Comic Sans, the font that launched a thousand memes, was unleashed on the world in 1994. It’s been absolute chaos ever since. But what is it about a simple font that sparks so much debate?
The font was originally developed for use in a children’s educational program after Microsoft typographer Vincent Connare noticed that the talking dog mascot used Times New Roman. He decided to make a brand new font for the character because, according to Connare, “Dogs don’t talk in Times New Roman!” (and because he wanted to make the program feel informal and accessible to kids). Connare took inspiration from graphic novels to create arguably the most polarising font ever: Comic Sans.
Modern critics of Comic Sans will tell you that it’s childish, ugly and often inappropriate. And they’re not entirely wrong. It’s true; the font is often used in inappropriate instances — business websites, college essays and flyers spring to mind — cementing Comic Sans as the hallmark of an amateur in the design world. It also gave birth to the overused “Doge” meme of the early 2010s, further cementing our kneejerk reaction of rage when we see the font.
Personally, though, I have a soft spot for Comic Sans. My dad’s first email signature was in Comic Sans, a very specific shade of dark blue. It was my first font for typed essays in primary school once I had graduated from purely handwritten projects. I can still remember being 9 years old and excitedly showing my parents my class project on volcanoes, written entirely in size 13.5, bolded Comic Sans. My teachers must have been horrified, but I’m not sorry for my 9-year-old self’s actions. Freedom to choose my own font was crucial in developing my sense of individuality and love of writing.
In addition to being inviting to young computer users, Comic Sans is dyslexia-friendly and increases readability, according to the British Dyslexia Association style guide. The distinct shapes make distinguishing between similar letters easier, the lack of serifs makes the words appear less “crowded” on the page and it’s more widely available than the fonts designed specifically with dyslexia in mind. Comic Sans might also help fight writer’s block because it creates an informal, low-pressure environment where writers may feel better about possibly making mistakes.
In addition, a 2010 Princeton University study showed that when information is presented in atypical fonts such as italicized Comic Sans, students retain it better — possibly because they are forced to engage more deeply with the texts. Writers also recommend switching to Comic Sans when proofreading, claiming that the effect of the unfamiliar font makes it easier to pay attention to small details such as grammar mistakes.
Whether you love or hate Comic Sans, it’s hard to deny that it has its place in society. It’s friendly, nonthreatening and accessible. I think it’s time we let go of our hate and embrace our inner child (or struggling writer). I’m not advocating for Comic Sans resumes, eulogies or even essays. But, just maybe, for the next time you’re proofreading a paper at 3 a.m., consider a quick font switch?