001: Oh Hey, Comic Sans
Updated: Sep 26, 2021
This episode is all about Comic Sans. Comic Sans is the cilantro of typefaces: either loved or hated with a passion. Comic Sans is also like an undercover spy fronting as a children’s entertainer, getting to travel to places where he'd never normally be allowed. Learn more about a typeface that's defined a generation.
Some notable ridiculous Comic Sans appearances include:
- The Spanish World Cup trophy
- The front page of the Wall Street Journal
- The Pope’s photo album in the Vatican
The typeface and the inappropriate contexts in which it’s been used has outraged so many that in 2005 a group of passionate Canadians campaigned to have it banned. But Comic Sans isn’t all bad. Research out of Princeton University in 2010 suggests that studying information in difficult-to-read fonts helps students better retain the information.
Let’s break it down:
First ‘comic’. The one place you should see it is in comic books because that was Comic Sans original purpose: to mimic the handwritten text found in comic book speech bubbles. It was created by type designer and Vincent Connare and released in 1994 by Microsoft Corporation. You have the likes of The Watchmen and Batman to thank for inspiring the world’s most-hated typeface.
Now, ‘sans’. It refers to ‘sans serif’. Broadly, typefaces are categorized into two categories - serif and sans serif (meaning with decorative flourishes, serifs, and sans, french for ‘without’). Comic Sans exists without any additional flourishes to the tops or bottoms of its letterforms.
But why do we care so much about Comic Sans? Twenty or thirty years ago, unless you were a designer or a printer or someone working intimately in the graphic communications realm, fonts were something chosen for you. The world of desktop publishing and the drop down menu changed everything. For better or for worse, we’ve all become layout artists. Each computer is a self-contained publishing machine, connected to a global network of places to broadcast said work. Each new document, presentation and email represents and reinforces both our company’s brand image, as well as our own. Whether you like it or not, you’ve had the publishing world thrust upon you.
An updated version of Comic Sans (called ‘Comic Neue’) was launched in 2014. Who is this man of mystery trying to save the world, one poorly-chosen typeface at a time? He’s an Australian designer named Craig Rozynski. The typeface was launched more broadly that year thanks to a Kickstarter campaign that helped make it available in more than 40 languages. Over $10,000 Australian dollars were raised by almost 200 backers to make it happen. And now you can download the font for free at comicneue.com.
The first Friday of July has been dubbed ‘Comic Sans Day’ and is celebrated (or lamented) the world over. So why not celebrate by changing all writing you do that day to Comic Sans - get into the holiday spirit!
Talk Paper Scissors Theme Music: Retro Quirky Upbeat Funk by Lewis Sound Production via Audio Jungle