Don’t Just Ban Comic Sans, Replace It

There is a war raging. One side is fighting to obliterate a beloved champion of the people. The typography world has long been disgusted and outraged by the general popularity and overuse of the typeface Comic Sans. Their aim is to “eradicate this font from the face of the earth.”

Comic Sans is bubbly, silly, and wasn’t even well thought-out, apparently. According to Wikipedia, Microsoft designer, Vincent Connare was working on program with cartoon characters that spoke in Times New Roman and recognized the need for a more informal typeface.

After combing the Word typeface catalog, he found nothing appropriate, and quickly designed his version of comic book lettering. Comic Sans shot off like a rocket among Microsoft users. (Ironically Connare now sympathizes with the haters.)

Frankly, it’s hard to believe that typeface designers haven’t already jumped on this. I believe most word-processing software now include Comic Sans in their typeface catalogues. They pay Microsoft royalties in order to do so. There’s obvious market interest on this point.

So why do the haters object so violently? After perusing BanComicSans.com (which was truly an entertaining way to burn an afternoon, by the way. I definitely recommend it.) I gather they object on several points. First, fonts are supposed to convey meaning, and Comic Sans projects nothing but lightheartedness.

What can I say? Duh. Hence the value.

Second, Comic Sans holds no respect for tradition. It was created without regard to rules and guidelines that have long since been “established standards of this craft.”

I’m all for preserving and respecting the traditions set by the stone-carvers and typesetters that worked so hard at their craft. They deserve it. And that history is still relevant to the work that goes into a typeface design today. However, in the marketplace, value should be somewhat dictated by the consumer. Surely someone in the typography profession is smart enough to address and merge these two points.

BanComicSans.com also points to the constant inappropriate use of the font. Warning signs, angry letters, hospital department ads have all been given a naïve spin, because their designers should have made better decisions.

I once heard the use of Comic Sans compared to wearing a clown suit to a black-tie affair, and I agree, there are tons of situations where Comic Sans is wildly inappropriate. But what about my three-year-old’s birthday party? I’d much rather show up in a clown suit than an evening gown. Likewise I’d feel just as silly displaying party banners printed in Bookman Oldstyle or some such.

It is also true that Comic Sans is used to death these days. I even avoid its use, because mainstream popularity has pushed it to the point of cliché. But I continually search unsatisfactorily for a replacement.

So, attention typography world: there is a need to fill here! If you don’t like Comic Sans, fine. Get rid of it. But please provide us the product we are asking for. Give us something appropriate already!

Your turn beloved reader. Where do you weigh in?

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Well, once again…you’ve made me think about something new. I had no idea Comic Sans was in a war with other fonts! I like all kinds of fonts, depending on what project I’m doing, but I especially like Garamond, Book Antiqua, Cambria, and Malgun Gothic. I do not like Courier New at all, although it is actually requested by some publishers. It seems Times New Roman is asked for as well, but I like it okay. I have to agree with you that if Comic Sans has seen better days, then by all means…get us something better.

    Great post!

    Reply

    • As always, it’s so lovely to hear from you! Thanks for always checking in with supportive comments.

      Clearly you have brilliant taste in typeface selection. ;) I also love Garamond and Book Antiqua. And I agree that Courier New is just beastly. It’s so wide and thin. It’s like exercise to read it! Why do you suppose your publishers like it?

      I was not familiar with Malgun Gothic, so I had to go check it out. I found that it’s lovely! I like how round the circles are and how well-proportioned the letters are. I think I’m going to use it for a brochure I’m working on. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply

      • Posted by Stacy Parker on October 13, 2010 at 8:31 pm

        Hey Lyn,

        Let’s see what I have to add to this post of yours. Something intelligent and backed up by fact, that is. :)

        I am still learning fonts and typefaces, thanks to our Document Design class. I’d never known the difference between oldstyle, modern, serif fonts, sans serif fonts, etc. However, I do know what is aesthetically pleasing. After learning a little bit in class, I tend to like the airy serif fonts the best for body text (Garamond, Book Antiqua, etc.). I’m finding more and more names and fonts I’m loving every single day. There are some sans serif fonts that are far too chunky and packed together to even come close to beautiful. I can see a few of those being effectively used in large headings, but not many other places.

        Now that I’ve exhausted my knowledge of fonts….on to the Comic Sans debate. I’m going to further reveal my ignorance and state that before Dr. Thomas mentioned it, I’d never considered the credibility of Comic Sans. In fact, years ago it was my favorite font EVER (think junior high age). The thrill quickly wore off, and I agree it’s been used to death. I’ve avoided using Comic Sans in any college or professional work, and, in fact, haven’t used it in many, many years out of pure habit. Not a thought given to it. When Dr. Thomas brought it up in class, it was not a “yeah, I feel the same way…..” moment for me at all. It was an eye-opening moment! I don’t know if I’ll ever view that font the same again. Where once I didn’t give it a second thought, now I find myself scrutinizing it deeply. I don’t know if it’s my DESPERATE need to not be a “sheep” and follow any kind of massive trend, my need for finding new ideas of professionalism and elegance in my work, or something else entirely. I do know one thing, though—-the moment someone deems something “beneath them,” it is an immediate sign that they are closing off all options and ignoring the drive of the consumers behind products. I find that attitude rarely achieves anything. Go ahead, debaters, with your elitist thought….see how much ground it gets you. ;) On this particular debate, I agree with you Lyn. I think Comic Sans, or fonts similar in style, have a place in our communities–because fonts are need-based. It’s fine to ban it from the professional and academic world, but because consumers love the font, it has a place and needs to stay. Or be replaced with an equal substitute.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Stacy! It’s good to hear from you.

    I’m turning into something of a font geek myself. And actually, I’m glad to have an understanding about why we need so many available and what the purposes are for each.

    Here’s hoping the Comic Sans thing will resolve happily some day, eh?

    Reply

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