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Comic Sans MS is a comic book-inspired typeface infamous for its overuse. It is most typically contrasted with Helvetica as a childish font. Although other fonts like Papyrus are strongly hated, Comic Sans has been widely criticized for its application in serious or professional situations.
Comic Sans MS was created in October of 1994 by Vincent Connare for Microsoft. The font was inspired by the lettering found in comic books Connare kept in his office, specifically Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. It was originally intended to be used solely in children’s programs after Connare saw a beta version of an interface called Microsoft Bob (shown below, right), which used a Times New Roman typeface in a comic-style setting. However, the font was not completed in time to be used in the program. Instead, Microsoft used Comic Sans in pop-up windows and the help section of the 1995 program 3D Movie Maker before it was included in Windows 95 Plus! Pack as one of the standard fonts. Microsoft describes Comic Sans as a “groovy script font."
Since being introduced through Windows operating systems, Comic Sans became widely adopted for personal web design and word processing, as well as in graphic designs for corporate brands including Beanie Babies and The Sims. The font gradually grew into an all-purpose typeface nearly ubiquitous in public buildings, private businesses and offices, as thoroughly documented in the Flickr group pool “Comic Sans” that was first launched in March 2005. The group page also hosts a discussion forum where intense debates have taken place about the font’s aesthetics and proper usage. Comic Sans as a hot discussion topic has been covered by Wall Street Journal in 2009 and BBC and the Independent in 2010.
While adequate for certain industry sectors like childcare and entertainment, its usage in business or professional settings has been criticized by many aesthetic-conscious Internet users, who say Comic Sans conveys silliness and irreverence that is hardly suitable for serious matters. One of the earliest of these complaint-filled threads was posted to the Straight Dope message board on August 30th, 2000. In 2008, The Design Cubicle collected tweets from a variety of designers on why they do not like using it as well as why their clients ask for the font specifically.
There are numerous image macros with captioned commentaries on the font that may contain various meme references. Many of which also use the typeface for comedic effect.
Ban Comic Sans
The “Ban Comic Sans” movement began in September 2002, inspired by the Andre the Giant Has a Posse sticker campaign, with a mission to eradicate the font and the “evil of typographical ignorance,” according to the website. The tongue-in-cheek campaign was launched by Indianapolis-based graphic designers Dave and Holly Combs (shown below), who were inspired by a former employer insisting they use Comic Sans in a children’s museum exhibit.
Comic Sans in the Wild
The single serving site Comic Sans in the Wild was launched in September 2007 to share user-submitted photos of comic sans found on products or signage in real life. It ceased updating in April 2012.
Comic Sans: The Documentary
In October 2010, filmmaker Scott Hutcheson attempted to raise $20,000 to create a full-length documentary on Comic Sans on crowdfunding site Kickstarter. However, the project was not funded after raising only $714. In April 2011, after enlisting help from the creators of Ban Comic Sans and Shepard Fairey, Hutchinson created another Kickstarter campaign, as well as a trailer (shown below) for his documentary. It only raised $1480 out of its $3000 goal.
Comic Sans Criminal
A similar faux-educational campaign “Comic Sans Criminal” was launched in early 2011 by graphic designer Matt Dempsey, featuring a pamphlet website that provides a brief history of Comic Sans and a feedback form for the readers to pledge against using the font. According to Dempsey, the site received over a quarter million visitors and 25,000 Facebook likes within 48 hours of launch, and the topic was trending on Twitter for more than 36 hours.
Kill Comic Sans
In October 2011, ad agency AgencyFusion released the Flash-based shooting game “Kill Comic Sans”:
Euro Signs Glitch
Earlier versions of Comic Sans had an eye in the Euro sign, this was later removed. According to Vincent Connare because “the EU was going to sue us over that,” as told at the 2011 Ampersand Conference.
In June 2010, Mike Lacher wrote an article titled “I’m Comic Sans, asshole,” which stood in defense of the typefont.
In April 2011, Google featured an easter egg event on April Fool’s Day which showed search results for the keyword “Helvetica” entirely in Comic Sans. It simultaneously rolled out an app extension for the Chrome browser titled “Comic Sans for Everyone,” which would convert all texts in Comic Sans as the default typeface.
In August of 2011, parody news site The Onion released a short clip titled New Study Explains Why Comic Sans Font So Hilarious, which also took jabs at Wingdings and Papyrus.
Comic Sans Project
In November 2011, French designers Thomas Blanc and Florian Amoneau launched the single topic blog Comic Sans Project, which curates a series of well-known global brand and logo images strictly in Comic Sans font. In an interview with Mashable later that same month, the bloggers were inspired by all the jokes poking fun at the decades-old typeface:
“We have been inspired by all the jokes about Comic Sans we heard and read on the Internet every day,” says Blanc. “We wanted to create our own personal joke with those ironic logos. At the same time, we actually tried to defend Comic Sans [by] posting only logos which look good enough to us. Some of them work pretty well!”
Though the blog ceased updating in July 2012, Russian artist Oleg Tarasov published a series of his own Comic Sans-branded logos in September 2012 on the design site Behance. It was viewed nearly 36,000 times in a month.
Comic Sans P.R. missteps
Cavaliers owner’s rant on LeBron James
On July 8th, 2010, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote an open letter to Cavs fans denouncing LeBron James’ decision to leave the team for the Miami Heat. Gilbert’s letter was marked by strange mixed metaphors, excessive capitalization, refusal to refer to the former player by name, and Comic Sans. Several news outlets, including TechCrunch,TIME, and The Wall Street Journal reported on how use of the typeface robbed the letter of what little impact it might have had, with CNN writer John D. Sutter urging readers, “Unless you’re a fourth-grader, or being ironic, or the author of a comic book, or on vacation from the 1990s, never use that typeface.”
Higgs boson presentation
On July 4th, 2012, the scientists working with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN chose Comic Sans for the slideshow presentation they gave to announce the discovery of the Higgs boson particle, which was called one of the most significant scientific discoveries of the 21st century. Twitter users harped on the choice, with “Comic Sans” and “Higgs Boson” both becoming trending topics that day. Vincent Connare also agreed the font was not the best choice for the presentation. Internet reactions to the slides were shared on The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Fast Company Design, and The Huffington Post.
As an April Fool’s Day joke in 2014, CERN announced that its entire website would be in Comic Sans from now on.
Pope Benedict XVI retirement photo album
In February 2013, in a nearly-unprecedented decision, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he was retiring from the Papacy. In tribute to the departing pontiff, the Vatican’s web site posted a photo album commemorating his time in office. Not only was the text accompanying the photos in Comic Sans, but the photos featured copyright watermarks in Papyrus. The formatting of the album was ridiculed on sites such as Gizmodo, Mashable, and Salon.
On April 7, 2014, Australian designer Craig Rozynski released the free typeface Comic Neue as an improvement over Comic Sans. As he says on his website:
Comic Sans wasn’t designed to be the world’s most ubiquitous casual typeface. Comic Neue aspires to be the casual script choice for everyone including the typographically savvy.
The squashed, wonky, and weird glyphs of Comic Sans have been beaten into shape while maintaining the honesty that made Comic Sans so popular.
It’s perfect as a display face, for marking up comments, and writing passive aggressive office memos.
The site, which was visited nearly half a million times in its first week, includes downloads for the typeface in numerous variations as well as a user style sheet that automatically replaces Comic Sans with Comic Neue on major web browsers.
Huffington Post – Google Plays With Helvetica, Comic Sans For April Fools’ 2011 Gag
Wall Street Journal – Typeface Inspired by Comic Books Has Become a Font of Ill Will
Huffington Post – Higgs Boson Discovery Announcement Made In Comic Sans