I never expected to seriously be writing about Comic Sans. The occasional reference for humor is a low hanging fruit to any typography writer but here we go. In all seriousness, let’s talk about the world’s most hated typeface because designer Craig Rozynski challenged himself to redesign it.
First, let’s look at the history of Comic Sans via Just My Type by Simon Garfield, because I believe that the world is too harsh on Vincent Connare. You might say he’s the person you curse under your breath when you see that passive aggressive note about cleaning the microwave at the office — but really he’s only partially to blame.
Connare, who’d already designed a number of child-oriented fonts, noticed that Microsoft had chose Times New Roman for Microsoft Bob, a program intending to make computers less scary to newcomers. In it was a cartoon dog named Rover who served as your digital guide, using speech bubbles filled with helpful facts. Connare created Comic Sans to replace Times in Rover’s speech bubbles but the typeface was too wide, and with no time to adjust, Comic Sans wasn’t used in the program. It did appear in Microsoft Movie Maker and then as a supplementary typeface in Windows 95 when it became available for use (and abuse) by the world.
My point is, Connare created the typeface for a very specific purpose and then Microsoft put it in the hands of grandparents, children, that OCD woman a few cubicles over, and anyone with a business or a lost cat. I do not blame Connare, I blame Microsoft and its access to this typeface.
Over the past three years, Rozynski decided as a hobby to see if “the world’s most disliked font, Comic Sans, could be ‘saved’. Turn it into something even the typographically savvy might use.” Last week he released Comic Neue, available for free download, and it’s made some serious traction around the Internet. I purposely abstained from reading any reviews in order to give a fresh, uninfluenced opinion.
What an intriguing undertaking for a designer, I bet this was such a challenge. I think Rozynski succeeded in making a much better typeface, which also comes in Comic Neue Angular and drops the round terminals. Overall it’s less awkward, remaining round and open, and the E’s and Q’s maintain a particularly strong likeness to the original typeface. The best part of this whole endeavor though is that Jerzy Glowacki created a Comic Sans replacer that you can install into your browser, never having to see Comic Sans on the web again. Here’s the thing though, that’s really the only way I’d like to see Comic Neue used — as a replacement.
“I simply set out to fix the weirdness. I still wanted it to be a casual typeface. I still wanted it to be Comic Sans, but a version you couldn’t easily fault. Make people question their assumptions,” Rozynski told Creative Review in an interview. And he did. In this way Rozynski is victorious, as well as being quite clever.
Still, I don’t think it shakes Comic Sans’ reputation so much that I’d be happy to see it used instead of some other beautiful sans. I think it has it’s place and that’s when you need something to come off very friendly and welcoming, not in memos or advertisements or on packaging. It’s display type, not for long body copy, and people are still going to use it incorrectly.
You can try make the typeface better but you can’t break the habits of those without a sense of type.