The Curse of Comic Sans

sin-city-comicsans

Such pretty posters. Such a bad choice of font.

I am, of course, talking about the recently publicized posters for the upcoming comic-book to film adaptation of Frank Miller’s Sin City (trailer). Take a gander at the taglines of each of these posters. In the case above, it states “Hell of a way to end a partnership”. That text is set in MS Comic Sans, the font, that you must never ever ever use, ever! No matter what. (here’s why).

On posters such as these, it pains me even more to see the use of this … abomination of a font. Because the posters are great! The colours, the graphics, the composition—everything is eye candy. Everything except the tagline font. This single mistake ruins it for me. Nothing warrants the use of Comic Sans—perhaps children selling lemonade, but even there it’s a bad choice.

Where in the process did this go wrong? Who approved it? Who made the decision to choose Comic Sans over, say these alternatives, and has she been fired for it? Let’s just hope they don’t use it in the movie.

Here’s how the posters could have looked:

Before:

sin-city-comicsans

After:

sin-city-comicsans-alt

49 thoughts on “The Curse of Comic Sans”

  1. That text is set in MS Comic Sans, the font, that you must never ever ever use, ever! No matter what.

    Why Joen? Is your statement based purely on your own sense of aesthetics? Is there something dark, evil even, with MS Comic Sans?

    What’s wrong with the font – please tell.

    has she been fired for it?

    Fired for choosing a font! I certainly hope not.

    Come on Joen, explain yourself.

  2. Joen says:

    Come on Joen, explain yourself.

    I will. But first, I’d like to point out that my comments shouldn’t be taken all too seriously. I don’t think anyone was (or should be) fired for it, nor do I think it was a she.

    But I do think Comic Sans is both dark and evil.

    How can a font be dark and evil, you ask? And is this based “purely on my own sense of aesthetics”?

    No, it is not, and it has less to do with aesthetics than I would like to admit. While I do think it’s a terrible, terrible looking font, it is not just about the design of Comic.

    It is because of 1) the fact that it is freely distributed with all Windows machines, and 2) communication.

    1) Distribution

    The fact that Comic is freely available (preinstalled, in fact), means that it can be used by anyone, and for anything. They’ll typically choose the font because hey, that font is funny looking! This’ll spice up my presentation/letter to my family. This is bad because of what it can be used for:

    2) Communication

    As a graphic designer, having received training in the use of typography, I know about communicating visually using typography. If I want to communicate something serious, I use a serif font (as in Times New Roman). Something modern, a sans-serif (as in Arial). But most people don’t know this, and rarely make a conscious choice of choosing a good font. As such, they’re not always aware of what they are, in fact, communicating. This can be catastrophic, when Comic is used for other things than letters to the family. Imagine this picture in your head: “Hospital”. “Fire Station”. “You’re fired”. “Attorney at law”. “We regret to inform you [something]”.

    In short: Comic Sans will turn anything that doesn’t contain the word “banana” or “lemonade” into a farce. Comic Sans should never have been distributed with Windows at all.

    Whether people should be allowed to make their own bad choice of using Comic Sans, is an entirely different discussion, one that I would probably lose.

  3. 🙂

    Thanks for clearing that up!

  4. Joen says:

    🙂

    Do you agree?

  5. Rob Mientjes says:

    It looks so… amateuristic. Probably because everybody in my class uses it for title pages (2 × Ugh!) of papers and such. Totally embarassing. And I, typophile, use Futura, Clarendon, Univers, just to tease 😛

  6. Joen says:

    Exactly! The same happened in my class!

    Btw, I also love Univers… but if you ask me, Futura (and AvantGarde / CenturyGothic for that matter) is pretty outdated – did you know it’s designed in, what 1920-something?

  7. Rob Mientjes says:

    I know Futura is pretty old, but it has no expiration date if you ask me. Check out the movie appearances! 😛

    But I’m a sucker for that kind of font: Frutiger, Avenir, Univers, Futura, some of my favourite sans-serifs. Helvetica rocks as well 🙂

  8. Joen says:

    It hit me when I pushed “Post”, that you’d probably mention that. True, Futura has no expiration date, and yes there are many cases where the font works great.

    My reason for thinking it outdated, is the same reason I find Meta outdated—I’ve just seen it everywhere. It feels “tired”, you know?

    Another problem it has, is that while Futura is simple (which is more often than not, a quality), it is not “anonymous”—it demands attention. Helvetica, on the other hand, is simple. But Helvetica has this anonymous quality. People know the font, which allows you to do all sorts of crazy things with it. Univers is my personal favourite.

    Did you know, also, that Frutiger is named after it’s creator, “Adrian Frutiger”, which also designed Univers? If I remember correctly, he even invented the weight number system that HelveticaNeue later adopted (55=normal, 57=normal italic, 45=light, 35=thin, 65=bold, 75=heavy) ? Ack I’m sorry I’ll stop now with my anecdotes.

  9. Rob Mientjes says:

    grin It’s being used a lot, totally true, but if you use it correctly (maybe, soon – watch my site :P) it’s just perfect!

    Helvetica is ‘known’ by people as in they know Arial 🙂 Arial suxxorz !!! omg omg wtff lolol .. Univers is indeed awesome.

    And yes, I knew that as well. Hey, did you read what I said? ‘Typophile’ 😉 Did he not also make Futura and Avenir (which is French for “future”, and guess what “futura”‘s about :P). We should talk one day, you ruddy typophile! 😛

  10. Joen says:

    Oh the pleasures of a nerd showdown! I’ve missed this indeed.

    I honestly didn’t know neither Avenir, nor that it was a Frutiger font. As for Helvetica, yes it’s know by people who know Arial. But Arial is also predistributed with Windows so everybody knows it, and that only helps to make it anonymous, in the fact that “if people have seen it, then it’s nothing special”—and this is something one should not underestimate the power of.

  11. Rob Mientjes says:

    There’s another reason for me to use Helvetica. ‘Ha, that font’s on my computer dude, nothing special!’ ‘Oh yeah? Well, let’s examine this lowercase A then, shall we?’ Muhahahaha! (Oh I’m such a nerd :P)

    But! Back to mocking Comic Sans. No-go for movie posters. No, not even a movie based on the video game The Sims.

    Futura looks great in Zissou: The Life Aquatic 😉

  12. The use of Comic Sans MS really makes those posters look like a comic strip, which was of course the intention of the creators. (No one will get fired for this ;).) The movie—- not that I’ve already seen it or something, but watch the trailer and check those posters!—- creates a very strange atmosphere. Maybe the poster designers overthought this decision really well, who knows what their reasons are.

    Even though you have a good point—- Comic shouldn’t be used for formal writings—- I don’t think the font is mischosen in this very case. A film poster is not equal to a letter to the family.

    Where in the process did this go wrong? Who approved it? Who made the decision to choose Comic Sans over, say these alternatives, and has she been fired for it?

    “She”? Why a “she”? You think only women can make “stupid design-wise mistakes like these”?

    (To join the just a little bit off-topic discussion: I used to love Comic Sans MS back in 1996. The first web page I “designed” was like 100% CSMS. It was when I noticed my fifth grade teacher “stole my font” I started disliking it.)

  13. Joen says:

    “She”? Why a “she”? You think only women can make ?stupid design-wise mistakes like these”?

    Nope. That was just a tease, as I also told Jonathan.

    And trust me, I’ve made my share of bad design decisions. The good designer just 1) defends his/her decision to the client, and 2) learns from past mistakes.

    In this case, yes, the designer could probably defend the decision to his/her superiors, because of the very arguments you mention (it’s a comicbook, it should look like a comicbook). However, and this might be where you and I disagree, Comic Sans is not a comic book font. “Digital Strip“, is a comic book font, and had the designer, boy or girl, chosen that font instead of Comic Sans, this very entry would not exist.

  14. Jeff Croft says:

    First off, I dislike Comic Sans. I’m not a fan of handwritten “cutsey” styles, but that’s just personal preference. More importantly, though, Comic Sans is just painfully overused and abused, which is really why it has left a bad taste in the mouth of designers—not so much because of the font itself.

    That having been said—in this case, the typeface was clearly chosen because of its “Comic” nature. While I probably would have preferred a more “traditional” movie poster treatment (Trajan, Univers, Kabel (EF cut, please), etc.), I can certainly respect the designer’s choice to go with a comic book font for a comic book movie. However, there are at least 50 comic book typefaces out there that are not abused like Comic Sans and would give off an even stronger “comic book” feeling.

  15. Joen says:

    designer?s choice to go with a comic book font for a comic book movie

    Well that’s the thing—Comic Sans (I guess this might be my opinion alone) is not a comic book font, and I hope my 2-minutes-ago update to the article illustrates this.

    However, there are at least 50 comic book typefaces out there that are not abused like Comic Sans and would give off an even stronger ?comic book? feeling.

    Exactly.

  16. Jeff says:

    You are not alone in your opinion. There are entire websites to removing this font!

    http://bancomicsans.com/ for example.

    I agree completely. Your new poster looks much better.

  17. Joen says:

    Ah, good one Jeff.

    This picture illustrates my point exactly: The Holy Bible.

  18. Do you agree?

    Er, no. Personally I don’t see anything wrong with it. However, I have to admit that typography doesn’t mean much to me. I’d argue that the words are more important than the font they are written in.

    IMHO.

  19. Joen says:

    I?d argue that the words are more important than the font they are written in.

    Yes and no. It is a tough one, and more so a typography geekish thing. However, do you not agree that it is … hmm… “inappropriate” to use Comic Sans to spell “The Holy Bible“? (Not that I’m in any way religious).

  20. However, do you not agree that it is ? hmm? ?inappropriate? to use Comic Sans to spell ?The Holy Bible??

    Absolutely. I wouldn’t want to read Darwin’s “On The Origin of Species” in Comic Sans either. (grin)

    But, I agree with Mathias Bynens, “the use of Comic Sans MS really makes those posters look like a comic strip, which was of course the intention of the creators.”

  21. Michael says:

    Comic Sans is fucking FIRED! Which reminds me, I have a short entry to write that concerns Comic Sans. Hold on a minute…

  22. Joen says:

    Jonathan,

    “the use of Comic Sans MS really makes those posters look like a comic strip, which was of course the intention of the creators.”

    Yes, that was the intention of its creators, and I’m neither arguing that nor attacking it. I in fact think it’s quite a cool idea, and to me it currently seems as though Sin City will be one of the best comic book adaptations ever.

    The problem is, to me Comic Sans is not a “Comic Book” font.

    Imagine for a second that the font was not called “Comic Sans MS”, but “Banana Sans MS” (which I think would be more appropriate). Do you still think the font, now only looking at the design of the font, is a good choice for these posters? Or in other words, if the font was not actually “labelled” Comic, would you deem it a comic-book font? If yes, then let’s agree to disagree 😉

    Michael,

    Just read your article. Great read. And truly it doesn’t help APG that they’re choosing Comic Sans MS… if anything that tells me that “piracy is laughably cute”.

  23. Nik says:

    Ha! Whever I get emails from relatives they’re always in MS Comic Sans (and usually Blue too for some reason!) – I’ve grown to dislike it too!

    Seeing those other comic fonts emphasizes how bad MS Comic Sans really is! 🙂

    Much prefer your revised poster!

  24. Joen says:

    Indeed! Sometimes they’re even set in pink or red.

    Much prefer your revised poster!

    Thanks—I do think that look was the graphic designers initial idea. And that is a good idea.

  25. Jonas Rabbe says:

    Btw, I also love Univers? but if you ask me, Futura (and AvantGarde / CenturyGothic for that matter) is pretty outdated?did you know it?s designed in, what- 1920-something?

    Futura is actually from 1927 while Univers is from 1957, and before you start thinking I’m some kind of Typography geek I guess I should show my cheat sheet . At the same time I also want to just highlight Jeff Croft’s entry on Luxury Type

    2?

  26. Joen says:

    Nice addition with that Jeff Croft entry. But I am too much of a control freak to rely that much on “what if”, hence my use of sIFR.

  27. Joen, this sentence made my day:

    In short: Comic Sans will turn anything that doesn?t contain the word ?banana? or ?lemonade? into a farce.

    That is so true.

  28. I am, by the way, very partial to frutiger and rotis.

  29. Joen says:

    Joen, this sentence made my day

    Thank you, and happy to be of assistance.

    I am, by the way, very partial to frutiger and rotis.

    Both excellent choices sir. I have used both in projects, and they’ve never let me down.

    As for Rotis (allow me to geek out a bit), I like the sans, semisans and serif the most. Semi serif is hard to use, I think.

  30. khaled says:

    I haven’t seen the actual posters with the comic sans. I swear that’s just really sad since Frank Miller especially should have noticed what a poor choice that was. Frank btw is the writer/artist/letterer and now director of Sin City.

    He should have spotted that a mile away. For all those thinking that Comic San can actually be used in a comic, well needless to say, only if it’s a fanzine and they don’t understand the first thing about lettering.

    Go to http://www.comicraft.com and enjoy the works of a true master just so you can see what modern comic fonts are all about.

  31. Joen says:

    THANK you khaled! Finally someone who agrees with me!

    By the way, I think comicraft delivered type to “Comic-Book The Movie!” with Mark Hamill…

  32. khaled says:

    Joen you a comic fan? If so what’s your favorite GN (or even series of GNs)? I can tell a lot from what a person reads :).

    Was Comic any good? The only thing I’ve liked Mark in apart from SW:ESB was his voice for the Joker in the Batman animated series of the early 90s otherwise I’m extremely cautious of the man.

    Completely off topic I know…

  33. Jonas Rabbe says:

    THANK you khaled! Finally someone who agrees with me!

    Just for the record, there are other people around who agree with you, but just didn’t feel the need to voice our agreement. 😛

  34. Joen says:

    khaled,

    Joen you a comic fan? If so what?s your favorite GN (or even series of GNs)? I can tell a lot from what a person reads

    I’m afraid I don’t even know what GN is short for…

    Was Comic any good? The only thing I?ve liked Mark in apart from SW:ESB was his voice for the Joker in the Batman animated series of the early 90s otherwise I?m extremely cautious of the man.

    Comic-Book The Movie! was fairly entertaining. It wasn’t fantastic, and I might even have liked it a bit shorter than it was.

    As for the man himself, I never had anything against him. I thought he did alright as the villain in Hamilton, and I even enjoyed him in Wing Commander IV, the game if you tried that. I’d love to see him in the Star Wars TV Series…

    Jonas,

    Just for the record, there are other people around who agree with you, but just didn?t feel the need to voice our agreement.

    Glad to hear that! It was just my impression that people thought “Comic Sans” was okay for comic-books, which I totally disagree with.

  35. khaled says:

    Sorry Joen, GN stands for Graphic Novel, or BD Bande Desinee in french. Comics that come with a SPINE _.

    Just reading The DC comic Guide to colouring and lettering. Fantastic stuff. Really well written for the beginner, but enough nuggets of history and tips for the more seasoned pro. Todd Klien does the lettering section, he basically wins the letter award at the eisners (think oscars for comics) every year, and the man is a master.

    Check it out, it’s neither a pricey book, and it’s got a very nice layout.

  36. Joen says:

    Just reading The DC comic Guide to colouring and lettering. Fantastic stuff. Really well written for the beginner, but enough nuggets of history and tips for the more seasoned pro. Todd Klien does the lettering section, he basically wins the letter award at the eisners (think oscars for comics) every year, and the man is a master.

    Check it out, it?s neither a pricey book, and it?s got a very nice layout.

    Ah! I’ve been meaning to delve into such things. It’s noted, thank you!

  37. ?lvaro says:

    Only a curiosity:

    Miller’s Dark Night Retuns lettering was one of the more important references of Connare when he was designing Comic Sans

    “I started (…) trying to make the capitals in a similar form as the lettering used in DC, Marvel and all other company’s comic books. The ?Dark Knight Returns? a Batman book was one of the books I referenced often.

    (http://www.connare.com/comic.htm)

    Maybe it is the Curse of Comic Sans, whose evil force returns to the man that made it possible…

    🙂

  38. J-Lo says:

    Your ‘these alternatives’ link doesn’t work…

    Out of interest which font (hopefully free!) do you think is most appropriate for the dialogue boxes in Sin City posters?

  39. Joen says:

    Hi, J-Lo,

    I’ve update the alternatives link, thanks for pointing it out.

    Out of interest which font (hopefully free!) do you think is most appropriate for the dialogue boxes in Sin City posters?

    I would point you directly to the font entitled Digital Strip Italic, which is indeed available for free. That’s the one I used in the previews in the article.

  40. J-Lo says:

    Thanks for the swift reply!

    By absolute chance I downloaded the font ‘digital strip’ from the Blambot site after posting here… but glad to know it comes highly recommended 🙂

  41. greymullet says:

    My Biology teacher uses Comic Sans for experiment method handouts.It makes it so hard to take them seriously

  42. My housemate’s a typographer for one of the big London ad agencies and I had this argument with him a couple of weeks ago. I got schooled!

    Would you say that the Simpson’s logo is ‘inappropriate’? I think it suits the programme down to the ground… And it’s Comic Sans.

    To quote my mate: There’s no such thing as a bad font, only bad typographers; Every font has it’s place, no matter how poorly you think it is designed.

  43. Joen says:

    Mike Stenhouse,

    Would you say that the Simpson’s logo is ‘inappropriate’? I think it suits the programme down to the ground… And it’s Comic Sans.

    I do agree that the Simpsons logo is indeed very appropriate for that programme. But I assure you that is not Comic Sans. Take a closer look (this was the only picture I could find). The Simpsons logo is a design by creator Matt Groening. In fact, in his Simpsons comics you’ll notice the same font from time to time.

    In fact, the biggest part of the whole argument against Comic Sans is that there are so many good alternatives.

    That said, I agree. There’s a place for every font, and an appropriate use even for Comic Sans.

  44. Hmmmm, I saw the Simpsons the other day and I’d swear that’s not the same logo… The logo you’ve linked to there is definitely not Comic Sans, and I’d like to think that I’m not be quite that dozy, but it wouldn’t be the first time! Ah well.

    If I had my way, all comics would be hand-written, but I might be a little old-school on that one… I love the idiosyncracy of peoples’ handwriting and I think fonts that try to replicate it often lack something.

  45. snazz bucket says:

    daisy and i are very much against the use of comic sans in any situation other than stabbing it in the heart with a big steak knife. it is saved for those lovley harry potter obsessed freaks who also enjoy bird watching and trying to be funny. what is better for them than a diabolical font that tries too hard to look laid back, care free and fun (needless to say, it fails)? its the perfect thing for them to write into mizz magazine with, or possibly girl talk. It enables them to tell their latest amusing stories about what happened when they went to the bottom their garden and saw a magpie, before writing about it in their bird-journal. of course, such stories are never printed. these magazines are already crap, they dont need anything else to bring misery into the hearts of thousands of teenagers. Of course, they have already accomplished this by using comic sans in their magazines at all.

  46. Robin says:

    You people are bored. It is only a font… so what if it does not send right messages or if it does not look good on posters? Nothing in this world looks great to anyone, we all think we know what looks good and what does but we really dont know shit! Besides, its not like the font will jump out of the computer and strangle us all to death! It is only a font that somoene was creative and smart enough to create. So honestly find something better and more effecient to complain about, like world war, famine, government, global warming… something that relates to the whole world and not just some angry, bored people.

  47. And you finding precious time to comment on this, Robin, really strengthens your point…

    I enjoyed the discussion here very much, Joen.

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