Comic Sans for Cancer was a recent London exhibition of posters inspired by the 20th anniversary of – you guessed it – Comic Sans. Curated by Chris Flack, Renee Quigley and Jenny Theolin, all proceeds from the event went towards raising money for Cancer Research. Alas, it is now closed but you can still do your bit by picking up one of the limited prints that are still available online. Below, co-curator Flack tells us why we shouldn’t be so quick to diss the font we all love to hate.
Comic Sans! - The mere mention of the words ‘Comic Sans’ is enough to send most designers into a small spasm shouting ‘my eyes are bleeding’. This year we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Comic Sans - the font we all love to hate.
I'm sure it was never thought that a font designed by Vincent Connare for Microsoft in 1994 would gain such notoriety – so much so that the ‘Ban Comic Sans’ group has been trying to get it banned ever since. And to make life even harder for Comic Sans, it has never been taught to design students as a font to master.
I'm sure you’re wondering why we chose to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Comic Sans. Why celebrate the slightly awkward friend in the corner, the mate who is always the last to be picked for the sports team? You know, the only one who turns up to a party in fancy dress and tells the slightly inappropriate jokes. Everyone has one of those friends.
This is what’s actually true about Comic Sans. The slightly awkward way it looks at you when you use it. Is it smiling or is it sad? Comic Sans is that friend who is never short of a word or two. But its imperfections are what make us kind of like it. It may lack the class of Bodoni, the Swiss charm of Helvetica or the political pull of Gotham but it makes up for it with real-world charm. It’s taken a battering over the last few years but still keeps standing.
Earlier this year an Australian designer Craig Rozynski tried to give Comic Sans a make-over (the graphic design equivalent of plastic surgery). He got rave reviews for ‘Comic Neue’ only for Vincent to comment, ‘it’s shite’. The truth is, it's just slightly misused (or misunderstood!), and as Vincent says, it was never meant to be used in most of the ways that it has been.
The secret is using it for what it was intended (surprise, surprise!). We all know what happens when we mistake the salt for the sugar and put it in our coffee. Personally, I've only used Comic Sans twice* and I’ve found that there is beauty in its application if used correctly. The slightly awkward edges and the clumsiness of the kerning are part of its enduring appeal.
So when you’re next faced with the decision of whether to use Comic Sans or not, just think ‘am I designing for a lemonade stand or a Fortune 500 company?!’ Or just rip up the so-called ‘rule book’ and give Comic Sans a go; you never know, you may be pleasantly surprised with what you end up with! Maybe, just maybe, this is the year that Comic Sans makes a comeback. Mind you, as a poster from the recent Comic Sans exhibition so nicely put it: 'I never wanted fame'. Well Comic Sans you have certainly had your 15 minutes!
*This is the second time we publicly admit to having used Comic Sans. We apologise to the design gods for the design sins we have committed. Please have mercy on our souls.
Comic Sans for Cancer – an exhibition of posters inspired by the 20th anniversary of Comic Sans (the font we all love to hate) with proceeds going to Cancer Research UK. Curated by Chris Flack, Renee Quigley and Jenny Theolin, the exhibition was held at The Proud Archivist in London from Aug 20th – 24th 2014. A limited number of posters can be purchased online at www.comicsanscancer.com.