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  • Everything you type should be in Comic Sans font today and this is why

    Love it or hate it, Comic Sans has made a name of itself for numerous reasons. The sans-serif font is celebrated in the Netherlands every first Friday of July since 2009 and it is thanks to two Dutch radio DJs, Coen Swijnenberg and Sander Lantinga, who introduced to the world the Comic Sans Day 15 years after it was introduced to the world.

    Designed by Vincent Connare Comic Sans MS is a sans-serif casual script typeface released in 1994 by Microsoft Corporation. A casual, non-connecting script inspired by comic book lettering, Comic Sans intended for use in informal documents and children's materials. “This casual but legible face has proved very popular with a wide variety of people” explained Microsoft of the typeface which has been so extremely popular, often used in situations for which CS was not intended, and inevitably has been the subject of criticism and mockery. 

    “What's so wrong with Comic Sans?” wondered Simon Garfield, author of Just My Type: A Book About Fonts (Profile Books) in his article for BBC almost a decade ago after Comic Sans became the target of an online hate campaign. “Comic Sans is unique: used the world over, it's a typeface that doesn't really want to be type. It looks homely and handwritten, something perfect for things we deem to be fun and liberating. Great for the awnings of toyshops, less good on news websites or on gravestones and the sides of ambulances” notes Garfield.

    Over popular and in demand by many Comic Sans was created by Connare, type engineer and graphic novels fan, who began work on Comic Sans in October 1994. Connare had already created child-oriented fonts for various applications, so when he saw a beta version of Microsoft Bob that used Times New Roman in the word balloons of cartoon characters, he felt that the result was a formal look inappropriate for a program intended to introduce younger users to computers. His decision was to create a new face based on the lettering style of comic books he had in his office, specifically The Dark Knight Returns (lettered by John Costanza) and Watchmen (lettered by Dave Gibbons).

    The Comic Sans adventure was just beginning. Connare completed the face too late for inclusion in MS Bob, but the programmers of Microsoft 3D Movie Maker, which also used cartoon guides and speech bubbles, began to use it. The speech bubbles eventually were phased out and replaced by actual sound, but Comic Sans stayed for the program’s pop-up windows and help sections.

    The typeface later shipped with the Windows 95 Plus! Pack. It then became a standard font for the OEM version of Windows 95. Finally, the font became one of the default fonts for Microsoft Publisher and Microsoft Internet Explorer. The font is also used in Microsoft Comic Chat, which was released in 1996 with Internet Explorer 3.0.

    Installed on the majority of computers worldwide, Comic Sans widespread use happened overnight. Within four years of its release on Windows, designers had begun to argue that it had become overused, often through use in serious and formal documents in which it could appear too informal or even as inappropriate and disrespectful. 

    The Boston Phoenix reported on disgruntlement over the widespread use of the font, especially its incongruous use for writing on serious subjects, with the complaints urged on by a campaign started by two Indianapolis graphic designers, Dave and Holly Combs, via their website “Ban Comic Sans”.

    The movement was conceived in 1999 by the two designers after an employer insisted that one of them use Comic Sans in a children's museum exhibit, and in early 2009, the movement was “stronger now than ever”. The web site's main argument is that a typeface should match the tone of its text and that the irreverence of Comic Sans is often at odds with a serious message, such as a “do not enter” sign. Comic book artist Dave Gibbons, whose work was one of the inspirations for the font, said that it was “a shame they couldn't have used just the original font, because [Comic Sans] is a real mess. I think it's a particularly ugly letter form” and film producer and New York Times essayist Errol Morris wrote on the subject back in August 2012: “The conscious awareness of Comic Sans promotes—at least among some people—contempt and summary dismissal.” With the help of a professor, he conducted an online experiment and found that Comic Sans, in comparison with five other fonts (Baskerville, Helvetica, Georgia, Trebuchet MS, and Computer Modern), makes readers slightly less likely to believe that a statement they are reading is true.

    “If you love it, you don't know much about typography [but] if you hate it, you really don't know much about typography, either, and you should get another hobby” commented Connare on its haters and fans alike, being obviously the biggest fan of his creation. “Twenty years ago, I made the best font in the world,” he said speaking at WIRED's annual two-day conference in 2015

    But science is with the use of Comic Sans as studies, such as one from Princeton University in 2010, show that those who study using more difficult fonts such as Comic Sans are more likely to retain information.

    So remember, Comic Sans Day is celebrated every first Friday of July and on this day you should “send all your mails, print all your reports and all your sticker address labels in this illustrious font” per Swijnenberg and Lantinga. If you are not impressed with the font's super-popularity just ask Fabiola Gianotti, the spokesperson of the ATLAS experiment. Back in July 2012, when the discovery of the Higgs boson was announced at CERN, Gianotti attracted comment by using the font in her presentation of the results. And that was just one of CERN's funny obsession with the most reviled font ever. Just in time for April Fools day 2014 CERN announced that all of its official communication channels are switching to exclusive use of the font Comic Sans

    “The move comes after weeks of deliberation by CERN management and top web designers about how best to update the image of the laboratory for this, its 60th anniversary year. 'This is an important year for CERN and we wanted to make a bold visual statement, sia dsays CERN Head of Communications James Gillies in a statement. 'We thought the most effective way to communicate our research into the fundamental structure of matter at the very boundaries of technology was by changing the font.' For Gillies, Comic Sans says: 'This is a serious laboratory, with a serious research agenda.' And it makes the letters look all round and squishy' he added. Following the viral success of ATLAS spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti's presentation on 4 July 2012 announcing the discovery a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson, Gillies scrambled a team of emergency typographers to work towards the change. Working in shifts night and day for over a year, they deconstructed Gianotti's presentation at the very tiniest level to study its fundamental structure. They then came up with a sophisticated statistical model to separate the font from the background content. 'According to our calculations, 80% of the success of the presentation came not from the discovery of a fundamental particle that explains the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism for how particles get mass, but from the choice of font,' says presentation analyst May Dupp, who worked closely with comic-book artists and circus clowns to lead the change. 'It's a logical step – and plain common sense – to apply this technique to all of CERN's communications.'

    "When preparing my Higgs presentation, at first, I had Georgia on my mind," said Gianotti. "But when I saw the closely spaced, slightly squishy rounded characters in my drop-down menu, I knew in my heart that Comic Sans was the right way to go." Comic Sans makes scientists happy so touché!

  • Busted! Watch Genius typographic evidence in its case against Google

    Music lyrics website Genius says it has proof Google is copying its lyrics, displaying them in search results, and driving down traffic to reports PC Magazine and its evidence is pure typography. Genius has watermarked lyrics displayed on its website with patterns of apostrophes, which can alternate between the straight and curly single-quote, to make the punctuation marks spell the word “Red-handed” when translated into Morse code. Eventually, the Genius watermarked lyrics edition surfaced on Google's “information panels.”

    “Google knowingly displays lyrics that are copied from Genius in search results in order to keep users from leaving Google to go to other sites. They have known about this for two years and it's clearly unfair and anticompetitive,” Genius told PCMag in a statement. According to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story it all started back in 2016 when a Genius software engineer noticed that Google search results were displaying lyrics submitted by artists to Genius only. Genius began watermarking its song lyrics and has since found more than 100 examples of Google's search engine taking its lyrics. Reportedly, Genius notified Google about the lyrics copying in 2017 and told Google it was violating Genius's terms of service, not to mention antitrust law, the Journal says.

    “The lyrics displayed in information boxes on Google Search are licensed from a variety of sources and are not scraped from sites on the web,” Google said in a statement. “We take data quality and creator rights very seriously, and hold our licensing partners accountable to the terms of our agreement. We're investigating this issue with our data partners and if we find that partners are not upholding good practices, we will end our agreements,” the company added.

    The outcome in this “fractal plagiarism” as Kevin Marks, a well respected open source guy and someone who has been working at Google and other companies for years notes, is that Google will eventually be showing in the search results where they license (pay for) the lyrics by adding an attribution to the lyrics box. “To help make it clearer where the lyrics come from, we’ll soon include attribution to the third party providing the digital lyrics text” Google stated per Seroundtable.

    Watch how Genius invested in typography to prove the case against Google below.

  • Dots instead of lines: listen to the amazing story of a 12yo blind genius by the name Louis Braille

    This is our new favorite podcast of the week. Produced by Andrew Leland for 99% Invisible, episode 360 of the Universal Page podcast is a magnificent narration to the world of Braille system and the War of the Dots that happened almost a century ago. “I’m going blind really, really slowly. Right now it’s like I’ve got a foot in both worlds, blind and sighted. I have a degenerative retinal disease that’s given me severe tunnel vision, so basically no peripheral vision. It’s like I’m peering at the world through a toilet paper tube. One that gets a little narrower every few months” says Andrew Leland in the introduction to his episode on the revolutionary Braille system that changed humanity for the good. 

    The story starts in 1771 when the skilled linguist Valentin Haüy decided to help the blind “when he saw a group of blind people being mocked during a street festival in Paris.”

    From Haüy's first known school for the blind, The Royal Institute in Paris through Napoleon's captain who had invented what he called “nocturnal writing” to the 12-year-old blind student named Louis Braille who adapted that military code for blind people as an alternative to raised print or the decisive battle in the War of the Dots which took place in 1909 when the New York Board of Education decided to adapt Braille making it the official tactile writing system used by people who are visually impaired in the rapidly growing USA, this is an insightful podcast on how a genius blind student made the world a better and humane place through type. 

    The young Louis Braille substituted the 12 dot system developed by Napoleon's captain into a six-dot system and maximized its efficiency allowing blind people to read and write, eventually to take control of their lives at last. Do yourself a favor, listen to the podcast here and remember, always read the plaque!

    Cover image credit: Flickr user Rolanddme via CC


  • Next Nature: Qiang John Wang creates a lively typeface with organic forms for UCLA

    Geared specifically for high school students, the Department of Design Media Arts (DMA) at UCLA provides students with a rare opportunity to experience the design realm. DMA's two-week summer program aims to introduce high schoolers to design practices for print, web, video, and game and this year's Next Nature theme challenges the students to think about what DMA's collective Next Nature could be.

    “The identity centers around a lively typeface featuring cogwheels and organic forms, eluding to an optimistic though speculative future characterized by an interdependent relationship and a balance between technology and nature” notes the Chinese communication designer Qiang John Wang on the visual identity of the program he created. 

    “The cogwheel as an industrial object representing technology is in motion with the organic lines and curvatures representing nature. These graphic elements of the letterform communicate a sense of tension but also harmony. The typeface is animated and applied to section titles associated with the program” adds Wang.

    See the typeface coming to life here.


  • IKEA's Soffa Sans is definitely the world's comfiest free modular font

    Earlier this year IKEA appealed to lovers of pop culture by creating famous fictional living rooms entirely from its own products - including the apartment from Friends, and the iconic Simpsons lounge. Now the company -which was recently rebranded for the digital age- has revealed Soffa Sans aka the “world's comfiest font”. 

    It all started when IKEA launched an online tool allowing customers to play around with configurations of sofas using the Vallentuna planner. Leaving restrictions up to the user, it led to many ambitious creations, including words and phrases. In reaction to this, IKEA engaged Proximity London to help it create Soffa Sans, which uses solely sofa units to map out the letters of the alphabet.

    If ordered as a real product using the planner, it would cost 118 244 euros as well as taking 1,434 individual products to create notes The Drum.

    “We’ve been really enjoying seeing the fun that people are having with our sofas, and the innovative solutions they are creating. Inspired by their creativity, we’ve launched Soffa Sans: the world’s comfiest font. Its modular form and relaxed letter-spacing makes it one of the most versatile fonts out there and we’re looking forward to seeing where it’s used” said Marcos Tejedor, Living Rooms Sales Leader at IKEA UK & Ireland.