The world we live in is a mix of opinions and it’s hard to definitively agree on anything. But one thing’s for sure—Comic Sans and Papyrus are the worst.
Of all the fonts in all the world, these two are the typographic butts of endless jokes, with Papyrus recently starring as the subject of an SNL skit with Ryan Gosling.
The shared hate behind these two fonts has also spawned multiple websites that exist for the simple purpose of ridicule.
Before trying to understand the intense hate behind these fonts, it helps to first understand why someone would even create them in the first place.
The History of Comic Sans
The Guardian spoke to Comic Sans’ creator Vincent Connare, about the creation of the font, and how he feels about being the creator of the most hated font in the world. Connare, who was a typographer for Microsoft in the 90’s explains:
One program was called Microsoft Bob, which was designed to make computers more accessible to children. I booted it up and out walked this cartoon dog, talking with a speech bubble in Times New Roman. Dogs don’t talk in Times New Roman! Conceptually, it made no sense.
And with that, Connare got the idea to make a font that was inspired by comics (specifically, the likes of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns). He wanted to scan the comics and copy the lettering, but doing so would be technically considered illegal. Instead, he mimicked the design of the fonts, drawing them onscreen, enjoying how he was essentially breaking the standards behind how fonts are made.
Unfortunately (well, depending on how you look at it), the font was developed too late to include in Microsoft Bob. However, Microsoft office took notice of the font and used it for lighthearted and cheery inter-office correspondence, like birthday greetings. Oh, how they’d be roasted for doing so today!
Comic Sans became so popular that Microsoft made a point to include it in their operating system, starting with Windows 95. Soon after, people formed a group called “Ban Comic Sans” to raise awareness as to the proper usage of fonts—but not before they emailed Connare to ask if it was okay to do so. His response? “Go knock yourselves out.”
The History of Papyrus
On a similar level of mass-hatred in the typography world, we have Papyrus. Papyrus is the creation of illustrator Chris Costello, who was paid 750 pounds for it in 1983 (equivalent to about $2500 today), or in other words, way too much for the collective pain it’s caused in its wake.
Back then, Costello was working for an agency. He found himself dealing with a lot of downtime and told himself he was making the most of it by playing around until he was able to create this font.
In an interview with Fast Company Design, Costello says he was inspired by the Middle East and biblical times (which isn’t exactly news).
He eventually sold the font to Letraset, a British company that specializes in vinyl lettering sheets for use in art projects. It didn’t become more well known until Letraset began licensing its fonts for use in desktop applications, and that is how Papyrus found itself included in Microsoft Office.
Try not to roll your eyes, but… Fast Company Design estimates Papyrus to exist in over a billion computers worldwide.
Why do People Hate Papyrus and Comic Sans?
Ok, ok. So Papyrus and Comic Sans weren’t created for the specific purpose of annoying people. So again, the question remains: why do people hate Papyrus and Comic Sans so much?
A lot of the hate can be specifically tied to misuse.
For example, Comic Sans has been used to announce the Higgs Boson, has been used to communicate advice for rape victims, and there are plenty of other situations where Comic Sans misuse has been reported.
Papyrus, on the other hand, is associated with the popular movie Avatar and even has a dedicated Tumblr blog that documents its misuse.
In each of these situations, the blame for misuse is wrongly associated with the original creator. The Gyrosity Projects blog thinks this is an unfair move and that the bad designers making use of the font should take the force of the negative backlash in place of each font’s creator.
To give an example of a better use case with regards to Comic Sans, the typeface should be used only when your audience is below 6 years old (letters from teachers to parents not included), when you’re writing speech bubble content for comics, and when your client insists on it (ugh). Never use it for important or serious signage/messaging, because your message will come across as informal.
Besides misuse, these fonts catch a lot of flak for overuse. As far as Papyrus is concerned, people are tired of seeing it on captchas, advertisements, billboards, and banners (to name a few of its many misuse cases).
Defending Comic Sans and Papyrus
Connare originally created Comic Sans because he noticed a gap in design and audience, which is ultimately the purpose behind the typography industry. He says, “Type should do exactly what it’s intended to do.” He’s not ashamed of what he’s created, despite the backlash, saying he designed the font for novice users.
Microsoft’s Program Manager went on to defend Connare in a separate statement also on The Guardian, saying:
“The backlash, the level of hatred, was just amazing – and quite frankly funny. I couldn’t believe people could be so worked up over something as simple as a font. It’s almost an anti-technology typeface: very casual, very welcoming. It’s like going home, back to your childhood, getting letters from family members. Or somebody might use it to get away from the staid environment of their work.”
“When you use Comic Sans, you’re making a statement: ‘I’m more relaxed, more creative. I may be working in this area, but this job does not define me.’”
In another article released by The Establishment, writer Lauren Hudgins recounted how happy her dyslexic sister was the day she discovered Comic Sans. Her sister likens the use of Comic Sans to a mobility, visual or hearing aid, saying the irregular shapes of the letters in Comic Sans allow her to focus on the individual parts of words.
In fact, Comic Sans is one of the few typefaces recommended by influential organizations like the British Dyslexia Association and the Dyslexia Association of Ireland.
Despite being able to help people with learning disabilities, people in the graphic design circle continue to have negative feelings about it, calling those who use the font “artistically stunted and uneducated”, and went on to call those hating on Comic Sans as “ableist”.
Certainly, there are other fonts available specifically created for dyslexic people (such as Lexie Readable and Open-Dyslexie) but whose right is it to judge when someone wants to use Comic Sans if it works best for them? Perhaps the font hate should end when a use case refers to a positive application.
Since then, Connare has used Comic Sans only once, and that was when he used it to write to his broadband provider, who gave him a refund (probably because they didn’t want to deal with any more letters written in Comic Sans).
When Costello is asked about how he feels about having designed one of the most hated fonts, Costello, like Connare, shakes it off with a laugh. He says if he knew it would be on a billion computers to date, he would’ve asked for more than $2500. He adds,
“I’m not embarrassed. Telling people I created Papyrus is always a good topic for humorous conversation.”
Why do People Hate Papyrus and Comic Sans?
People hating on Comic Sans and Papyrus should stop and think about the root of their font-snobbery; choosing fonts that you like shouldn’t have to be explained, especially when some of these fonts help people.
The reason many hate Papyrus and Comic Sans is more or less a function of misuse and overuse, not the initial act of creation by typographers Costello and Connare.
Of course, it’s hard to deny the appeal of jumping in and groaning whenever you see Comic Sans printed on an official announcement or Papyrus used in a logo for a new Asian restaurant.
What do you think of Papyrus and Comic Sans? Have you found any situations where they were the perfect fit for the job? If so, we’d love to see! Tweet @onextrapixel and we’ll share your least groan-worthy examples.