Comic Sans: The Typographic Black Plague

Since its introduction by Vincent Connare in 1995, the Comic Sans font has become an exceptionally hot topic under scrutiny by today’s University students in particular.  Comic Sans critics are concerned with its scanty design, childish appearance, and overuse (especially in inappropriate contexts.)  This typographic travesty, once found only on the tags of Beanie Babies, has made its insidious mark on our everyday lives, more so than we may realize.          

Samantha Pagan and Anita Brown, creators of a YouTube documentary on Comic Sans, speculate that this generation of up-and-coming scholars are more aware of Comic Sans abuse due to its influence during the rise of the home computer. Originally introduced as the default font for Windows 95 and Microsoft Internet Explorer, today’s University student were raised using Comic Sans within chat rooms, games, and web pages. 

Pagan and Brown draw attention to the advertising industry as being bitten the hardest by the Comic Sans bug.  Luckily we will not find a four hundred page novel ridden with Comic Sans script in a bookstore (thanks to Connare’s uneven default kerning of the font), but unfortunately we do have to cope with seeing countless displays of it on store fronts, signage, and product marketing.  Pagan and Brown showed three students popular brand names such as FedEx, Starbucks, and Sprite written in the Comic Sans font, to observe how the initial reaction to each product changed.  Naturally, the students were offset by the discontinuity between product and font.  The students agreed that for labels which had “serious work put into them” (i.e. Harry Potter, Pink Floyd, and Absolut Vodka), the advertisements seemed less believable and enticing when replaced with Comic Sans scribbles.  Drinking imported vodka doesn’t seem so appealing when the label appears to be designed by a two year old.      

Microsoft has supported the creation of a Fontenstien by giving the Average Joe the ability to customize text with the click of a button.  Pagan and Brown’s documentary suggests that a font “shouldn’t call attention to itself unless there’s a purpose”, but this “groovy” font has certainly not gone unnoticed.   In fact, Comic Sans is about as subtle as a balding, post mid-life crisis man driving a Mazda Miata.  The overuse of Comic Sans is infectious, and it is imperative that our generation learns to keep Comic Sans usage at a minimum. If the spread of this Microsoft plague does not come to a screeching halt soon, I fear the integrity of our typographic history may very well be in grave danger.

– Erin Carolan


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