Everyone loves to hate on Comic Sans. Even those who know nothing about typography will spend the time to go on long rants about how awful it is. But the truth of the matter is entirely different from what common knowledge suggests. In reality, Comic Sans is a great font.
What makes Comic Sans so great? For one thing, it’s an easily recognizable font. It was originally released as one of five fonts supplied by Windows 95. This allowed it to spread very quickly as many personal computer users employed it in their printouts. The intense hatred that many hold for it only renders it even more recognizable. For them, Comic Sans is the enemy, and an inability to identify your enemy leads to a swift defeat. Thus, the Comic Sans haters cannot help but fuel its recognizability.
Comic Sans is also often preferred by those with dyslexia. While it is not a specialized font and therefore does not perfectly fulfill this role, it does a much better job than practically any font the Comic Sans haters will hold up. Very few fonts can match the legibility and letter spacing that Comic Sans brings to the table. It does contain mirrored letters which allow specialized fonts to surpass it, but giving those up trades away consistency, which can be very distracting for other readers. Comic Sans does an excellent job of balancing other concerns with accessibility for dyslexic readers.
One common complaint against Comic Sans is that it is an informal font often used in formal contexts. As long as the uninformed make use of it in documents in which the informal tone it sets is inappropriate, its very existence is detrimental, or so the argument goes. However, this fails to take into account the concept of countersignaling. Countersignaling is when you communicate that you strongly possess a property by not making it more conspicuous. For example, those who are newly rich will likely flaunt their wealth to make it clear that they are no longer part of the middle class, but those who are already known to be rich will worry about differentiating themselves from the newly rich, and will accomplish this by not flaunting their wealth. This only works because they are not afraid of being mistaken for a member of the lower or middle classes. That’s the reason countersignaling even works: you must be so confident in the trait you are countersignaling that you are willing to avoid emphasizing it because you know others will pick up on it anyway.
In the case of Comic Sans, many formal documents are very obviously formal regardless of the font. For instance, a doctor’s diagnosis is unlikely to be mistaken for something informal, and thus it is possible to get away with countersignaling. In fact, in basically every case in which you can tell that an informal tone is inappropriate, countersignaling is a viable strategy. So if you really want to emphasize your formality in such an instance, don’t use some standard formal font. Use Comic Sans.
But if Comic Sans is such as great font, why does everyone seem to hate it? The answer to that question lies in the history of graphic design and the rise of the internet. Early personal computers dramatically reduced the cost of high quality print design, and colleges began to produce a much larger number of graphic design graduates. However, personal computers also put the power of graphic design into the hands of everyone who owned them. While most people were slower to figure out they had this power than the graphic design students were, they did eventually learn. This was only the first step in the reduction of graphic designers’ power.
The second, far more dramatic step was the growth of web design. As print design began to die off, designers had to learn to code just to retain relevance. This made them understandably bitter, and they took their anger out on those performing graphic design without a degree. And what font did these amateurs with personal computers happen to be using? That’s right: Comic Sans. This made the font an obvious means of defining an ingroup and an outgroup. If you liked Comic Sans and used it a lot, you were a useless pretender who lacked even the most basic design knowledge. But if you hated Comic Sans, then you were a sensible designer who understood how things actually worked. Thus, hating Comic Sans was associated with understanding graphic design, and anyone who wanted to not look like an idiot learned to avoid it.
Well, I say enough is enough. It’s time to take Comic Sans back from the elitist graphic designers who use it as a symbol of their superiority. If you have a website, switch it over to Comic Sans. If you design documents, start writing them in Comic Sans. In every situation in which you get to choose the font, choose Comic Sans. Together we can retake this wonderful font from those who have abused it for so long!