Comic Sans is less a font than an Internet punchline. Anything written in the loopy, childlike type is ripe for derision, no matter what it describes: LeBron James’ defection from the Cleveland Cavaliers. The pope’s retirement. The existence of the Higgs boson.
“The conscious awareness of Comic Sans promotes — at least among some people — contempt and summary dismissal,” Errol Morris wrote in 2012.
But one ambitious Australian designer thinks he has reinvented — we might say redeemed — Comic Sans once and for all. The new take on Comic Sans is called Comic Neue. And per its designer, Craig Rozynski, it’s destined to become “the casual script choice for everyone” — including “the typographically savvy.”
Now, as these design types (heh) know already, new fonts come out more or less everyday. The Web teems with free fonts, in fact. But Comic Neue is a bit of an interesting case, merely because Comic Sans is so controversial.
The goofy, comic book-inspired font, originally designed by Vincent Connare for Microsoft in 1994, became so ubiquitous in the late ‘90s — think books, advertisements, even gravestones — that a global movement tried to ban it. When you Google “most hated font,” Comic Sans’ Wikipedia page comes up. A popular Tumblr pilloried the font by redesigning corporate logos with it. (They all look ridiculous.)
Even Connare, Comic Sans’s creator, has tried to distance himself from it: “There was no intention to include the font in other applications other than those designed for children when I designed Comic Sans,” he declared on his Web site, before telling the Wall Street Journal “you can’t regulate bad taste.” Welp.
Comic Sans’s problems go beyond aesthetics, though. Fonts subtly influence the way we process information. The filmmaker Errol Morris, in a very lengthy column for the New York Times in 2012, actually analyzed how much people trust statements printed in several different fonts. He explained the significance this way:
I have often wondered about the visual element in text. Yes, we read the word “horse,” but we also see the letters, the typefaces, the shape of the word on the page. Is this not part of the meaning? It seems evident that we respond to different typefaces in different ways, but how many experiments have been done to determine the effect of typefaces on our perception of truth? Do we more readily accept (as true) sentences written in one typeface rather than another?
The short answer: Yes, we do. And despite the fact that Comic Sans came out on the bottom, by a wide margin, it still seems to be the font of choice for everything from children’s birthday invitations to the announcements of major scientific discoveries. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, took a lot of flack in 2012 for printing a series of slides about the Higgs boson — “possibly the biggest scientific discovery of our time” — in the loopy font. They went on to use the font in an April Fools’s prank this year.
That’s particularly grated on people like Holly Combs, the founder of Ban Comic Sans, who told the Guardian that using the font is like “turning up to a black-tie event in a clown costume.” Combs even started a petition to have it banned from Google applications.
It’s unclear if Comic Neue will pacify the haters. But it certainly looks like an improvement over the world’s most hated font. Doesn’t it?