"People who don't like Comic Sans
don't know anything about design"

| 40 comments

Interview: ahead of his talk at London's V&A museum on Friday, typographer Vincent Connare has defended the reviled Comic Sans font he created, saying its detractors "don't know anything about design".

Designed in 1994 and inspired by comic-book speech bubbles, the ubiquitous sans-serif font has become the typeface that designers love to hate and even has a website dedicated to its abolition.

"I think people who don't like Comic Sans don't know anything about design," Connare told Dezeen. "They don't understand that in design you have a brief."

Vincent Connare was one of the early pioneers of digital typeface design, working on fonts for Agfa and Apple in the early 1990s before joining Microsoft, where he designed both the web-friendly Trebuchet font family and the now infamous Comic Sans MS.

"It was important at Microsoft to show people how things could be done. The group back then were doing things five years or more ahead of everybody," Connare told Dezeen. "We were addressing issues with various types of screens and devices. Today we are actually doing less internally in the code of fonts than we did 15 years ago."

Comic Sans

Originally designed in 1994 to fill in the speech bubbles in a programme called Microsoft Bob, which featured a cartoon dog that offered tips on how to use a computer, Comic Sans was based on the hand lettering in comic books that Connare had lying around in his office.

"I was asked to comment on what I thought of the use of typography in this new application. I said I liked the drawings and cartoon characters and it was fun but I thought it was lazy to just use the system font Times New Roman in the speech balloons," Connare told Dezeen.

"I looked at the comic books I had in my office and drew up with a mouse on a computer an example of hand lettering that I showed to the group, with images of the cartoon dog Rover talking in this style of font. I did not intend to make a font. I was just showing them how I thought it would look better in a cartoon style."



Although the typeface was never used in the program it was originally designed for – it was introduced too late in the development process – it became popular in internal communications at Microsoft.

In 1995 it was included in the company's standard font package for Windows, putting it in the hands of millions of computer users. It was also included as a standard option in the Internet Explorer browser, expanding its reach even further.

"There are 200-300 fonts installed on every computer but people pick Comic Sans because it is different and it looks more like handwriting and does not look like an old school text book," explained Connare. "It is a personal decision. The same could be asked of why do people like Ugg boots, Justin Bieber or pink tracksuits."

Microsoft Bob
Microsoft Bob

By the end of the 1990s, the ubiquity of Comic Sans in home-made signage and children's school projects was beginning to generate a backlash from some designers. Critics felt it was being used "inappropriately".

In 2000, Connare received an email from Holly and David Combs, the founders of the Ban Comic Sans website, alerting him to the growing animosity towards his creation.

"Technological advances have transformed typography into a tawdry triviality," says the Ban Comic Sans manifesto. "Clearly, Comic Sans as a voice conveys silliness, childish naivete, irreverence, and is far too casual... It is analogous to showing up for a black tie event in a clown costume."

The V&A, where Connare is talking tomorrow night as part of its typography themed late night event What the Font?, describes Comic Sans as "one of the most popular and despised typefaces in existence" and cites its appearance on gravestones and government job applications as examples of its inappropriate use.

Connare once described the typeface as "the best joke I ever told". He does not regret creating it and believes that people who don't like Comic Sans don't understand the purpose of design.

"Comic Sans matched the brief, the brief of the entire Microsoft Consumer Division to put a 'Computer in Every Home' and to make something popular for the people of these homes and their kids. Comic Sans is loved by kids, mums and many dads. So it did its job very well. It matched the brief!"

Vincent Connare, the creator of Comic Sans MS
Vincent Connare

Connare is now based in London, where he works for font foundry Dalton Maag training new designers.

"Anybody who says they would not like to design a typeface that makes such an impact and is used by so many people and on so many products, is lying to themselves," he said. "I would love to make something again that everyone loved and others would hate."

What the Font? takes place at the V&A from 6.30pm until 10pm and includes talks from Connare, typographer Jonathan Barnbrook and Christian Boer, designer of the Dyslexie typeface.

Read the full transcript from our interview with Vincent Connare:


Anna Winston: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you became a typographer?

Vincent Connare: I began my career in type design back in 1987. I was living in New York City and decided to move back to Massachusetts for work. I started working as a photographer and darkroom technician but got bored of the hours and being in the dark for eight hours, so I applied to [typesetting systems company] Compugraphic in Wilmington, Massachusetts. I worked the second shift from 4pm to midnight. First I was converting their type library from a photographic library to the new Ikarus font format by URW in Germany. I then moved into the Intellifont hinting team, creating fonts for Hewlett-Packard Laserjet printers. In 1991 I was chosen to work on the new TrueType font format that Apple released. I created Agfa's (formerly Compugraphic) first TrueType fonts. In 1993 I began working for Microsoft in the Advanced Technologies research group. We later were reorganised into Microsoft Typography.

Anna Winston: What led to the development of Comic Sans?

Vincent Connare: In 1994 a program manager by the name of Tom Stephens came into my office with a CD called Utopia, this was the new application that was being released by the new Consumer Division. Its marketing manager was the future Melinda French Gates.

I was asked to comment on what I thought of the use of typography in this new application. I said I liked the drawings and cartoon characters and it was fun but I think it was lazy to just use the system font Times New Roman in the speech balloons. I looked at the comic books I had in my office and drew up with a mouse on a computer an example of hand lettering that I showed to the group with images of the cartoon dog Rover talking in this style of font as opposed to Times New Roman. I did not intend to make a font. I was just showing them how I thought it would look better in a cartoon style.

They liked it and asked me to continue to develop the font and that font became Comic Sans. It was not used in Utopia which was later named Microsoft Bob because the program was in its final beta and they could not change the default font at this time. It was used in another cartoon application called 3D Movie Maker. It got heavily used by the Microsoft administrative assistants in their emails and someone in marketing added it to the first Internet Explorer and the OEM version of Windows 95. This is the version of Windows that is given to computer manufacturers to install in their computers. So every computer sold with Windows 95 had Comic Sans in it and every copy of Internet Explorer had it too.

Anna Winston: What do you think it was about Comic Sans that made it so popular?

Vincent Connare: There are 200-300 fonts installed on every computer but people pick Comic Sans because it is different and it looks more like handwriting and does not look like an old school text book. It is a personal decision. The same could be asked of why do people like Ugg boots, Justin Bieber or pink tracksuits.

Anna Winston: What's the most unusual use you've seen of the typeface?

Vincent Connare: I think the most recent unusual use of Comic Sans is on the Spanish Copa del Rey league cup.  The new cup uses Comic Sans to inscribe the years winners.

Anna Winston: When did it begin to feel like some people were turning against it?

Vincent Connare: Probably when I received an email back in 2000 from the people who set up the Ban Comic Sans site. I thought, if they have nothing better to do, why should I stop them.

Anna Winston: A lot of people say they don't like Comic Sans, why do you think that is? Does it bother you?

Vincent Connare: I think people who don't like Comic Sans don't know anything about design. They don't understand that in design you have a brief. Comic Sans matched the brief, the brief of the entire Microsoft Consumer Division to put a "Computer in Every Home" and to make something popular for the people of these homes and their kids. Comic Sans is loved by kids, mums and many dads. So it did its job very well. It matched the brief! No it doesn't bother me in the least.

Anna Winston: Has the public's changing relationship with Comic Sans affected how you think about designing typefaces now?

Vincent Connare: No. I think anybody who says they would not like to design a typeface that makes such an impact and is used by so many people and on so many products, is lying to themselves. I would love to make something again that everyone loved and others would hate.

Anna Winston: How important was that early work at Microsoft in the development of digital typefaces more generally?

Vincent Connare: It was important at Microsoft to show people how things could be done. The group back then were doing things five years or more ahead of everybody. We were addressing issues with various types of screens and devices. This was 15 years ago and it is now commonplace that we have to address type on these new small devices. Today we are actually doing less internally in the code of fonts than we did 15 years ago.

Anna Winston: Screens are becoming smaller and smaller with devices like the Apple Watch – what impact does this have on digital typeface design?

Vincent Connare: Small screens are not a problem. Displaying type on these screens means we have to do less. Something like a watch would have a limited amount of font sizes and doesn't need scalable font formats. If the font doesn't scale then you could just use .png or bitmap font formats like we used to do for screens or printers. These are fast and ready to display unlike outline fonts.

Anna Winston: What are you working on at the moment?

Vincent Connare: Currently I am working in the group responsible for training (called Skills and Process) at Dalton Maag. I am teaching new designers the reality of making digital typography and teaching them how to hint or program fonts.

Anna Winston: What makes typography different from other fields of design?

Vincent Connare: Type design and developing fonts is much more technical than other fields of design. The only other field of design as technical is web design and development.

Anna Winston: A lot of people use the words font and typeface interchangeably to describe the same thing. Is this a problem?

Vincent Connare: The term font doesn't actually apply anymore. The old word fount referred to the specific case of letterpress letters in a style and weight of a typeface. In modern use it refers to a specific font file such as Times Roman Bold. Typeface usually refers to the whole family of Times Roman. On computers the term font is synonymous with typeface because it is used in menus this way. If we want to be pedantic we could say the menu should say Fonts since it is a list of all the font names of the font files on the computer.

In French software, the menu reads: police des caractères. People use the term police to mean a font and a typeface too.

  • Dorry-kun

    The problem with Comic Sans isn’t the font itself but that it is way too overused.

    • Ester

      Not necessarily overused, but rather the application of it is done incorrectly.

  • Oyster

    It did look good back in 2001.

    • LA

      I consider this to be the problem with Comic Sans. There are many fonts that were created far earlier that still maintain relevancy. Comic Sans is not even 20 years old and it’s already outdated!

  • Fed Fef

    Vincent Connare: Type design and developing fonts is much more technical than other fields of design. The only other field of design as technical is web design and development.

    Just, no. You’re wrong.

    • omnicrom

      Agreed, architecture is far more technical. That is a hilarious statement.

      • Junkfunk

        He’s talking about design, not architecture.

        • Alessandro Petta

          Still sounds like a joke. Sorry.

        • LA

          Architecture is design…

        • Fed Fef

          Architecture is design?

    • Bee

      To claim that one field of design is more or less technical than the other is stupid in itself. There are varying degrees of technicality in every design field.
      Are we now trying to compete with each other?!

      Also, to claim architecture is not design is dumb. A large majority of Dezeen’s posts are architectural. I think this speaks for itself.

  • Innes

    I’m Comic Sans A**hole

    By Mike Lacher

    Listen up. I know the s**t you’ve been saying behind my back. You think I’m stupid. You think I’m immature. You think I’m a malformed, pathetic excuse for a font. Well think again, nerdhole, because I’m Comic Sans, and I’m the best thing to happen to typography since Johannes f**king Gutenberg.

    You don’t like that your coworker used me on that note about stealing her yogurt from the break room fridge? You don’t like that I’m all over your sister-in-law’s blog? You don’t like that I’m on the sign for that new Thai place? You think I’m pedestrian and tacky? Guess the f**k what, Picasso. We don’t all have seventy-three weights of stick-up-my-ass Helvetica sitting on our seventeen-inch MacBook Pros. Sorry the entire world can’t all be done in stark Eurotrash Swiss type. Sorry some people like to have fun. Sorry I’m standing in the way of your minimalist Bauhaus-esque fascist snoozefest. Maybe sometime you should take off your black turtleneck, stop compulsively adjusting your Tumblr theme, and lighten the f**k up for once.

    People love me. Why? Because I’m fun. I’m the life of the party. I bring levity to any situation. Need to soften the blow of a harsh message about restroom etiquette? SLAM. There I am. Need to spice up the directions to your graduation party? WHAM. There again. Need to convey your fun-loving, approachable nature on your business’ website? SMACK. Like daffodils in motherf**king spring.

    When people need to kick back, have fun, and party, I will be there, unlike your pathetic fonts. While Gotham is at the science fair, I’m banging the prom queen behind the woodshop. While Avenir is practicing the clarinet, I’m shredding “Reign In Blood” on my double-necked Stratocaster. While Univers is refilling his allergy prescriptions, I’m racing my tricked-out, nitrous-laden Honda Civic against Tokyo gangsters who’ll kill me if I don’t cross the finish line first. I am a sans serif Superman and my only kryptonite is pretentious buzzkills like you.

    It doesn’t even matter what you think. You know why, jagoff? Cause I’m famous. I am on every major operating system since Microsoft f**king Bob. I’m in your signs. I’m in your browsers. I’m in your instant messengers. I’m not just a font. I am a force of motherf**king nature and I will not rest until every uptight armchair typographer c**k-hat like you is surrounded by my lovable, comic-book inspired, sans-serif badassery.

    Enough of this bulls**t. I’m gonna go get hammered with Papyrus.

    • JBG

      Top.

    • rover

      Woof, woof!

    • weight

      Comic Sans – extra bold.

    • Yannis

      LOOK IN THE SKY, it’s a bird sans, no it’s a plane sans, no wait it’s COMIC SANS!!!

  • Alan

    Stay tuned. Next week, someone gets defensive about Webdings.

  • Simon Vinther

    So as long as a design matches its brief, you cannot dislike it? Most primitive criteria for good design I have ever heard.

    • Joe

      He didn’t say you need to like it. Like it or hate it, it doesn’t matter. It was successful for matching its design brief.

      • Simon Vinther

        “I think people who don’t like Comic Sans don’t know anything about design.” Those are Connare’s exact words. That means, that in his opinion, you have to either like Comic Sans (or be indifferent) to know anything about design. That is ridiculous!

        • Fed Fef

          It was a statement made to provoke, and sausages like you fall for it.

          • Simon Vinther

            Haha! :) Okay, next time I need to know what people REALLY mean when they give an interview, i’ll just run it through you. Cool with you @fedfef:disqus?

            Well, I disagree. Connare builds his whole case on design that “meets a brief” is good design. This presupposes that the writer of a brief knows about good design, and knows exactly what and who the design is aimed at, which is far from always the case.

            I am not talking about whether I think the design of Comic Sans is good or bad, I’m talking about Connare defining his design as good design, just because it meets af brief. Just meeting the brief, is meeting the absolute lowest criteria for any particular design.

            And just for the record: I am not one of the haters on Comic Sans – it’s good for comics and the like, but I really loath how people have misused it, whenever they wanted to be “a bit more creative than Arial and Times New Roman” ever since it was released.

            Cheers :)

          • Fred

            Design is good design if it meets the brief. That’s the definition of design, it comes from the word “designate”, designate as in creating a response to a certain situation, a purpose… a brief. If a design responds well to a brief, it is good design.

            Also, I went to a talk by Connare, and he does like to provoke. And yeah sure, I’ll help you out next time! 20 pounds an hour! :)

            See ya.

          • Fred

            And if the brief is bad, then the brief is bad, but I don’t agree that responding to a bad brief is going to create bad design necessarily. If it creates bad design, then you are not answering properly to the brief.

          • Steef

            You would be right if he would have stated that people that think Comic Sans is a bad design, know nothing about design. He is talking about people not liking Comic Sans. It could be a great design, because it responds really well to its brief, then I am still allowed not to like it.

  • Bob Trumpkin

    Justin Bieber wearing a pink tracksuit and Uggs typing something in Comic Sans… I think I just spewed!

  • Damaris Muga

    I have read all this and I did not get the sudden desire to like Comic Sans. Still hate it.
    Also I think to stress on this point, this article should have been done in Comic Sans. To reduce the number of those who dislike this font as they would have jumped out of the window falling to instant death.

  • Thomas GlinGlin

    I don’t hate the design, the design is pretty genius but the use people make of it is just….

  • Kalum

    Well I DO know a bit about design.
    I DO know designers have to follow briefs.
    I have a scoop. The briefs developed by Microsoft for its stuff were awful. (Comic Sans as well as the MS trombone and “helpful” dog).
    Are we suppose to like or support awful designs because the designer is not to blame but the brief is?
    What we “judge” is the end product. The process that led to that product is secondary. It is only what we should consider when wondering: “How can something so awful be developed and supported by a business?”
    Just like when watching a movie, seeing a new logo or a misogynistic t-shirt by a major comic book company, you start to wonder:
    So… someone had this idea.
    He shared this idea with other people.
    A team of other people started working on it.
    Meetings were held and versions were compared.
    It was edited, printed and distributed.
    And no one along this process realised and acted on the fact that this thing blows?

    • Fed Fef

      Kids like it, as a kid I loved it. It was aimed at kids and it was not meant to be used for shop signs. This is what it was about. There are a lot of toys that are ugly, but if kids like it, then they are well designed.

      • Steef

        Kids like about anything that makes a sound, or has colours. Using that as a reference to whether a design is good or bad is pretty trivial.

  • Evelyn

    Just because something matches the brief does not make it good design. There is a difference between good design and designing for someone that knows nothing about design. I’ve done some pretty horrid graphic design for people, but only because that’s exactly what they wanted and chose it out of all the other examples I had made.

  • bidou

    “In French software, the menu reads: police des caractères”

    Polices DE caractères.

    I wouldn’t blame Vicent Connare (a name that sounds funny in French). Comic sans is not badly designed, but more Microsoft never stepped up on his role of first electronic type provider.

    Its selection of typeface has always been lousy and poor, especially when they turned to copycat fonts like Arial or Century Gothic.

  • dan

    Fair play to him. I hate it but it meets a brief.

    • Simon Vinther

      You hate it so you don’t know anything about design. That’s what Connare states. Do you agree to that? I think not.

      Bad design can easily meet a brief, just like good designs are thrown away all the time, because they don’t meet the brief. If the only barre Connare sets for good design is, if it “meets the brief”, I certainly wouldn’t hire him for any kind of design job.

  • Max Wyss

    Is my memory tainted, or wasn’t Comic Sans the first font in the list? If so, no wonder it got overused…

  • Anabela Gomes
  • Sorry, but saying “it matched the brief” is NOT at all an excuse! As a designer over the last 25 years, I can look back at paid projects/jobs that that turned out either wishy-washy, lame or just plain bad (all due to client/boss insistence).

    That is understood, it happens. I might even try to distance myself from the results because “that was the brief” but I sure wouldn’t pretend that they were anything more than they were: bad!

    This guy is really going over the top to say anyone who doesn’t like it “doesn’t know anything about design” because designers FAR better and more prolific than he all hate that font. It’s indicative of everything wrong with early MS operating systems, and the fact that a font like this ended up being ubiquitous made it even worse.

    And we are not just talking about the shapes of the letters either. The kerning is sloppy too and the larger you make the text size the more issues appear.

  • scollege

    Tone is a bit “catty”.

  • Derp :3

    I actually like Comic Sans because of Undertale. Now when I say Comic Sans, I mean Comic as Comedian and his name Sans, so Comic Sans. But I also like the font. :3