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Comic Sans Gets A Makeover

The designer of a new font hopes to redeem the world’s most reviled typeface. But can anything save Comic Sans?

Comic Sans Gets A Makeover

Call me mad if you will, but I think Comic Sans gets a bad rap. And I’m not the only one. While the mere sight of the font is enough to make some type purists scream, rip out their eyes, then bite off their tongue, I think that Comic Sans is actually a pretty incredible typeface. And Comic Neue, a new would-be successor, might be even better.

First, let’s talk a bit about Comic Sans, the world’s most reviled font. As it was designed by Vincent Connare for Microsoft’s kid-friendly Bob operating system–an operating system it was bizarrely never used in–Comic Sans was a pudgy, slightly clumsy, but otherwise affable font. It looked like the hand lettering of a comic book. The effect was very much by design: Connare needed a font that looked more appropriate when coming out of Bob’s cartoon OS assistants than Times New Roman or other overly formal fonts.

Comic Sans was limited, sure, but lots of typefaces are designed to be used in only specific circumstances. Trajan might look great on a poster for a movie about a Roman centurion, but probably shouldn’t be used on a box of breakfast cereal. Likewise, Comic Sans looks great on a preschool sign, but wildly out of place on an accountant’s business card.

The problem with Comic Sans is that it was too good at being friendly to people who didn’t really feel comfortable around computers. When it was eventually included as a default font in Windows 95, plebs by the thousands started choosing it for everything they’d once used Times New Roman for: emails, Word documents, signs, and so on. Vilified as typography’s antichrist, there mere mention of Vincent Connare’s name now will usually lead to a snort of derision at best, and the spontaneous forming of a lynch mob at worst. All for designing a typeface that was just too adept at looking friendly for its own good.

Which brings us to Comic Neue. Designed recently by Australian designer Craig Rozynski, Comic Neue is an attempt to polish some of Comic Sans’s rough edges–to create a type family that is just a little more sophisticated, a dash more urbane than Comic Sans’s bumpkinish simplicity, meant for people who want to use Comic Sans but not look like rubes. It comes in two variants. Comic Neue takes what Rozynski calls the “squashed, wonky, and weird glyphs” of Comic Sans and beats them into shape, while Comic Neue Angular gives Comic Sans an extra dose of refinement by replacing the font’s round terminals with angular ones instead. Both varieties are available in light, regular, and bold weights, with oblique equivalents.

If Comic Sans resembles the handwriting of a 10-year old with excellent penmanship, Comic Neue is the block lettering of that same kid as a high school senior. Rozynski probably overstates it a bit when he says that Comic Neue will make your kid’s lemonade stand look like a Fortune 500 company, but it certainly seems that, at the very least, Comic Neue is less likely to get your kid’s lemonade stand immolated with a Molotov Cocktail by some psychopathic type snob than Comic Sans would.

Surprisingly, though, Vincent Connare himself doesn’t seem to care for it. The vilified typographer’s only comment on Comic Neue so far has been to say that it’s not casual enough. Oh, Vincent. Ever the pariah.

You can download Comic Neue for free here.

About the author

John Brownlee is a design writer who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. You can email him at john.brownlee+fastco@gmail.com.