What did I learn from this most hated font in the world?

What is comic sans MS?

Comic Sans MS is a font created by Vincent Connare, as he was instructed by Miranda Gates (Wife of Bill Gates) personally to create a font which looked more like a handwritten font for the speech bubble of that animated dog (Microsoft Bob) which used to appear in the windows XP screens if you remember. The font wasn’t completed in time to actually make it into the program, but it lived on to eventually ship with Windows 95; and that’s when the font really got ugly.

Once the font was in the hands of Windows 95 users, there was no telling how people would use it. Now, it was going to be printed out on bake sale flyers, birthday party invitations, and even business cards. But remember, this font was designed to be used on-screen, and in 1994, when the font was designed, most computers for personal use – and Windows 95 – didn’t have anti-aliasing.

Anti-aliasing is the technology that makes fonts looks smooth on-screen. Without ant-aliasing, fonts look jagged – as if they were made of LEGOS®. This isn’t the end of the world, as long as the font is designed accordingly. Notice how much better the “e” of Comic Sans distributes its visual weight when aliased.

In fact, when compared to Garamond, which wasn’t originally designed for the screen, Comic Sans fares quite well in terms of readability.

So, the story of Comic Sans is not that of a terrible font, but rather of a mediocre font, used incorrectly on a massive scale. Windows 95 was the first operating system to really hit it big. Just as computers were starting to pop up in nearly every home in America, Windows 95 was finding itself installed on all those computers, and with it, the font Comic Sans. So now, nearly every man, woman, child, and bake sale organizer find themselves armed with publishing power unlike civilization had ever seen; and few of them really had any design sense.

What I learned from this most hated font in the world?

Font designing is just like designing a dress, if the dress is pretty, the one wearing the dress will surely look more beautiful. As Alan Fletcher says, “A typeface is an alphabet in a straight jacket”. In a recent study, on twitter, the only thing complained about more often than Justin Bieber, but less frequently than airlines, is comic sans. Online you can even play a game called kill comic sans.

I think we should think of this font in a slightly different way. It is a pragmatic font which worked really well in it’s era. As I mentioned earlier, it was designed in the era when anti-aliasing didn’t existed in computers and it really did some good job there as compared to other fonts at that time. Also, British dyslexic association claims that comic sans is really good for the children or dyslexic people to read due to its distinguished letters. The font actually exist today as most recognizable relics of one of the most important design revolutions in history.

Books used to be painstakingly copied by hand. Now later, you could design a story or an idea, but the final look really just came down to what a few typesetters could do. Today, almost anyone can dabble in typography and that is an amazing thing. Sure, it means that comic sans will be used. A lot. Comic sans is proof that the design works. The public understands that, “type means more than words.” I know, comic sans is a bit ugly, but it’s ugly in the same way that the first few chords of ‘smoke on the water’ are ugly, as played by every beginning artist who picks up a guitar at almost every instrument store. Sure, it sounds annoying and a little bit fumbly, but it represents someone who is using tools to move towards mastery. Adrian Frutiger said that type has the power to make the whole world of thought legible, simply by rearranging the same letters over and over again. Well, Comic Sans, overused by the untrained majority may seem unsavory to some people, but as such, it most loudly represents something phenomenal. Today it is possible for the whole world of thought to be made legible and be shared by the whole world.

So, remember being bad or unwanted doesn’t mean that you are useless, you are just a beginning. Work your asses off and prove that this unwanted today may become something phenomenal in no time. Cheers!

Author avatar
Abhilash Shrivastava
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