When is a font just a font?

When it's Comic Sans - at least to some people.

I'm a member of the Creative Design Pros group on LinkedIn where I provide advice, opinions, suggestions, etc. Recently, there was a member (an interior designer) who posted her website for feedback. The entire thing wasn't even a design - it was a background, a blob of text, and 4 thumbnail photos. It reminded me of what I made in high school when I was learning HTML (and I suppose she was). What really caught my eye was the blob of text.

It was all keyed in Comic Sans. I obviously didn't take the thing seriously and I told her no one else would. She didn't understand - she didn't even realize many people knew what the font was. She said it was "a flowing cursive yet legible script".

That was the indicator she had no idea what typography was all about. I didn't really expect her to - she never claimed she was a web designer. Comic Sans is a handwritten font, neither cursive or script.

She didn't care if professionals didn't like it. She wanted the average Joe to like it. It was just "a font" to her.

In all reality, Comic Sans was designed for comic strip conversation bubbles because at the time, Times was being used.

That is all it is good for. Comic Sans is for people who do not understand typography and would rather look like a child than a professional. It doesn't matter who your client happen to be - you need to make sure they realize YOU are a professional.

This site says it all: http://bancomicsans.com/main/?page_id=2

While some people would say, hey if the average Joe likes it, then use it, I say the average Joe likes it because they don't know any better. It's up to us a graphic designers to deliver appropriate solutions - including typography and help them understand our choices. Comic Sans was meant as a solution for comic strip conversation bubbles - nothing else.

While Comic Sans might be "just a font" to those who don't know anything about fonts, to professionals it is the scourge of the industry because as Ban Comic Sans so eloquently puts:

Like the tone of a spoken voice, the characteristics of a typeface convey meaning. The design of the typeface is, in itself, its voice. Often this voice speaks louder than the text itself. Thus when designing a “Do Not Enter” sign the use of a heavy-stroked, attention-commanding font such as Impact or Arial Black is appropriate. Typesetting such a message in Comic Sans would be ludicrous. Though this is sort of misuse is frequent, it is unjustified. Clearly, 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.


Anonymous said...

Another viewpoint is the practical uses described in this humourous (rather sledgehammer wit) monologue by Timothy McSweeney:

Comic Sans Monologue (by Timothy McSweeney)

Darwin Revolution said...

She was an interior designer. Maybe instead of being pissed off and putting her down, it would be better to help her and make her realize using design terms she can understand. For instance, it would be like putting a chair from walmart in a gold-leaf mansion.

i agree that comic sans should rarely ever be used, but for people who are not familiar with layouts on paper or web and has never been around those things, it's hard for them to understand the finer points, just as i would assume, a graphic designer wouldn't know the finer points of interior design.

April Sadowski said...

Maryland - I did explain why it doesn't work...that's when she said she was doing it for the average Joe. I posted the links that I have shown in this blog to further explain why it was not appropriate.

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