What's with all the hating on Comic Sans?

What's with all the hating on Comic Sans?

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Google's April Fool joke got me reading about why graphic designers hate Comic Sans so much.

I can't help being reminded of one of my old college lecturers, a music theory analyst who once told a class I was in that "this composition was very successful, and remains popular with concert audiences. But when you look below the surface and analyze how it is put together at a technical level, you will come to realize that it isn't actually any good at all."

I didn't agree with him then, and I don't agree with the Comic Sans haters today.

To my mind, the fundamental purpose of art (which includes both music and graphic design) is to communicate. Sometimes the goal is to communicate factual information, other times emotion, humor, or a distraction from boredom. Technical details such as stroke modulation and letter fit in font design, or sonata form recapitulation in classical composition, are just a means toward an end. It is easy for those of us who have spent years studying these fields to lose sight of the fact that the means are not the end, and desirable ends can sometimes be reached by unusual means.

Sure, Comic Sans is a poor choice if you want to maximize legibility for reading large amounts of text. But to my mind its enduring popularity proves, not that amateur designers are stupid, but that this font conveys a unique and distinctive emotion which many people find valuable. If it didn't engender strong emotion, designers wouldn't care enough to hate it so much! Emotion is art, and art is good, right?

Besides, what other way do you know that we amateurs can so easily irritate those pretentious professional graphic designers? :-)

  • Your view seems to be that if something is popular, one can conclude that it isn't bad.

    To the contrary, designers and typographers will frequently say that the reason Comic Sans is so despised is that it is overused.  It conveys no purpose other than the author not being sure of the purpose of that font.

    In defense of the font, you could also note that the font is popular among people with certain types of dyslexia, as no character is a perfect mirror image of another character. "p", "b", and "d" have unique shapes, for example.

  • > Your view seems to be that if something is popular, one can conclude that it isn't bad.

    Yeah, that's basically right, but there is some nuance to it:

    If something is popular, I think that is a strong indication that a large number of people find something of value in it.

    That doesn't mean it must be good according to all possible metrics, but it does suggest that there is at least some good thing about it as percieved by a significantly greater than zero number of people.

    When experts in a field say "no, this thing is just bad, people are idiots for thinking otherwise", this suggests to me that the experts are judging by different metrics to what others are focusing on.

    I absolutely think that, especially in areas driven primarily by aesthetics, non experts should be entitled to form their own opinions, even if this contradicts the established expert wisdom.

  • @Shawn -

    Slightly off topic, but speaking of Google's April Fool's joke... did you see that someone actually implemented it for real.... using Microsoft technology of all things?  :)  +1 for the Kinect!  I bet Google had nightmares of this one:

    bits.blogs.nytimes.com/.../hackers-turn-a-gmail-april-fools-joke-into-a-reality

  • >When experts in a field say "no, this thing is just bad, people are idiots for thinking otherwise", this suggests to me that the experts are judging by different metrics to what others are focusing on.

    exactly!  

    I think "expert" designers look upon Comic Sans similar to the way many "expert" programmers might look upon JavaScript and CSS ->  Intellectually awful and insult to our craft, but it's such widespread evil that it's impossible to avoid.  :o)

  • To Quote: ""When experts in a field say "no, this thing is just bad, people are idiots for thinking otherwise", this suggests to me that the experts are judging by different metrics to what others are focusing on."

    exactly!  "

    I know we are all programmers and want a definite algorithm that tells you why not to use comic sans. But there isnt one. It is just the font is out of fashion. It is out of style. I know you don't like "elites" telling you why not something is so and they seem like they are talking down to you. But really, it is a style and comic sans is out. That isn't a bad thing either. Embrace it.

    Programmers are notoriously bad at design. The term "programmer art" is there for a reason. Now that you know Comic Sans is out of style there is one less thing to worry about. Now you can get back to programming knowing that as long as you don't use comic sans on your XNA box art you wont be laughed at.

    It is like you guys are arguing whether bell bottoms or mullets are cool.

  • Also, it Shawn H it looks like you are now arguing the point "well if most people like it so it must be good"

    You have better hope for humanity than I do. Here is the thing we disagree about taste is NOT democratic. In fact, I think that most people have bad taste. Most people pick bad music. Most people take lousy photos. Most people have bad clothing choices. Most people have bad design sense. It is actually understandable. Most people have other interests like their kids and work and they don't have time to think that hard about the type face they use. And that lack of thought is why CS keeps coming up.

    Accounting for taste and wondering why more people always pick the bad one is a real philosophical question. If you are grappling with it I highly recommend this book:

    "Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste"

    www.amazon.com/.../ref=sr_1_1

    The argument is why do so many people like Celine Dion when so many music critics say her music is awful. The guy (a music snob) tries to break down human taste and why so many people have bad taste.

    You can basically replace "Celine Dion" with "Comic Sans" and possibly arrive at the answer you seek.

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