In defence of Comic Sans: Why Helvetica hipsters are wrong about one of Microsoft's best-loved fonts

Emma Haslett
Follow Emma
Design snobs are throwing shade at Comic Sans again. (Source: City A.M.)

Oh look – Comic Sans is trending on Twitter again. Thousands of people are responding to an interview in the Guardian with the font's creator, Vincent Connare, who explains how he came up with the much-maligned font.

The Helvetica hipsters were out in force on social media. "BREAKING: Isis have claimed responsibility for the creation of Comic Sans", tweeted one person. "I think we can all agree Comic Sans is the worst thing that has happened to the world ever," tweeted another.

In the interview, Connare explains how the font came about:

"I was working for Microsoft’s typography team... One program was called Microsoft Bob, which was designed to make computers more accessible to children. I booted it up and out walked this cartoon dog, talking with a speech bubble in Times New Roman. Dogs don’t talk in Times New Roman! Conceptually, it made no sense."

So he set out to make a comic-style font based on graphic novels.

"I didn't have to make straight lines, I didn't have to make things look right, and that's what I found fun."

I grew up with Comic Sans: it was first released by Microsoft in 1994, right around the time I first started using computers. As a child, it seemed fun and friendly: I wrote dozens of school essays in Comic Sans. I created my first-ever newspaper (three pages, entirely about ponies) in Comic Sans. On MSN Messenger, I spent hours chatting to boys using Comic Sans (anyone remember "a/s/l"?).

It's not just kids who are drawn to it: hospital wards, primary schools and church groups use Comic Sans all the time because it's an easy way of conveying that they are genial and approachable. Admit it: Arial will never provide a sense of community like Comic Sans does.

I'm not the only one defending it: a 2010 study by Princeton University found documents printed in "ugly" fonts could make concepts easier to retain.

"Those who read [a paper] in an easy-to-read font (16-point Arial pure black) answered [test questions] correctly 72.8 percent of the time, compared to 86.5 percent of those who reviewed the material in hard-to-read fonts (12-point Comic Sans MS or Bodoni MT in a lighter shade)," it said.

Although even that is slightly disputed: the British Dyslexia Association suggests Comic Sans might actually be easier to read, helping some people with dyslexia to distinguish words more easily because of the way its letters are formed.

The outpouring of hate towards Microsoft's most used fonts is pure snobbery. Twitter's hipsters can keep their cool, clean typefaces. Just leave Comic Sans alone.

Read more: This is the worst font for your CV

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

Related articles