Not the Font’s Fault

I just read an article in the Wall Street Journal (they have a lot of space now that the stock market is in the toilet) about Comic Sans and everyone’s hatred for it. As an Art & Creative Director who also happens to have to deal with custom work, I can’t say I have a love affair with the font and nothing screams “plebeian” more than Comic Sans. But it is most certainly NOT the font’s fault. Nor the typographer’s, for that matter.
The Culprit!
A long, long time ago (25 years ago), in a land far away (Manhattan), you were not able or allowed to use fonts as freely as we are now. In fact, sans serif fonts were STRICTLY verboten from all professional business correspondence. They were deemed as too casual, and best suited for advertising. Luckily today, there is more freedom. When I first started with electronic typography back in the mid-late 80s, fonts were also OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive: $250-$500 PER FACE. Helvetica or Times Roman alone could cost you upwards of $5,000-$10,000. So you didn’t have the $$$ for play fonts unless your really needed them. Nowadays, they are not only fairly inexpensive, but stealing them is just about as easy as reading this blog. I remember one day, a person I worked with was complaining that he “couldn’t find the right font” because he had to look through 2000 of them. Aw. I wonder what he would’ve done back in the day, when fonts came on sheets and if you didn’t make it to the art store in time, you were out of luck. E’s were a particularly elusive. Never had enough of ’em.

Another demon!
My personal font hatred goes toward Dom Casual. Not only did people misuse this font to death in the late 1980s, but it was literally EVERYWHERE you looked for 2 solid years. Certain fonts are funny that way. They have a “life,” when they look fresh or new. If they are overused, once that life is over, it just looks incredibly passe. No, not retro. Passe. And if you are in the design business, that can be a very expensive faux pas.

Everyone is always complaining about ALL of the Microsoft fonts. I believe it’s because they just like to complain about Microsoft. As an Apple enthusiast, I tend to agree about the company, but the fonts? Not really. They are made by the same fontographers that make all the other fonts, including Apple’s fonts (Ascender Corp). I happen to like Verdana. Very much. It’s a really nice font and looks good and legible at small sizes. It does look out of place anywhere but on the web, so keep it out of your formal written correspondence. But I think it’s one of the better things Microsoft came up with. I also like Trebuchet and Calibri.

What I do NOT like is Arial. It is a poor excuse for Helvetica and those of us who remember Helvetica when it was on Letraset sheets don’t have the same disdain for it that electronic typographers do. Helvetica can, at times, cause a lot of computer problems, especially on a Mac. Why, I do not know. But I’ll take a problem-laden version of Helvetica over Arial anyday.

To close I loosely quote Shakespeare (sorry, Bill): “the problem lies not with our fonts but with ourselves.” It’s a perfectly fine font, Comic Sans. The person(s) who designed it (Ascender Fonts) didn’t think everyone would like it so much that they would use it for funeral announcements.

Typeface Inspired by Comic Books Has Become a Font of Ill Will


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