Home2018-2019Comic Sans: font matters

Comic Sans: font matters

NICK SABATINI,
LIFESTYLES EDITOR

Comic Sans is a childish, playful font everyone has seen before. One look at Comic Sans is enough to make someine think of second grade. However Comic Sans has since left the second grade classroom and has even managed to find its way into everyday life.

According to comicsanscriminal.com, this comical font is now being used in inappropriate places, such as hospitals, restaurants, churches, police stations, hotels, ambulances and newspaper articles. The font’s misuse had led many to hate it. In fact, Designforhackers.com states that there is even a movement to try to ban the font entirely.

However, the font doesn’t necessarily deserve all the negativity it receives because, when used appropriately, there are actually many benefits to using the font, especially for students with a learning disability, such as dyslexia.

First, it is necessary to look into the font’s origins and how it become so popular. According to The Huffington Post, Comic Sans was developed by typographic engineer Vincent Connare in the early 1990s to be used in the speech bubbles of the user assistance program in Windows called Microsoft Bob, which featured a talking dog that offered instructions. Connare felt that if dogs were to talk, they would not talk in Times New Roman. That’s when he became inspired to create an informal, comic book-like font. Windows 95 was then shipped pre-installed with the font, and after the release of Windows 95, the font’s popularity exploded.

Fast forward 24 years, and Comic Sans has become what is probably the most hated font. Graphic Designer Dave Combs told The Huffington Post, “Comic Sans looks like someone threw up on the keyboard and that’s what came out.”

A website even exists that allows users to shoot the font with a gun. Connare has responded to the font’s hate by telling The Guardian, “The level of hatred was amazing and quite funny. I couldn’t believe people could get so worked up about a font.”

Hate aside, it may actually be the case that the font isn’t used often enough. Research suggests that the font may improve reading comprehension. For example, Business Insider reports that the font’s poor design is difficult to read, causing readers to slow down. This results in readers paying more attention to what they’re reading, thus improving comprehension. A 2011 study run by psychologists at Princeton University found that those who were given class handouts printed in fonts such as Comic Sans performed better on exams than those who weren’t. This was found to be consistent across all subjects. This was also contrary to what many educational practitioners believe, as many tend to assume that reducing cognitive work would improve performance.

More importantly, using Comic Sans can benefit those with dyslexia. Medium.com summarizes a story of a student named Jessica whose “entire world changed” after discovering the font. Prior to discovering the font, Jessica struggled in school, and she compared the font to a mobility aid. She states that fonts specifically designed for dyslexic students are not as effective as Comic Sans.

However, not everyone agrees that using Comic Sans has benefits. Tes.com states that there is no evidence that suggests using Comic Sans is any more effective than using a font designed for students with dyslexia. Teachers felt that if there is any benefit to using Comic Sans, the benefits are too small to be noticable.

The evidence suggesting whether using Comic Sans is beneficial is somewhat contradicting, but there appears to be more evidence from reliable sources to suggest that Comic Sans can improve reading comprehension and assist those with dyslexia.

Of course, this does not mean every piece of text in the world should be converted to Comic Sans. The font is still unprofessional and should not be used in places such as police reports, resumes or business cards. If you are dyslexic, or simply want to get your grades up by improving your reading comprehension, you can experiment for yourself whether or not Comic Sans is right for you by downloading the Chrome extension Comic Sans Everything. The font converts all the text you see in Google Chrome to Comic Sans. But beware: not everyone who borrows your computer will appreciate it.

nsabatini@willamette.edu

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