If you don’t know what Comic Sans is, maybe you’re too ashamed to admit you do. It continues to grace countless homemade greeting cards, signs, banners, and sometimes, even PowerPoint presentations.
Despite many alternatives, Comic Sans retains a degree of prevalence, banking on its perception as a warm and fun typeface.
This perception, along with its overuse by amateur designers, contributes to its reputation as the worst font choice in any designed output. Before we dive deeper, let’s take a short look at its history.
We can thank former Microsoft Employee Vincent Connare for the existence of this typographic blight. He claims that Comic Sans wasn’t initially designed as a usable typeface for Microsoft Office, but just for use in an application featuring a virtual canine assistant, Microsoft Bob.
In his own words:
“Comic Sans was NOT designed as a typeface but as a solution to a problem with the often overlooked part of a computer program’s interface, the typeface used to communicate the message.
There was no intention to include the font in other applications other than those designed for children when I designed Comic Sans. The inspiration came at the shock of seeing Times New Roman used in an inappropriate way.”
To be fair, the British Dyslexia Association considers the font easier to read than other fonts. Its legibility makes it easier for viewers to distinguish different glyphs and characters from each other. In addition, its handwritten design and curvy features lend it an air of friendliness and accessibility.
So why do people, especially designers, hate it?
An Ignoble Font
It’s the abundant misuse in inappropriate situations that’s handed Comic Sans its legacy as the worst font of all time. The friendliness mentioned is unfortunately not suited for how it’s been used. You’ve probably seen this a dizzying amount of times in office pantry signs, self-published greeting cards, and even some unwitting business signages.
Most likely, an unaware presenter may have even used it in his slides. It’s easy to reason that its bad rep is solely due to this abuse. Experts would beg to differ, noting its inconsistent kerning (spacing between characters) which make Comic Sans technically “ugly.”
No matter what, it can’t shake its image as cheap and unprofessional, given its common use by untrained designers.
So When Should I Use Comic Sans?
Save yourself from embarrassment. The people over at Ban Comic Sans Manifesto, expanding on its misuse, put it so:
“Comic Sans as a voice conveys silliness, childish naivete, irreverence, and is far too casual for such a purpose. It is analogous to showing up for a black tie event in a clown costume.”
In other words, Comic Sans is only good for communicating one thing: that you’re not a professional. There’s also no longer any excuse for resorting to this silly font. Even if you’re going for a more fun or aloof feel font for PowerPoint, there are so many other alternatives.
If you’re presenting to a professional audience, you’re better off sticking to the classics like Arial, Century Gothic, or Helvetica. Some may argue that they’re equally overused, but at least their look is clear, classy, and timeless. Still insist on injecting some fun into your slides? Ban Comic Sans can give you other alternatives.
Comic Sans is a font that stumbled into its role as designers’ public enemy number one. Its overexposure and misuse has made it a target of much derision. The fact is, there are so many other free choices that come built into Microsoft Office.
We have serious serifs like Times New Roman, Garamond and the like for long bodies of text. There are more commanding sans serifs such as Impact, and you can count on Arial when you need to grab attention. In a perfect world, everyone would know the proper font choice for every situation.
Not everyone can be a PowerPoint professional, but anyone can easily learn to follow the general rule: avoid Comic Sans.
“Ban Comic Sans Manifesto.” Ban Comic Sans. n.d.
Connare, Vincent. “Why Comic Sans?” Connare: Art, Design & Typography. n. d.
“Typefaces for Dyslexia.“ BDA Technology. March 20, 2011.
“What’s so Wrong with Comic Sans?” BBC News. October 20, 2010.
Featured Image: “Ban Comic Sans” by Emanuele on flickr.com