I received a phone message not long ago that contained about 95 percent hysterical laughter and roughly four discernible words, including font, nerd, Comic, and pterodactyl. I may be wrong about that last one, but I was pretty sure about the first three. So I did what I usually do when I receive a phone message that I can’t understand: I assumed it was a threat against my life and called the police.
Several days (and one sizable fine for making a false claim to police) later, I received a mysterious package in the mail. After one of NAI’s student workers opened it to check for suspicious substances, I found that it contained a copy of a Madison, Wisconsin, music magazine called Maximum Ink, which featured the advertisement pictured above on the back page. There was a Post-It note that read, in part:
Nothing evokes rockin’ quite like Comic Sans.
“Howard” is Friend of IBD Howard Aprill, who claimed responsibility for the phone message and who learned recently (after our “I ♥ Whatever” post on June 21) that we take requests.
When I was in college at the University of Richmond way back in the 1990s, I wrote a weekly column for the school paper. About every third week, I’d write something about how much I hated the Greek system, and of course, I became known as the guy who hated the Greek system. (I also became known as the guy hanging by his underwear outside Fraternity Row every Saturday night.)
Now, as a grown-up* who writes a blog, I am the guy who hates Comic Sans. (For the record, I still hate the Greek system.)
The ad that cracked Howard up so thoroughly is for an event called Rock Fest, which starts in three days, for those of you near Cadott, Wisconsin. The ad contains what is clearly a professionally designed logo, an armful of photos of varying quality, a bunch of sponsor logos, and the reason Howard sent me the ad—type set in centered Comic Sans (not to mention another default font, Times New Roman). My guess is that the person responsible for laying out the ad woke up from a nap 15 seconds before deadline and realized he still needed to lay out all of the ad’s type.
Anyone who has read more than one post on this blog knows how we (and nearly all graphic designers) feel about Comic Sans: It’s unprofessional, poorly designed, overused, and almost always misused. All of this is summed up in our post, “Ask a Nerd: What’s the problem with Comic Sans?” so I won’t rehash it here. (In fact, we’ve written about Comic Sans enough that we’ve created a Comic Sans category in the sidebar on this site.) We’ve also expressed feelings on Times New Roman (it’s not a bad typeface, but it’s certainly not meant for display purposes) and centered type (it’s lazy).
Not long after receiving the Rockfest package from Howard, I received a post card from Friend of IBD Amy Ford from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which featured the words “New Hampshire” set in Comic Sans (with a gaussian blur drop shadow, no less) and a note from Amy that read, “I thought you would enjoy the amazing graphic design of this card.” (Thanks, Amy.)
Then, not long ago, when an anthropomorphized Comic Sans spoke out against its negative public image in an obscenity-laden, satirical monologue on a website called McSweeney’s, I heard about it from a number of friends.
Then just days ago, Comic Sans made a high-profile, absurdly inappropriate appearance. Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, was furious that free agent Lebron James left his team for the Miami Heat, and expressed his anger in an open letter to fans on the official team website. Set in a legitimate typeface, I may have been able to take this letter seriously. Instead, I read the entire letter picturing Gilbert as a wailing four-year-old, which made it a lot funnier than it would have been otherwise, though I’m not sure that was his intent.
Of course, when Gilbert’s letter went public, I received a handful of emails and Facebook posts pointing me to this story on CNN: “Cavs owner’s letter mocked for Comic Sans font.”
I enjoy that the IBD Nerd Herd is out there calling out instances of Comic Sans and other examples of lazy design, though when I get this stuff in the mail, it feels a little bit like the visual communications equivalent of “Ewwwww… Smell this!” Most of the stuff that people send includes at least some Comic Sans, which means I’ve accomplished something no designer would ever want: There are people in the world who associate me with Comic Sans.
Still, I enjoy that our literally fives of readers have been called to arms. And I say, keep ’em coming. If you find something you want to share with the rest of the Nerd Herd—good examples and bad alike—post photos to our Facebook page, send them to either of us by email or mail, or even leave us a phone message.
Just try to compose yourself before you call.