10 Unbelievable Times Comic Sans Made It Big
1. At MicrosoftLet’s delve into a little bit of history here, which for some of you, may sound familiar. Back in 1994, Microsoft Windows was all the rage, but not everyone could figure out how to use a computer. So the geniuses in Redmond came up with a piece of software named Microsoft Bob, which had a cartoon dog that would talk to users and help them along their path. Now, before the Millennials in the audience start getting their man buns in a twist, let me explain what life was like in 1994. After all, I not only was alive then, but I also worked for Best Buy at the Windows 95 midnight launch, which was just as depressing as you might imagine in every respect. Back then we had one computer in our home and it was shared by everyone. Most of my friends didn’t own a computer, and if they did, had no idea how to work it. And at my high school, our computer class consisted of teaching us how to draw comic book characters using a sketching program on an Apple IIe. So yeah, hiring a cartoon dog to show people how to use a mouse might not have been that bad of an idea. Enter Vincent Connare, a designer who worked at Microsoft. They wanted an approachable font to put in the word balloons of this animated dog. He felt that using Times New Roman was lazy, and turned to his comic books for inspiration. (For the comic book nerds out there like me, apparently it was The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and lettered by John Constanza, and Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, with the latter doing the lettering.) Alas, the font came too late for its inclusion in the software, but Microsoft employees got to using it on a regular basis. It even became a favorite around the teams, until eventually it found its way to Windows 95 and Internet Explorer. So if you hate Comic Sans, then sure, you could hate Connare for coming up with it, but maybe hating Microsoft employees circa-1994 would be more appropriate.
2. With the DyslexicNow I don’t want to spend too much time here retreading on topics already covered by our own Joshua Johnson, but let’s touch on the concept a little bit. The theory goes that people who suffer from dyslexia prefer Comic Sans because it’s easier for them to read. But as Johnson points out, that’s not a proven fact. It seems to be a matter of preference for some in the dyslexic community, but they, like the rest of humanity, seem to have a love/hate relationship with the font. Point is, if you or someone you know is dyslexic, then Comic Sans may be the right font for them — or not, it’s totally up in the air. But the fact that it works well for some in that community is enough to chalk it up as a win for the font for me.
3. With KidsAs I have said before, take a stroll through your local K-5 school (assuming you’re a parent of a kid at said school, obviously), and it looks like someone threw up Comic Sans everywhere. When I saw this for the first time as I took my son to Kindergarten, I wrongfully assumed that it was because of budget cuts and the archaic PCs that dominate our current educational system. Then my kid entered the first grade, and it all became clear. Look at a lowercase “g.” How does the descender fall for you? Well it depends on the font, right? Now how about a capital “Q.” Or maybe a lowercase “a.” Is there an ascender on that a or not? Teaching a kid to read and write means that you want them to look at sans serif letters, and the simpler the better. And if you put it in a handwriting format, all the better. It’s worked for comic books since the 1930s, and it makes sense today. So as much as I hate to see it, using Comic Sans at a school makes sense. It sucks, but whatcha gonna do?
4. In Comic BooksHere’s a gimme: Comic Sans works great when it’s used in a comic book. Yeah, I know, it’s a bit of a no-brainer, and yet here we are. Back before computers, comic books were made by glueing (or taping) the caption balloons onto the original hand-drawn artwork, fitting them in where they could. A letterer — no really, that’s their title — would do everything text related in the book, from the onomatopoeia to the balloons, and would do so by hand. Obviously, they needed nice handwriting, and since comic books were notoriously printed on newspaper stock with inks that bled everywhere, they had to choose a style that made sense for their audience. No, there was not a Comic Sans font at the time, but the handwriting of some of the masters were what inspired the typeface. Today, look no further than Comicraft for professional fonts that work well in an actual comic book environment. I’ve purchased quite a few of their fonts myself, and they’re super nice to use. But if you don’t have any cash and want to create a comic, then Comic Sans is a good choice. It’s not awesome, but it’s functional, and if that gets your comic out into the world, then that’s all that matters.
5. With Dan Gilbert and LeBron JamesBack in 2010, LeBron James was a big deal for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Thing is, his fingers were suspiciously empty of any championship rings, so he decided to “take his talents to Miami” and create a super team of sorts. Now they did pretty well down there, adding some jewelry to his collection, but before any of that happened, the owner of the Cavs, Dan Gilbert, had some choice words to say about the move. Oh, and he did it all using Comic Sans. Yes, the letter meant to eviscerate the man who would eventually (in 2016, matter of fact) bring a championship to Cleveland was written in Comic Sans. Soak that in for a moment. The Decision — as ESPN named it — made national headlines, but Gilbert’s letter did too, just for the wrong reasons. I mean, he could’ve gone with that old standard Helvetica, or kick it to Times New Roman, but instead, Comic Sans. Good call, buddy.
6. Higgs BosonAnybody here know anything about physics? Not me, I took chemistry and that’s where my science learning stopped. However, the Higgs Boson is a big deal in the particle physics community (although maybe they should say it’s a HIG deal, amirite?), and when it was discovered, some referred to it as the “God Particle.” Look, I don’t know anything about all of that, but what I do know is that the results of these tests that showed the existence of the particle were shown as part of a Powerpoint presentation using everyone’s favorite font, Comic Sans. It was even made into a video mocking the event: Well, they may be smart, but font literate, they are not.
7. This Wall Street Journal HeadlineI … I just don’t know what to say about this one, but no, it’s not photoshopped, it actually exists. And yes, it’s for an article about comic books, but it’s still Comic Sans. Everybody gets a day to shine, I suppose.
8. This GravestoneOK, again, this is difficult to soak in, but apparently this gravestone (with a photo taken by Cory Doctorow), is in Kensal Green Cemetery, London. I certainly hope that isn’t a special request item, because man, that’s depressing.
9. Beanie BabiesIf it seems like this whole article harkens back to the ’90s, there’s probably a reason for that. Not only was Comic Sans created in the ’90s, but I’m old, and I like what I like, so deal with it. I was never into Beanie Babies, because a) I’m too old for that stuff b) I’m still bitter about losing a first-gen Pinchers the Lobster to a bad poker hand in Cambodia. But the 5th generation Beanie Babies used Comic Sans on their tags, which was a big deal back then. I mean, “big deal” is relative, but you get what I mean.
10. The Comic Sans Hate WebIn this final part of my list, let me shout out a few different websites that I found along the way that love to hate Comic Sans. First up is Ban Comic Sans, a site that’s been pushing the removal of CS for years, and still going strong. Second, is Comic Sans Criminal, where you see a brief history of the font and at the end you can sign a pledge to never use it incorrectly. Amazing. Finally, The Comic Sans Project, a Tumblr devoted to taking logos from existing companies and flipping them into Comic Sans. Genius.
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