Is comic sans really a bad font?


Is Comic Sans really a bad font? That’s what most designers think anyway. My opinion is a bit mixed.

Comic sans

Let’s take a look when Comic Sans came about. In 1995 Microsoft launched one of its biggest failures – Microsoft BOB. It was basically an operating system that used different rooms as its GUI (graphic user interface). It tried to be cutting edge by simplifying the user interface with icons that resembled the intended use and scattering them around a room background. The problem was that it was unintuitive and confusing. It was too cutesy, it required very high computer specs for that time and its retail cost was ridiculous at $100. Thank God Microsoft settled for the classic look of the Windows 95 user interface later that year. To make a long story short MS BOB flopped big time.

Picking up the pieces

There is one thing that remained from BOB though… That’s the font Comic Sans. The font was designed by Vincent Connare in 1994. He wanted it to be included in BOB because he was shocked when he found out that Times New Roman was used in word balloons for comic characters. Its intended use was to be a casual font that looked like it was hand written and had a more relaxed look compared to the then standards Times New Roman, Arial or Cambria. In that respect I think it achieved it’s goal. Vincent was to late for it to be included in BOB but the font made it’s way first in to MS 3D Movie Maker and later on in to MS Windows 95. So to sum up the font was designed for casual reading of speech bubbles, hence the name Comic Sans and was primarily targeted at children.

So what’s the problem?

The problems start when (other) people start using it. I remember when I was a kid in grade school. Every paper I turned in used Comic Sans for its headings. Yes I too was guilty of its use. I wanted to make the material seem more casual and not too serious. Keep in mind this was in the 90’s and early 00s. Everyone didn’t have Internet yet (at least where I come from) and free fonts also weren’t readily available even if you had Internet.

Today you can Google a font description and find a font that suits your need. Google even started its own library of fonts. Back then most people just had whatever font was available in their font library when they bought their computer and for the longest time the only casual font in that library was Comic Sans that shipped with almost every Microsoft product. Can you really blame people for using it? It was used in school papers, letters, power point presentations, job applications etc. It was (is) everywhere. So the only real issue with it is its overuse.

My thoughts

My opinion on the font is, that its overuse made it such a pain for designers especially. It’s cliché and it’s everywhere. Its intended purpose was well designed and it achieved what it wanted to do but people oversaturated everything with it. Every, at least decent, designer will tell you to steer clear of the font.

2 examples of how you can use Comic Sans in a good design

To sum everything up I don’t think Comic Sans is really a bad font. It’s problems lie in its wrong use. I think it could still be used in quality work but it’s so ingrained in to people’s sub-conciuos that the font is bad, that any work that uses it is labeled as bad design.

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