Beloved By Some, Despised By Others, The Font Comic Sans Turns 25
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
If the cartoony-looking font known as Comic Sans makes you cringe, well, you are not alone. The typeface turned 25 years old this month, and it has drawn its fair share of hate, even from people who normally don't think twice about typography. NPR's Andrew Limbong explains.
ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: If you think Comic Sans looks immature, child-like something a teacher would use, well, that's sort of the point. Back in 1994, Vincent Connare was working at Microsoft. And he was working on software that would teach people how to use a computer through cartoon characters who spoke in speech bubbles, including a yellow dog named Rover.
VINCENT CONNARE: But it was in Times New Roman.
LIMBONG: That stately font which was default on Windows at the time.
CONNARE: And so I saw that and said, well, that's not how a comic dog should talk.
LIMBONG: So he mimicked the lettering he saw in comic books and designed Comic Sans. He knows it's not the most elegant font, but it gets the job done.
CONNARE: You have to do things that aren't beautiful sometimes.
LIMBONG: Connare senses a certain type of elitism from people who hate on it.
CONNARE: They disrespect, if that's the right word for it, the people that use it. They say they're not intelligent. They don't know how to use typography. But if you look at the people that are using it, that's not true.
LIMBONG: The scientists at CERN used Comic Sans to announce evidence of the Higgs boson particle. Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote an open letter to fans in Comic Sans after LeBron James left the NBA team. Just this month, former Trump lawyer John Dowd wrote a letter to the House Intelligence Committee in the font. All got added attention for being in Comic Sans.
HOLLY COMBS: You're communicating to people that what you've put in writing isn't serious.
LIMBONG: Holly Combs started a campaign called Ban Comic Sans in 2000 with her then-boyfriend Dave after she had an assignment to write a gallery guide for a museum in the font. They made shirts, printed stickers, got the word out about how bad Comic Sans was. It was a way to vent at a frustrating job and this stupid font. Nearly two decades later, the joke had run its course. They caught an episode of the show "Parks And Recreation," where the character Jerry gets made fun of for using Comic Sans in a logo.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PARKS AND RECREATION")
JIM O'HEIR: (As Jerry Gergich) You know, see, I think that Comic Sans always screams fun, right? But man, those Rs in Helvetica, they're just, you know, like, really popping for me.
AZIZ ANSARI: (As Tom Haverford) I've never been more bored in my entire life.
DAVE COMBS: When we realized that was actually happening in real life...
LIMBONG: Holly's husband Dave Combs.
D COMBS: ...That people were getting made fun of or picked on or shunned for choosing Comic Sans - and that was never our intent.
LIMBONG: In fact, as a result of working together as Comic Sans haters, they fell in love.
H COMBS: I believe it brought all the magic and explosion of joy and love that ended up being why we married and, you know, had two children.
LIMBONG: They now run usecomicsans.com and updated all their merch accordingly. And they've changed their stance on Comic Sans users.
D COMBS: We love you whether you use Comic Sans or not.
H COMBS: Dave said that. I didn't.
LIMBONG: To be clear, they still hate Comic Sans, just not the people who use it.
Andrew Limbong, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE COMIC SANS SONG")
GUNNAROLLA: (Singing) Comic Sans is the best font in the world if you want your designs to look like they're done by little girls. Comic Sans... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.