The story of comic sans: how it became the world's most hated font

Comic Sans is one of the most used fonts across the internet. It’s also the biggest joke of the design industry, inspiring memes like the one below. But why is this: how did comic sans become the world’s most hated font?

Comic Sans: the origin story

Comic Sans was designed by Vincent Connare in 1995, when he was working as a typographer at Microsoft. Initially, it had a very specific purpose. Vincent had been given a beta version of Microsoft Bob, a software package designed for young users which featured a dog named Rover who gave tips and advice in speech bubbles. The beta version was using the font Times New Roman for Rover’s speech bubbles, which Vincent felt simply did not fit with this comic dog character designed for a child audience.

“I booted it up and out walked this cartoon dog, talking with a speech bubble in Times New Roman. Dogs don’t talk in Times New Roman! Conceptually, it made no sense.” – Vincent Connare

So, Vincent took it upon himself to create a new font for Rover. He took inspiration from comic books, creating a casual, non-connecting, sans-serif script. It was created for this specific purpose, with no intention of being used outside of this. But, Comic Sans was unfortunately not ready to be rolled out in time for the release of Microsoft Bob, so in August 1995 the font was released in the Windows 95 Plus Pack, and later became a systems font included in the Windows 95 software – meaning it had been let loose with the general computer-using public…

Why is Comic Sans so hated?

Comic Sans, as previously mentioned, was never meant to be mainstream. But suddenly it was available to anyone with a Windows computer. And in terms of timing, the release of Comic Sans in 1995 coincided with a huge growth in the number of households with their own, personal computer: in 1990 just 17% of UK households had a computer, but by 1996 this had jumped to 27% of households.

As people began to get used to having their own computers, they also began to use the Microsoft products for their own design projects. So Comic Sans became used in abundance, for everything from homemade birthday cards to posters about missing cats to leaflets about local community projects.

It was overused, and without an understanding of design, and a knowledge of when and where different fonts are appropriate. This is why Comic Sans became the world’s most hated font.

The most common complaint about Comic Sans is where it is used inappropriately. It’s a playful, comic, child-like font and so when used in serious or formal documents it can appear paradoxical and even disrespectful. Holly and David Combs, both designers, founded the Ban Comic Sans movement and argued that the misuse of Comic Sans is “analogous to showing up for a black tie event in a clown costume”.

There have been some notable instances of Comic Sans being used for serious announcements. In July 2012, for instance, the discovery of the Higgs Boson was announced at CERN. Fabiola Gianotti, spokesperson for the experiment, used Comic Sans in her presentation of the results – attracting comment, as you may expect.

And so this is the story of Comic Sans: why it was created, and how it came to be so hated. Every font has its place, and our role as designers is to understand which fonts should be used in different contexts to evoke different meanings. But you won’t often catch us recommending Comic Sans to our clients…

Not sure which font best fits your business or organisation? We’d love to help: contact us and one of the Monchü team will be in touch soon.