Attorney John Dowd used the font this week in a letter informing the House Intelligence Committee members that his clients — two Rudolph W. Giuliani associates — would not be submitting to their demands.
“Your request for documents and communications is overly broad and unduly burdensome,” Dowd wrote of his clients, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. “The subject matter of your requests is well beyond the scope of your inquiry. This, in combination with requiring immediate responses, leads me to the inescapable conclusion that the Democratic Committee members’ intent is to harass, intimidate and embarrass my clients.”
On social media, though, the letter’s contents were nearly overshadowed by the font it was drafted in. Dowd’s choice of Comic Sans became a Twitter moment. At least one observer joked that the attorney should be disbarred.
In France, the man behind Comic Sans got a Google alert about the kerfuffle.
Vincent Connare designed the flippant font for a long-forgotten operating system, Microsoft Bob, that was intended to provide a user-friendly interface for Microsoft 95. Looking at “Rover,” who guided users through speech bubbles, Connare had the realization that led to Comic Sans: “Dogs don’t talk in Times New Roman!”
But do lawyers? Connare, who describes his creation both as “my one-hit wonder” and “the best joke I ever told,” didn’t think so. He found Dowd’s use of Comic Sans “very funny,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. Ironically enough, he thought Times New Roman was required for legal filings. (In fact, some courts distribute lists of acceptable fonts. Comic Sans is usually not one of them.)
“He chose what he liked,” Connare surmised of Dowd. “Or he maybe consciously chose it to p--- them off or something.”
The former, actually.
In response to a Washington Post inquiry, Dowd said in an email — typed out in Comic Sans — that he loves the font.
“I am laughing,” wrote Dowd, a former Trump attorney who chose the same typeface for a letter to former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. “Folks don’t have enough to do. I love the font. It is easy on the eye. In 30 years of use, NO ONE has ever questioned it even in the most serious matters.”
This is the kind of thing that makes Holly Combs shudder. Since 1999, the Indianapolis graphic designer has made it her mission to eradicate inappropriate use of Comic Sans — think funeral programs, mental health literature or police bulletins. She and her husband, Dave, also a designer, called their movement “Ban Comic Sans” and even wrote an infamous manifesto declaring that the typeface conveys “silliness, childish naivete, irreverence.”
Some, like Dowd, love the typeface. Others see it as harmless and say it’s elitist to fret about it. There are also those who argue it is easier for people with dyslexia to read. Dave Combs now encourages people to use Comic Sans if they like it. His wife does not agree. She argues the style of Comic Sans makes its use disrespectful in serious situations.
“I feel like this man dressed up in a clown costume,” she said of Dowd.
Connare is proud of Comic Sans in that it accomplished what it was supposed to: “This program that I saw screamed out for a childish, cartoonish font,” he said. Yet he himself has used it only once — in a letter complaining about his broadband service. “They didn’t deserve anything better, you know?” he said. “I intentionally did it because I thought, well, maybe — if they even notice — maybe that will get their attention. So in a way, it was a joke.”
He prefers a more traditional look, like Baskerville, and said Comic Sans is not advisable for an impeachment inquiry response because it’s “too casual.”
But after mulling it over, Combs said that the font was fitting in a way.
“I mean, it’s a talking dog,” she said. “What’s happening in our world right now — there would be no other typeface to put it in.”