Lunatorium Designs

Comic Sans: Is it really necessary?

Why is Comic Sans So Popular?

Why indeed.

Note: This post, while all in fun, does make a serious point about a font problem plaguing the Design world.

A few months ago a fellow Graphic Designer friend of mine posted a story on her Facebook page about how she had done some work for a client and when she was finished his reply was, “I love it! But can we change the font to Comic Sans?” Its one of those situations that make most Graphic Designers groan.  Comic Sans is the red-headed stepchild of the font and design world.  It’s general overuse and reminder of public school flyers during the ’90s are bad enough; but it’s the proclivity of those with computer illiteracy and/or terrible grammar and spelling skills to use it for everything that just sends it right to the top of the cringe pile.

Comic Sans Strikes Again

Ha! ((Source: Google Image Search))

So why is Comic Sans such a popular font, and why is it used so ubiquitously? Well first of all is the most obvious reason: it’s youthful. Most-beloved of school teachers everywhere, Comic Sans is rather reminiscent of children’s handwriting.  It’s also considered ‘fun’ by some people.  But rather than fun, I think the biggest draw to Comic Sans is that it is a very neutral font.  It is not very high-impact; in fact it’s soft edges psychologically give a softer edge to the message being displayed.  Just as typing in bold gives emphasis and spiky fonts look scary, the very unobtrusiveness of Comic Sans makes even the harshest “Don’t forget to refill the printer!” sign come across as gently nagging.

So why should you avoid using Comic Sans in your work? Well clearly because it’s way overused.  If you want to stand out from the crowd, you want to avoid abusing the concept of “tried and true.”  Second, it’s very unprofessional.  Do you really want to associate your business with kindergarten classrooms and grade school parent notices? If the answer is yes, I sincerely hope you work in the craft supplies or childhood education industries.

But never fear! All is not lost! There are better alternatives out there.  Here are some of my favorite free alternative fonts to Comic Sans.

Youthful Fonts: BadDog, Ass Backwards, and Eraser Dust

Overused? Yes. As much as Comic Sans? Pfffft.

Need back-to-school signage? BAM: Eraser Dust (shareware).  Need some kiddy-scrawl for your blog about children’s art projects? BadDog (shareware) and Ass Backwards (freeware) to the rescue.

Looking for a casual font for your office party announcement? Marker Felt, Duality, and Aloha, all free, have you covered.

Fun Fonts: Marker Felt, Duality, and Aloha

Exchange your smiley face clipart with some retro martini glasses and you’re off to a great start.

What about if you just want something neutral and non-judgmental for your office passive-aggression? Lido, Copyright Violations, and Swansea are there for you.  They’re all freeware so you can download them and anonymously vent your frustrations quickly and easily.

Neutral Fonts: Lido, Copyright Violations, Swansea

Don’t let them steal the toilet paper!

Finally, what if you truly want a font for your comics? Are you seriously going to consider Comic Sans as the answer for your characters’ witty dialogue? I recommend Comic Book Commando (emailware), Digital Strip, and Anime Ace (both from Blambot and free for personal use).  Also checkout Blambot for a ton more awesome fonts for comic creation.

Comic Fonts: Digital Strip, Comic Book Commando, and Anime Ace

Comic Sans should never be used for actual comics!

Looking through the history of typography, fonts have fashions just like all styles of art.  One of the biggest problems with Comic Sans is that its “fashion” has been out of style for over a decade.  Considering alternative fonts are affordable and easy to find, there really isn’t an excuse to continue using Comic Sans.  “But I like it” cannot outweigh the negative attitude now generally held for it.  Exposing oneself to a wide variety of options will help you find fonts you enjoy even more, and would do more for your aesthetic credibility.


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