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Killing Comic Sans: 5 alternative fonts that protect your dignity

Comic Sans grabbed the collective imagination of millions of Windows users

By Clare Brandt, PC World
March 15, 2013 10:50 AM ET

PC World - Comic Sans: It's the best font in your tool box if you're committed to sappy, unsophisticated design, and want to prove to the world that your type library hasn't been updated since 1995. Comic Sans is embarrassing. It makes us avert our eyes. Yet it's still the go-to font for amateur designers trying to make their messaging more friendly--if only in the same way that reindeer sweaters are intrinsically friendly.

It's one of Windows' longest-standing cliches.

"If you love Comic Sans, feel free to use it with the understanding that it makes your work appear amateurish and thus the information it presents is perceived as unprofessional," says Robin Williams, author of The Non-Designer's Design and Type Books and How to Boss Your Fonts Around.

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When Comic Sans was included in Windows 95, the world was starved for a relaxed, whimsical font, making the bubbly sans serif type face just the ticket. Or at least designer Vincent Connare thought so. He had designed the font the previous year explicitly for the comical (and later to be eternally mocked) software package Microsoft Bob.

Nowadays, Comic Sans elicits a visceral response: Either you hate it, or you use it. But using it even a little is a little too much.

"Your hairstyle, your car choice, your clothes--all provoke an immediate response from others. We dress and groom ourselves to fit a general image of who we think we are, and how we want others to see us," says Williams. "Your font choice provokes the same sort of reaction from others. Using Comic Sans, you send a visual message that your work is unconsidered, unprofessional, and probably untrustworthy. Obviously, your physical appearance choices and your font choices can have absolutely nothing to do with the inner truth, but we cannot deny the impact of the initial visual impression."

Ouch.

In its defense, Comic Sans is one of very few fonts that works well at "display" sizes, yet retain readability, both on screen and printed, when very small. It uses a single-story lower-case a and simple lower-case g rather than letter-press versions of these letters, in theory allowing early readers to decode text more easily. It's as innocuous as Val Kilmer's Batman: Not quite as forgettable as Lewis G. Wilson, but not exactly Christian Bale either. It's the overuse that's made Comic Sans into the Batsuit-nipples of the font world.

So if you--or someone whose work reflects on you--indulges in Comic Sans, and you need a font or a full typeface that's friendly, fun-loving, and informal, try the following alternatives. Each is free for personal use, while professional and commercial use fees range from a user-set donation to about $16.

Get Comic sans Sans with HVD Comic Serif

"So many designers hate Comic Sans," designer Hannes von DAPhren of HVD Font tells me in email. "They think people who don't know design are overusing this funny little friendly font, which is out of place nearly every time." His HVD Comic Serif is a (PostScript) OpenType font that's an interesting alternative if you want to stick with the comic book theme. The slab serif letters are drawn monoline, but with a fun, easygoing attitude. Comic Serif is strong, but still has an innocent feel.

Originally published on www.pcworld.com. Click here to read the original story.

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