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Tarting up Comic Sans

by Allan Haley

Comic Sans™ is the “smiley face” of type. It’s cute, overused, and pretty much hated by the cognoscenti of graphic communication. While I’m reasonably sophisticated when it comes to type, I don’t hate the little guy. I do think, however, that it’s about time to move on and find a new typeface that is friendly, and maybe charming, but that does its job without upsetting typophiles.

Which is why last week’s announcement about the availability of a “brand new version” of Comic Sans with italic designs and a bevy of ligatures, swash and alternate characters smacks of trying to make a silk purse out of, well, something that it is not.

Comic Sans was never intended for greatness – or to spark controversy. (Some people actually love the typeface.) It was ushered into the world of fonts as a support character for a Windows® application that had a need for type in speech bubbles. From there it was picked up as part of a package of fonts offered with the Windows 95 operating system and eventually fell in with the other Windows default fonts. Comic Sans has tumbled through life performing with loyal service when called upon.

The new, tarted up, Comic Sans was announced, along with ten other new fonts, with “enhanced OpenType features that showcase the advanced typographic features new to Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft Publisher 2010.” Comic Sans with ligatures and swash characters?  A really “brand new” design surely would be more appreciated by type users than a remake of something that does not need it. (Talk about answering the question that no one asked…)

Allan Haley
Allan Haley is Director of Words & Letters at Monotype Imaging. Here he is responsible for strategic planning and creative implementation of just about everything related to typeface designs.


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