Designers Weigh In: Why Does Everyone Hate Comic Sans So Much?
By Kristina Ericksen on 03/23/2016
All fonts are not created equally.
Some we hold close to our hearts, our tried and true go-tos. Some we dust off for special occasions. And some we keep locked away, never to be used in the light of day.
One such font has become the bane of the typeface world. It makes a laughing stock of its users and has grown to become universally despised.
It’s Comic Sans – and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon!
But hey, Comic Sans has had a rough life. Shouldn’t we cut it some slack? After all, it’s not easy being the most hated font of all time.
Join us as we implore this funhouse font and answer the question: Why does everyone hate Comic Sans so much, anyway?
The life & times of Comic Sans
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s….Comic Sans?
The year is 1994. Forrest Gump dominates the box office. OJ Simpson has just been arrested. And Comic Sans is born to an unsuspecting world.
Vincent Connare was working as a font designer for Microsoft at the time. Struck with a clap of inspiration, he envisioned a font based on the lettering of the comic books he had spread across his office … and the rest was history.
But there’s one more thing you need to know. Connare created Comic Sans for children’s applications, cartoon guides and speech bubbles, intending that it only be used for those purposes. It was not meant to be included as a font in other applications, but we all know how that story ends.
Comic Sans was added to the font collection in Windows 95 and has since grown to become a staple in the typeface cannon.
Why Comic Sans is so visually terrible?
Comic Sans is a sans-serif font (hence the name.) The font also has an unmodulated stroke, which means as the lines within a letter curve, they don’t vary in thickness or thinness as it would if you wrote in a flat-tipped pen. Most fonts with an unmodulated stroke are adjusted for ease of viewing.
For example, Helvetica’s unmodulated stroke is adjusted slightly in the curves of letters to better balance the visual weight. The imbalance of visual weight in Comic Sans makes for a taxing reading experience. Blocks of lettering don’t allow for smooth, uniform reading, making for an uneven “texture” and legibility. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Comic Sans has terrible kerning. The spacing between letters is awkward and uneven.
Comic Sans sympathizers
Ok, let’s face it. Some people like Comic Sans. That’s why you see it misused all over the place.
Ty, the makers of the quintessential 90s toys Beanie Babies, chose the font to portray their empire. So did EA Games’ The Sims. Apple even created its own knockoff version of the font – Chalkboard. It seems there was a time Comic Sans was America’s sweetheart of fonts. But oh how the tides have turned.
But really — why does everyone hate Comic Sans so much?
Just when did the tide turn? When did the masses rise against the monument of Comic Sans? It’s tough to say. Was it the rampant misuse of the font that was never meant to be? Was it our emerging tech-savviness as the 90s faded away? One can’t be sure.
But what is certain is the disdain for the font today – and the feeling appears to be widespread. Two disgruntled graphic designers founded Ban Comic Sans in 2002. Time magazine even condoned the font in their list of the 50 Worst Inventions. And the mockery of Comic Sans recently became immortalized in the world of memes and Internet jokes.
Perhaps it’s the misuse of application that has fueled the loathing of Comic Sans. A notable example of the font’s mishandling came from Lebron James’ departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers, recalls UX designer and Comic Sans hater Gene Caballero.
The team’s owner, Dan Gilbert, posted a heated rant on James leaving, but did so unfittingly in Comic Sans, much to the internet’s delight. The letter quickly became a laughing stock and has since been deleted.
But the misuse of Comic Sans expands far beyond Gilbert’s note – featured on funeral notices, the sides of ambulances and security alerts as far as the eye can see. Even the Vatican released a farewell photo album upon the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, entirely in Comic Sans.
"99% of the time we see Comic Sans used, it's being used badly."
“Comic Sans, putting it lightly, hurts my feelings,” says creative design manager Janice Omadeke. “Why, out of all of the amazing fonts that are in a standard font library, would someone pick that font?” She adds that from a design perspective, the font has a childish nature.
Graphic designer Amanda Guerassio points out that the font is commonly assumed to have a fun, informal feel – and it is often misused in large blocks of texts, rather than left just to headlines.
“Those two issues combined mean that 99 percent of the time we see Comic Sans, it's being used badly,” she explains. “That's why it's come to be so hated. It's become the standard bearer for recognizing bad or amateur design.”
Now you know…
In such a torn, divisive world, there are few things that can pull people together like an unfavorable font.
Will we ever stop hating Comic Sans? Will it eventually fall back in fashion? Will it ever be plucked out of our standard font portfolios? We can’t be certain – but for now, it seems Comic Sans has fallen to the wayside for designers and the general public alike.
To avoid other embarrassing design blunders, check out our article: Experts Reveal 6 Easily Avoidable Graphic Design Mistakes.