|Date created||October 1994|
Comic Sans MS (also known by its most common name Comic Sans) is a sans-serif typeface designed by Vincent Connare and released in 1994 by Microsoft Corporation. It is a non-connecting script inspired by comic book lettering, intended for use in cartoon speech bubbles, as well as in other casual environments, such as informal documents and children's materials.
The typeface has been supplied with Microsoft Windows since the introduction of Windows 95, initially as a supplemental font in Microsoft Plus! Pack and later in Microsoft Comic Chat. Describing it, Microsoft has explained that "this casual but legible face has proved very popular with a wide variety of people."
Its widespread use, often in situations for which it was not intended, has become the subject of criticism and mockery.
Development and release
Microsoft designer Vincent Connare began working on Comic Sans in 1994 after having already created other fonts for various applications. When he saw a beta version of Microsoft Bob that used Times New Roman in the word balloons of its cartoon characters, he believed the typeface gave the software an overly formal appearance. He believed this was inappropriate for the aesthetics of the program, which was created to introduce younger users to computers. In order to make Microsoft Bob look more suitable for its intended purposes, he decided to create a new typeface with only a mouse and cursor, based on the lettering style of comic books he had in his office, specifically The Dark Knight Returns (lettered by John Costanza) and Watchmen (lettered by Dave Gibbons).
He completed Comic Sans too late for inclusion in Microsoft Bob, and the typeface would go unreleased until the programmers of Microsoft 3D Movie Maker, which also used cartoon guides and speech bubbles, adopted it. The speech bubbles were eventually phased out and replaced by actual sound, but Comic Sans stayed for the program's pop-up windows and help sections. The typeface later shipped with the Windows 95 Plus! Pack, and was the primary font of the Travel desktop theme. It was later included as a system font for the OEM versions of Windows 95. Finally, it became one of the default fonts for Microsoft Publisher and Microsoft Internet Explorer. Comic Sans is also used in Microsoft Comic Chat, which was released in 1996 with Internet Explorer 3.0.
Comic Sans Pro (2011)
Comic Sans Pro is an updated version of Comic Sans created by Terrance Weinzierl from Monotype Imaging. While retaining the original designs of the core characters, it expands the typeface by adding new italic variants, in addition to swashes, small capitals, extra ornaments and symbols including speech bubbles, onomatopoeia and dingbats, as well as text figures and other stylistic alternatives. Originally appearing as part of Ascender 2010 Font Pack as Comic Sans 2010, it was first released on April Fools' Day, causing some to initially assume it was a joke.
Comic Sans has become most infamous for its use in serious circumstances, like warning signs and formal documents, in which it might appear too informal, unprofessional, or inappropriate.
During the summer of 2010, NBA superstar LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in free agency, in a highly publicized media affair that culminated in a TV special called The Decision. The majority owner of the team (at the time), Dan Gilbert, reacted by posting a letter to Cavalier fans. The letter was criticized for its use of Comic Sans.
In October 2012, a Dutch World War II memorial called Verzoening ("Reconciliation") was revealed on which the names of Jewish, Allied and German military deaths alike were written alongside each other in Comic Sans. The names were eventually scraped off after complaints from Jewish organizations, but the rewritten message was once again in Comic Sans. According to the city government, this was done because the letters fit the shape of the stone and were easily visible from a distance. It was, however, criticized for making the memorial appear "ugly" and "cheap".
In August 2015, a number of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's Syriza party members split and formed a new party, headed by Panagiotis Lafazanis. The official document of resignation was allegedly written in Comic Sans.
In July 2018, a statue of former Chilean President Pedro Aguirre Cerda was inaugurated in Santiago. The plaques on the monument were written in Comic Sans, drawing negative attention on social media.
In October 2019, when the United States House Intelligence Committee requested that two of Rudy Giuliani's associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruma, present documentation regarding their involvement in the Ukraine scandal, former Trump attorney John Dowd penned a letter of explanation printed in Comic Sans.
That same month, as part of the United Kingdom's Brexit debate, the Conservative Party tweeted an image stating "MPs must come together and get Brexit done" using Comic Sans. The post was heavily mocked, but some commentators saw it as a deliberate attempt to use the typeface's notoriety in order to bring their message to a wider audience.
A research article published by Cognition in 2010 showed disfluency could lead to improved retention and classroom performance. The article stated that disfluency can be produced merely by adopting fonts that are slightly more difficult to read. In the case studies cited in the article, Comic Sans was used to introduce disfluency. A 2010 Princeton University study involving presenting students with text in a font slightly harder to read found that they consistently retained more information from material displayed in fonts perceived as ugly or disfluent (Monotype Corsiva, Haettenschweiler, and Comic Sans Italic) than in a simpler, more traditional typeface such as Helvetica.
More often, however, Comic Sans is described as especially legible, and is frequently used in school settings or as an aid for people with dyslexia.[additional citation(s) needed] Some people have reported that typing in Comic Sans has helped to clear writer's block, claiming that its casual appearance and high legibility create less mental tension. Compared to other typefaces, Comic Sans has fewer rotated and mirror-image glyphs (ex. the letters "b", "d", "p", and "q"), has particularly wide letter spacing, and is sans serif.
Reception and legacy
Several reinterpretations of Comic Sans have been created as a result of its popularity. In April 2014, font designer Craig Rozynski released a modernized version of Comic Sans called Comic Neue. In 2015, graphic designer Ben Harman created Comic Papyrus (later renamed "Comic Parchment" for legal reasons), which combines the features of Comic Sans with the similarly panned typeface Papyrus. In 2019, Tabular Type Foundry released Comic Code, a monospaced version of the typeface.
In 2017, it was reported that Vincent Connare, the typeface's designer, had only used it once.
Because of its ubiquity and misuse, Comic Sans has been opposed by graphic designers. The Boston Phoenix reported on disgruntlement over the widespread use of the typeface, especially its incongruous use for writing on serious subjects, with the complaints urged on by a campaign started by two Indianapolis graphic designers, Dave and Holly Combs, via their website "Ban Comic Sans". The movement was conceived in 1999 by the two designers after an employer insisted that one of them use Comic Sans in a children's museum exhibit. The website's main argument is that a typeface should match the tone of its text and that the humorous appearance of Comic Sans often contrasted with a serious message, such as a "do not enter" sign. The movement ran until 2019, when it was renamed "Use Comic Sans," which was because Dave Combs believed the hatred had "gotten out of hand" and "it's gotten to be so bad that it's almost cool again."
Dave Gibbons, whose work was one of the inspirations for Comic Sans, said that it was "a shame they couldn't have used just the original font, because [Comic Sans] is a real mess. I think it's a particularly ugly letter form."
Film producer and The New York Times essayist Errol Morris wrote in an August 2012 posting, "The conscious awareness of Comic Sans promotes—at least among some people—contempt and summary dismissal." With the help of a professor, he conducted an online experiment and found that Comic Sans, in comparison with five other typefaces (Baskerville, Helvetica, Georgia, Trebuchet MS, and Computer Modern), makes readers slightly less likely to believe that a statement they are reading is true.
In the Netherlands, radio DJs Coen Swijnenberg and Sander Lantinga decided to celebrate the typeface by having a Comic Sans day on the first Friday of July. Comic Sans Day has been held since 2009. Some Dutch companies have their website in Comic Sans on this day.
According to a 2020 Twitter poll held by TES, 44% of teachers sampled used Comic Sans in their teaching resources. Comic Sans is widely used in schools due to its high legibility.[better source needed] Other reasons include:
- It is more suitable for dyslexic students.[better source needed]
- It is well-suited for modeling handwriting, due to the single-story lowercase "a" and "g", and distinct appearances of the letters
l.[better source needed]
- It is aesthetically pleasing to some children.[better source needed]
Vincent Connare is reportedly not offended by the negative backlash over Comic Sans. At the Fourth Annual Boring Conference, he claimed to find the contempt for his work to be "mildly amusing." He has stated that he is proud of his creation, offering different rationales. One of these was that "Comic Sans does what it was commissioned to do, it is loved by kids, mums, dads and many family members. So it did its job very well. It matched the brief!" He has also referred to it as "the best joke I've ever told." In 2014, commenting on Comic Sans' critics and fans alike, Connare said, "If you love it, you don't know much about typography, [but] if you hate it, you really don't know much about typography either, and you should get another hobby."
Lauren Hudgins of The Establishment argued that people who use Comic Sans should be treated with respect, not mockery, because "people without dyslexia need empathy for those who need concessions to manage the disability."
In popular culture
On May 22, 2012, The Comic Sans Song was released by YouTube content creator and musician Gunnarolla, in collaboration with musician Andrew Huang. The song makes reference to Comic Sans and features commentary around the impact the font has had on pop-culture.
In July 2012, when the discovery of the Higgs boson was announced at CERN, Fabiola Gianotti, the spokesperson of the ATLAS experiment, attracted comment by using Comic Sans in her presentation of the results. As a 2014 April Fools' Day joke, CERN claimed that it would be switching all its publications to Comic Sans.
In the 2015 video game Undertale and its followup Deltarune, the character Sans is a comic (i.e. comedian) named after the typeface. His dialogue is displayed in lowercase Comic Sans. He is paired with his brother named Papyrus, in reference to the typeface of the same name.
In October 2022, Comic Sans became the representative of Dyslexia Scotland and their ad campaign, There's Nothing Comic About Dyslexia. The campaign's purpose is to inform people on the typeface's benefits among dyslexic people, and to encourage the creation of typefaces that are more formal, but also dyslexic-friendly.
The song "Tacky" by Weird Al Yankovic, a parody of "Happy" by Pharrell Williams, features Yankovic listing a number of "tacky" behaviors ranging from stylish faux pas to obnoxious and rude behaviors as examples of what makes a person potentially "tacky." Among them is writing a resume in Comic Sans.
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The Comic Sans typeface, one of Microsoft's most popular designs, has received a makeover courtesy of Monotype Imaging. Today the company has introduced the four-font Comic Sans Pro family of typefaces. Featuring elements such as speech bubbles and cartoon dingbats, Comic Sans Pro extends the versatility of the original Comic Sans, designed by Vincent Connare for Microsoft in 1994.
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Comic Sans is recommended by the British Dyslexia Association and the Dyslexia Association of Ireland...People without dyslexia need empathy for those who need concessions to manage the disability.
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Some of the characters also have different fonts in their text boxes, which highlights their different personalities. For example, two brothers named Sans and Papyrus use the comic sans and papyrus fonts in their text boxes, respectively.
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Media related to Comic Sans at Wikimedia Commons
- Comic Sans MS font information Archived 2021-04-07 at the Wayback Machine (Microsoft typography)
- Typowiki: Comic Sans
- Comic Sans Café Archived 2008-02-03 at the Wayback Machine (Microsoft typography)
- Snog Blog: The Vincent Connare Interview Archived 2008-03-02 at the Wayback Machine
- Comic Sans | Font for the masses or weed of the graphic world?
- Short video of Vincent Connare at 2009 ROFLThing NYC telling the story of Comic Sans Archived 2011-07-17 at the Wayback Machine
- 2008 video "Font Conference" Archived 2020-04-15 at the Wayback Machine by CollegeHumor where Comic Sans plays an important role.