THE YEAR IS 1995...
Chapter 1

In the grand country of The United States of America, a typeface was created by a man called Vincent Connare. The typeface was named 'Comic Sans MS' and this is it's story...
Mentioning Comic Sans — even to strangers of type design — almost always brings about a response. Whether it be an outburst of disgust, or simply acknowledging that "it is that silly font", most people seem to react and have an opinion on Comic Sans. The typeface has since its release in 1995, become one of the most famous and hated typefaces in the world. And this despite the fact that it was never intended to be released.

THIS IS VINCENT

In 1994 Microsoft was preparing the release of Windows 95. Font engineer Vincent Connare (right) had already created child-oriented fonts for various applications, so when he saw a beta version of Microsoft Bob that used Times New Roman in the speech bubbles of cartoon characters, he saw that something was wrong. He decided to create a new face 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).

READ MORE ABOUT WATCHMEN OR
THE DARK KNIGHT

"The Dark Knight"
and "Watchmen" Both from 1986

A QUOTE FROM VINCENT'S
ESSAY "COMIC SANS"

"Comic Sans was designed because when I was working at Microsoft I received a beta version of Microsoft Bob. It was a comic software package that had a dog called Rover at the beginning and he had a balloon with messages using Times New Roman."

—Vincent Connare

This is 'Rover' the cartoon dog who was accompanying the user through MS Bob, speaking in Times New Roman.

THATS WHAT HE SAYS IN THIS
RECENT INTERVIEW

And thus, Vincent begins drawing up a typeface imitating those of comic book speechbubbles, in Macromedia's font-drawing software "Fontographer".

WANNA TRY OUT FONTOGRAPHER YOURSELF?
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD IT!

Chapter 2

Unfortunately, by the time Vincent was finished with all the letterforms of his new comic book—inspired typeface...
Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee
Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii
Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn
Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss
Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx
Yy Zz Ææ Øø Åå
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 0
...It was already too late for the font to be included in the 'MS Bob' software, for which it was originally intended...

...However...
A range of other software developed for the release of 'Windows 95' were still not entirely finished. These were:




• Internet Explorer 1.0




• MS Movie Maker
• MS Plus Package • Comic Chat

FROM VINCENT'S OWN
PDF-PRESENTATION: "I HATE COMIC SANS"

And accordingly, the font now dubbed "Comic Sans MS" was included in all of the aforementioned softwares, making it a substantial part of the standard fontpackage in Microsoft's Windows 95

Chapter 3

This meant, that in a time where computers became common parts of people's homes, but when font choice was still scarse, Comic Sans was now one out of only a handful standard fonts, included on all Personal Computers running on the Windows 95 operating system...

It's distribution was enormus!
Now, the average PC user had a fun choice of font avaible. By comparison to other Windows 95 standard fonts, Comic Sans was possibly the only significantly informal option at the time:

WANNA KNOW MORE ABOUT ARIAL?

Arial

WANNA KNOW MORE ABOUT TIMES?

Times

Comic Sans
With the combination of Comic Sans's great accessibility through the inclusion on all of Microsoft's home computers and it's extraordinary casual and distinguishable look, Comic Sans became a widespread and very popular tool in the hand of the layman "graphic designer" and publisher.
Chapter 4

Throughout the following decade, the easily accissible and unique Comic Sans was being used more and more often, gaining notoriety for it's very frequent inappropriate or misapplied use...

THE EXAMPLES ARE INFINITE!
HERE IS A WONDERFUL FLICKR-SET
OF COMIC SANS IN QUESTIONABLE USE

From private easter invitations to corporate signage, porno movies and gravestones, Comic Sans was being used excessively for all other purposes than the speech-bubbles it was created for. The font thus became the much hated laughing stock of typography it is known as today.

But two people in particular did not find anything funny about it...

Chapter 5

BAN COMIC SANS!!!
The anti Comic Sans –movement
In 2002 two graphic designers had had enough of the Comic Sans rampage. Inspired by Shepard Fairey’s "Andre the Giant has a Posse" campaign, Dave and Holly Combs — married through their mutual hate for Comic Sans (below) — founded the "Ban Comic Sans" campaign as an inside joke. However, the movement quickley cathced on and became a big occupation for the couple and is still very much active.

SEE THE SIMILARITIES?

THIS IS FAIREY'S "ANDRE THE GIANT"

The two began making stickers copying the style of Sherpard Fairey's (aka. OBEY) classic stencils of Andre the Giant, but instead depicting Vincent Connare.

These were later reduced to a more traditional pictogram, crossing out Comic Sans.

READ THE "BAN COMIC SANS"
MANIFESTO HERE

The primary issue of Dave and Holly's 'Ban Comic Sans' movement is the afforementioned misuse of the typeface. the implication of Comic Sans in serious messages, which are "analogous to showing up for a black tie event in a clown costume" as they put it. This misuse which causes the message to loose it's authority, is still occuring today, so many years after the release of Comic Sans, and on an increasingly bigger scale.

This tendency has during the past decade put a strong focus on the misuse of the font, making it's misimplacation common knowledge.

GIVE THE NICE PHOTO ALBUM A LOOK!

For instance the Vatican's celebration of Pope Benedictus XVI in a Comic Sans-set retrospective photo album caused some debate.

HERE'S AN ARTICLE IN 'THE GUARDIAN'
ON THE INCIDENT!

But perhaps the best example of the negative impact Comic Sans has on the way we persive a serious message, was when the CERN research scientists chose to present their descovery of the Higgs Bosom, also called the 'God Particle' in a powerpoint-show set in Comic Sans. This historical event told in such a childish fashion, caused an uproar in both established and social media, rising to the top of the most discussed issues on Twitter.

YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY READ
THE ENTIRE ARTICLE FROM
THE NY TIMES — SUPER INTERESTING!

In the wake of these incidents in which the public reacts to the use of Comic Sans by major authorities, Errol Morris from the New York Times published a very comprehensive article including Comic Sans, based on an extensive and thorough survey, which revealed how influential a typeface is on how credible we find a certain written statement.

But the criticism of Comic Sans by Dave and Holly Combs exceeds the well established misuse of the typeface, and ventures into a general critique of the design of Comic Sans — not just it's implication.

At their website, Dave and Holly even provide a long list of fonts, which they find better suited for situations in which Comic Sans would otherwise be appropriated.

CHECK OUT THE WHOLE
LIST OF FONTS HERE!

Chapter 6

So what can we say about the actual formal qualities of Comic Sans, this much debated typeface?
First of all, if we look at Comic Sans in comparison to the lettering it was inspired by (in this case Dave Gibbon's from "The Watchmen") it becomes clear, that there are pronounced differences. Comic Sans is characterized by:

• A remarkable higher cap-height

• No slant in letterforms

• Opposite "curve" in vertical strokes (N,L,R)

• Larger line-height

• Tighter letterspacing

• Illogical irregularities in stroke
GOODNIGHT,   LAURIE.
But the most remarkable difference perhaps, is the lack of a modulated stroke.

Where the handwriting of Dave Gibbons, becomes alive and human through the shift in strokewidth, Comic Sans has the same unmodulated strokewidth throughout all strokes and letterforms. This would be impossible to achieve in handwritting, and provides Comic Sans with an inanimate and constructed character, which contradicts it's intentions.

But other typefaces have unmodulated strokes as well, like Helvetica for instance. So how does the typographical qualities differ between or unmodulated Comics Sans and the (seemingly) unmodulated Helvetica?
nn In this example of the two minuscule "n"s from Helvetica and Comic Sans, the inadequacy of Comic Sans, becomes quite visible.

Though the strokes of Helvetica’s letterforms are unmodulated, some adjustments are made to improve its legibility. For example, notice how the stroke on Helvetica gets thinner where the shoulder meets the stem.

This helps to give the letter a more even visual weight. Notice now, how Comic Sans is not this way. There is a disproportionately heavy area where these strokes meet on Comic Sans, while Helvetica’s weight is more evenly distributed. The ironic thing about this distinction is that Comic Sans is actually influenced from a drawing tool: a round, felt-tipped pen or marker; but, the stroke of this tool is unmodulated. Meanwhile, the letterforms of Helvetica are rationalized from predecessors, without apparent influence of a drawing tool.

This mismanagement of visual weight is the main issue that makes reading Comic Sans an unpleasant experience.
Now it may seem unfair, to compare Comic Sans with the almost celestially perfect Helvetica — but for the sake of argument, let us stick to this juxtaposition.
For in this comparison, another problematic aspect of Comic Sans, becomes visible: It's inforier inter-character relations.

First of all, the standard kerning of Comic Sans becomes quite awkward in situations like the T-h and e-t relation as seen in this example.

But perhaps even more criticizable is the poor letterfit in general. Comic Sans has an awkward gap between the “f” and the “o” but this pairing can’t simply be more tightly kerned, as that would create an area of tension – from too close proximity – between the crossbar of the “f” and the “o.”
The pet fox
The pet fox
So evidently there are a lot of bad things to say about Comic Sans, from it's implications to it's actual formal qualities.

But there are also aspects that should be mentioned in it's defence.
It is important to remember, that Comic Sans was designed in 1994 for on-screen use. At this time "anti-aliasing" was not yet invented. Anti-aliasing is the technology that makes fonts look smooth when displayed in small sizes on-screen. Without anti-aliasing, fonts look jagged or pixelated.

In the example to the right, a 6pt enlarged Comic Sans is shown with and witohut anti-aliasing. It becomes visible, that Comic Sans in this case has the advantage of being designed before this technology, and it is noticible how the font distributes it's weight more evenly when no anti-aliasing is being implied. This becomes quite clear, for instance in the balance of blackness in minuscule "e".
And when compared at 8pt to an aliased version of Monotypes Garamond (also released in 1995) which wasn't designed for the screen...
...It can even be argued that Comcis Sans is more legible!
Now of course, there is no doubt, that Comic Sans is no big asthetic achievement in itself... ...And one has to really scout in order to see it's advantages... ...But to do it justice, we should remember, that when designed in 1995... ...The font was never intended to be used by other than Rover the talking dog... ...Which means that we, the users of system fonts, are solely responsible for turning Comic Sans into what it is today!...
SHOW INFO – type history research on
THE END