Is Comic Sans the 'worst font of all time'?

Design fans are mobilizing to protest Comic Sans, a supremely silly typeface that is showing up everywhere from porn sites to gravestones

The "Ban Comic Sans" movement is gaining momentum with the help of its online presence and propaganda including stickers and sweatshirts.
(Image credit: CC BY: Steve Keys)

It may seem cheery, but it's inspiring quite a bit of hate. Earlier this year, Time magazine called Comic Sans — the ubiquitous typeface modeled on comic-book lettering — "perhaps the worst font of all time." Since then, multiple Facebook groups have united against it, and a decade-old movement to "Ban Comic Sans" is gaining online traction. The gratingly "friendly" typeface, created at Microsoft in 1994 to package children's software, seems to inspire indiscriminate use, showing up everywhere from "Beanie Baby tags" to "porn sites, gravestones and hospital posters about bowel cancer," reports The Wall Street Journal. What's behind the backlash? (Watch Comic Sans' creator discuss the font's history)

It's used too widely: The font has "inspired so much revulsion" because "its ubiquity has led to such misuse," says Simon Garfield at BBC News. Sure, Helvetica is everywhere too, but it has "the air of modern Swiss sophistication," whereas Comic Sans is "irritably simple" and childlike. Ironically, the font was never meant for broad use. "It was intended merely as a perfect solution to a small corporate problem."

What's so wrong with Comic Sans?

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It's just too silly for a typeface: "Like the tone of a spoken voice, the characteristics of a typeface convey meaning," says the Ban Comic Sans website. And Comic Sans suggests "silliness, childish naivete, irreverence." Using the font to convey serious messages "is analogous to showing up for a black tie event in a clown costume."

"About [Ban Comic Sans]"

Amateur typographers have bad taste: Comic Sans quickly became a standard Microsoft Windows typeface (and one of the few fonts that web designers can safely use for multi-platforms). As home computing became widespread, says Emily Steel at The Wall Street Journal, Comic Sans "took on a goofy life of its own" among amateur designers. "If you love it, you don't know much about typography," says the font's designer Vincent Connare, who has tried to distance himself from his monster creation. Sadly, the government "can't regulate bad taste."

"Typeface inspired by comic books has become font of ill will"

Lighten up, haters: This "self-righteous rebellion fails to comprehend [that there] is... beauty to be found in incongruity," says Dan Hancox in The Guardian. Imagine getting "a stern letter of excommunication from the archdiocese of Milan in Comic Sans." Sure, it wouldn't be your first choice, but "our lives would be pretty drab without a bit of absurdity."

"Comic Sans not your type? Lighten up"

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