claims that type – used well or badly – has the ability to express meaning far beyond the basic words it clothes.

Comic Sans is probably the best example of a typeface carrying a meaning. It’s the one that can do the most damage if used incorrectly, because it is so well known.

One thing the Comic Sans debate has demonstrated beyond doubt is that one’s choice of font is now a serious affair. Twenty years ago fonts were not something most of us gave much of a second thought. Unless we were in the print or design industries, fonts were something we accepted rather than chose.

Twenty years ago we didn’t have the internet. Personal computers were rare. We didn’t have smartphones. We were communicating in a completely different way. Now lots of people have computers, lots of people do word processing and sending emails. Lots of people have a reason to think about their font choices. Reading the comments on the other BBC article I made notes on, it was obvious that some people do think it’s important. This non-designer interest is a new thing, and is perhaps indicative of people wanting to communicate more clearly through a static, soundless medium.

Garfield, S. (2010). What’s so wrong with Comic Sans? Retrieved October 21, 2010, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11582548

PS The image I used for this post was a photograph I took in 2006 in the Kings Road, London.