Comic Sans: The Font, The Myth, The Legend
In the design world, Comic Sans is arguably the most hated font of all time. It’s use in any setting is considered by designers as a big no-no, with the implementation of Comic Sans rendering entire works as goofy or in desperate need of a redesign. Can the selection of designer-despised fonts realistically destroy an entire design project, dooming these typefaces to the pits of uselessness?
Round 1, FIGHT!
A starry-eyed user recently posted his agency’s website for community review, to a surprising (or unsurprising) amount of backlash due to the use of Comic Sans throughout the design. The website did require improvements in terms of aesthetic and function, however nearly all user-submitted critiques were solely directed on the designer’s use of our old pal Comic Sans. Element padding, image and text content sizing, clear information hierarchy and consistency in colour palettes were of more urgent concern in this certain design, yet the hot tip from ‘professional designers’ was to simply change the font. This type of design snobbery is irritating, and characterises a far greater lack of design understanding by snobby elitists than the poor soul guilty of using a taboo font. Unless the design outcome is to create a digital art piece meant only for aesthetic pleasure, then it’s function over form 10 out of 10 times. This is not to suggest visual aesthetics is thrown out the window, but project criteria should always be at the forefront when designing. In terms of improvement for this particular case, the use of space and sizing hierarchy for objects and text was much higher on the list of importance than the typeface selection.
As a side note, it takes big kahunas to use Comic Sans in a non-ironic way, so much respect!
A Real World Example Of (Subjectively) Butt-Ugly Font Selection That Works
Let’s throw on the design snobbery glasses for a second, and have a peek at one of the most recognisable and successful retail chains in Australia – JB-HiFi. With our newfound vision, the branding for JB-HiFi appears erratic and comical when compared to rival companies, so wouldn’t a brand overhaul using a ‘clean and modern’ sans-serif typeface be oh-so logical in this situation? The short answer is no. Consideration must be made for JB-HiFi’s organisational outcomes, which can be assumed to be increasing sales and maintaining recognition for entertainment and technology-related goods, just to name a few. Their current branding achieves this through a combination of colour and a wacky bargain-esque typeface, with most consumers believing that JB-HiFi provide the lowest costs for brand name items – even though in reality they are moderately priced. The font visually communicates the appeal of a bargain, albeit the typeface appears dated when compared to styles used in modern branding.
JB-HiFi’s brand identity is pure genius, not because it is an aesthetic masterpiece (quite the contrary), but rather effectively achieves their desired objectives as a business. Changing the ‘dated’ font in this instance would be a hindrance to their impressively established brand image – yes it’s ugly, but it works!
Is Was The Bomb Dot Com, Thinking Otherwise Makes You A Mediocre Designer (Fight Me)
It’s sad to think this could be labelled as a controversial statement, but there’s nothing technically wrong with Comic Sans. The font displays each letter of the alphabet clearly, and in written use-case scenarios is quite legible – especially when compared with popular ultralight or thin sans-serif fonts considered as the gold standard in the age of ‘clean and modern’. If you’re a nerdy 90s kid like myself, Comic Sans will conjure up memories of countless hours messing with Microsoft Paint and Word, so as an adult designer now, it’s hard to not look fondly upon the old faithful Comic Sans. Although it’s unlikely to be chosen as a font for the majority of current design projects, it can be argued there is a time and place for Comic Sans to be used – either as a throwback or unironically, if you dare.
It is detrimental to your design arsenal if you rule out an entire style or tool from the outset, without giving consideration to the objectives of your design exercise. This does not mean you need to use Comic Sans and other hated fonts like Papyrus (my personal least favourite), but keep an open mind to any possibilities that may help you achieve your/your client’s desired outcomes. It’s not about making a pretty deliverable, but rather a deliverable that ticks the boxes on the design brief. In summary, if it meets the project’s requirements, then design everything with anything!
Image Credits: Unsplash