There is a joke in the graphic and web design communities, consisting of only two words: Comic Sans.
The font, whose popularity among designers and non-designers alike at the beginning of the digital age was irrefutable, is not at fault, in and of itself. I was 11 when my household first got a computer, and Comic Sans was the only so-called “fun” font available. The only other system fonts included were standards like Arial, Times New Roman, and Courier. So it is really no surprise that Comic Sans experienced such a surge.
It was – quite literally – everywhere. I used it to add some emphasis to titles on book reports, or when I didn’t feel like typing in those other “boring” fonts. Comic Sans quickly fell by the wayside as I discovered the plethora of fonts available for download.
But this was not the case for every computer user. For those not particularly tech-savvy nor interested in being so, the system fonts remained satisfactory for multiple uses, whether they were appropriate or not. In the intervening years and decades, Comic Sans became the quintessential “red flag” of an amateur designer.
There are other fonts that have become overused in recent years, such as Bleeding Cowboys or Lobster. It’s a shame, because I really enjoy fonts, but have backed off using them after seeing them pop up in so many places. However, Comic Sans has remained at the top of the overused fonts list.
Most designers cannot repress an eye roll at seeing Comic Sans used yet again. So I was surprised when, seeking out area design firms and freelancers, I came across a professional design firm’s website using Comic Sans. I thought, at first, that perhaps it was an illustration of what not to do. I quickly realized that was not the case; I had been thinking about bookmarking the website, as a place I might consider applying for a position.
I’m not interested in taking money out of another designer’s pocket, so I won’t name the firm, and did my best to obfuscate any identifying information in the above image. I don’t know anything about the firm other than what information is on its website. Maybe the team is made up of talented, professional, qualified designers who would never think to use Comic Sans in a client’s project. Maybe these designers just happen to like the font and think Comic Sans has gotten a bad rap. I came across a couple of those while earning my BFA.
Even so, if I were advising a friend on choosing a graphic designer (after demanding why they didn’t choose me, of course), I would say to avoid a designer who makes non-ironic use of Comic Sans. How one would make ironic use of the font, I’m unsure, but I digress.
The reasons to avoid such are many. As I said before, the usage of Comic Sans is a mark of an amateur designer. There are literally thousands upon thousands of fonts available for use online. Most of them are free for personal use, and a multitude are free for commercial use, as well. And paying for a font license is generally a worthwhile purchase. Considering the available options, the use of Comic Sans has become a sign, not just of an amateur designer, but of a lazy designer as well.
This post isn’t just to advise potential design clients against hiring designers who favor Comic Sans, but is advice for designers as well: Don’t be the designer that uses Comic Sans. Don’t so obviously mark yourself as amateur or lazy. Make the effort to seek out the font best suited to the project. And, if your client is one of those people who must have Comic Sans – or think they must – do your level best to calmly steer them away from it and towards those more appropriate options. Give your client solid, quality alternatives and solid reasons why to use them.