Print Edition: October 10, 2012
We’ve all seen it. We’ve all been afflicted with it. Hell, most of us have probably even been responsible for spreading it.
Yes, I’m talking about Comic Sans MS, the scourge of the font world.
I don’t like it and I never have. The only time I felt the need to use it was in elementary school, when I wrote a story from the point of view of five different characters and one of them was an egomaniacal blonde moron who had fallen off the stupidity tree and hit every branch on the way down.
Imagine my dismay, then, to discover that at least two professors use this font in their classrooms. Yes, there are two people at our fine institution who use Comic Sans to write a class outline. Bear in mind that this is two confirmed cases; sadly, I fear that investigative research would uncover more examples.
You may agree with me, but you may be sitting there and thinking I have way too much time on my hands if I’m writing an article about something like this. However, I find the use of this font in the university setting to be slightly insulting.
I’ll point out now that all of this history—aside from the designer’s name—is widely repeated internet lore. It could be true, and the evidence is sure there, but the only thing confirmed by Microsoft is the designer’s name. That being said, the font was originally designed to be used for an application that assisted children in navigating computers. It was the text that was meant for the speech bubbles coming from the mouth of the guide character, Rover the dog.
Now, the font wasn’t finished in time to be used, but that was its original purpose. Vincent Connare, its designer, modelled the font after the text he found in two graphic novels hanging around in his office. Those were The Watchmen and The Dark Knight; great comics, but not really anything I’d like to see on a university syllabus.
Further, the font itself isn’t really well-designed. Graphic designers get very passionate about this subject. Firstly, it isn’t a well-kerned font. Those of us who hang out around our newspaper’s office know what this means, but for the rest of you, this is pretty important. Basically, kerning is when the spacing between letters is adjusted to be aesthetically pleasing. This also makes it easier to read. Comic Sans isn’t kerned; if you look at a page of it, it almost seems as if there are large gaps in between some letters and none in between others.
Next, it may be designed after comic books, but in most of them—including those that were the inspiration for the font—are written in all caps. So really, Comic Sans is designed to best be used in the same way. What does this mean? If it isn’t a title, or a small block of text, this font really isn’t appropriate. Saying that the font would be better in caps, by the way, is not an invitation to create course outlines in all capital Comic Sans.
Even without the kerning issue, the font isn’t well designed. It was made on a computer with a mouse, and thus is awkwardly shaped. The letters—such as the Bs and Ds—are droopy. Given our culture’s obsession with bras, Botox and banana hammocks, that’s just not good thinking. Looking at the font, with its childish yet droopy composition, is depressing and a little creepy; essentially, it’s a juxtaposition of everything that’s wrong with childhood and adulthood, all rolled into one obnoxious heap of irritation.
So, professors who use this font: stop. It’s bad enough when students do this, but you are educated and intelligent people. There’s no reason to communicate to us using a font designed for children that is difficult to read and subconsciously reminds us that everything on our bodies is slowly heading south. For the love of Helvetica, just stop.