Monday, May 14, 2007


The link above goes to a BBC Magazine piece on Helvetica, a font that you'll find almost anywhere. It's a Macintosh font, it's a logo slogan choice, it's something you perhaps didn't know the name of but saw everywhere.

However, another link on the page goes to, an attempt by two Canadians to push legislation to outlaw the use of Comic Sans in publishing. As many of you know, Comic Sans is that Windows default font developed first for use in help bubbles and then anything directed at a juvenile audience, such as a comic. Now, though, it's likely to be found on anything in attempts to connect with the consumer at a colloquial level. It may seem to be reasonable to the people pushing for its removal due to the fact that its ubiquity does no justice to the fact that it looks really out of place in the commercial environment, but no, it will not be banned. This is due to two main reasons: It's a ridiculous idea to make a government ban a typeface, and — hold your breath — it's a Windows (and now Macintosh) pre-load.

Because Windows operating systems come with fonts such as Comic Sans and Verdana that were developed for use by Microsoft, as well as fonts like Arial that are licensed from the Monotype Corporation, those fonts are probably going to be the ones you encounter in a world of small, fledgling businesses and MySpace-like placards. Decent fonts, such as Univers (I would say Helvetica, but that's a Macintosh pre-load), are not cheap, let alone free — so what choice do you really have if you're starting out or are just a regular guy writing invites to a house party? Even at that, you have the fact that such fonts will not render for many others on the Internet, so you're stuck with Microsoft pre-loads. Decent fonts, even non-Microsoft fonts, end up being in graphics.*

Personally, I don't like Comic Sans. I really don't like any of the Microsoft pre-loads, but Comic Sans is probably the most misused of all. I would use it for school activity worksheets or flyers, but that's where it stands; in my mind it's not even a good candidate for — well — comics! The line height is too high, upper-case letters are far from uniform, and mixed-case captions in comics never really took off (unless they were in Mad). Instead of banning it, though, I would probably seek to educate people in decent and tasteful graphic design and typography, and maybe call on Monotype, Linotype, ITC, Adobe, and Agfa to lower their rates.

* There are, however, a few notable exceptions: The websites for the Guardian and the Sun use Macintosh-native Geneva as their primary face. Also, Photobucket has started using Adobe-propagated and newly Macintosh-native Myriad in headers.

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