Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Comic sans

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The strangely enticing Comic Sans MS font has become a victim of its own success since it was invented by Vincent Connare in 1994.
The strangely enticing Comic Sans MS font has become a victim of its own success since it was invented by Vincent Connare in 1994.

If you're in the habit of innocently scrolling through the list of fonts looking for one that is fresh, interesting and a change from the typeface you habitually use, stop right now.

There's a strong chance you'll be unable to bypass the strangely enticing Comic Sans MS.

It's been variously described as "that unassuming jaunty typeface" and "homely and handwritten" but the use of it will earn you the derision of legions of typography snobs.

There are food snobs, wine snobs, car snobs, clothes snobs, handbag snobs, restaurant snobs and holiday snobs but possibly none are quite as self-righteous as these font aficionados who pour scorn on anyone foolhardy enough to admit to a penchant for Comic Sans MS - or worse, actually dare use it on a document that enters the public domain.

Poor old Comic Sans MS has become a victim of its own success since it was invented by Vincent Connare in 1994.

As it gained in popularity and its usage became more widespread, it was inevitable the backlash would come.

The fact that it was continually being used for purposes for which it was not originally intended just fuelled the animosity felt towards it.

Graphic designers, for whom matching typeface to tone and content of message is a key tenet, are especially offended by transgressions of this nature. Why, they ask, would someone use such an informal and childish font on any serious communication?

The story goes that Comic Sans MS was inspired by the lettering in comic books and therefore its right and proper home is inside speech bubbles.

According to the purists, while it may be used on children's birthday invitations, it categorically should not be used on curriculum vitae, menus, business documents, medical or technical literature, the sides of ambulances or for sign-writing of any kind.

It's a font that's unashamedly informal and upbeat but now the very attributes that made it successful are considered flaws.

People complain about its "faux joviality" and call it "pedestrian and tacky".

It's the subject of a joke: "Comic Sans walks into a pub and the bartender says, 'We don't serve your type in here'."

Graphic designers Holly and Dave Combs were so incensed they started a movement at bancomicsans.com while comicsanscriminal.com is dedicated to "helping people like you learn to use Comic Sans appropriately".

Those in the Twitter-sphere are all too familiar with its failings. In August alone there was a diverse variety of views expressed about this much-maligned font.

Nancy Knight, Baltimore: "First they mess up the Election Day date on the sample ballot. Now the Board of Elections sends a correction printed in Comic Sans. Wow."

Oskar Sundberg, Amsterdam: "my art director colleague just wrote and signed his resignation letter in comic sans. with colours."

Chris Gatewood, video director: "Sometimes when I'm alone, I use Comic Sans."

I suspect that few people are genuinely offended by the injudicious use of this font; for most it's probably no more than a source of mild annoyance.

The allure of being part of this 'in joke' is no doubt entwined with the opportunity it provides to raise a superior eyebrow at those who use it inappropriately. It affords the chance to bond with like-minded souls and to sneer at anyone not cognisant of its place in popular culture.

Of course, all it will take is for one of those superior sneerers to begin using it in a quietly ironic way for the line to be blurred between those in the loop and those out of it. Talk about complicated.

But whether you love it, hate it or are ironically attached to it, you have to admit that this typeface has well and truly made its mark.

Comic Sans MS: it's the little font that could.

Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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