For as long as I can remember, it’s been chic to hate on Comic Sans. The font is aesthetically, absolutely terrible, though if you ask font designer and creater Vincent Connare, it’s “the best font in the world”. I might disagree (because I’m a Helvetica fan) but you know who doesn’t? Anyone with the learning disability dyslexia.
The font, which was released in 1994, is based on John Costanza’s lettering from The Dark Knight Returns comic book. Times New Roman seemed far too formal for a speech bubbles, and so Comic Sans came to be.
“Comic Sans was NOT designed as a typeface but as a solution to a problem with the often overlooked part of a computer program’s interface, the typeface used to communicate the message,” Connare says on his website. “The inspiration came at the shock of seeing Times New Roman used in an inappropriate way.”
Despite its comic origin story, Comic Sans has been hugely instrumental in other ways, specifically, helping those with the learning disorder dyslexia. In an article for The Establishment, Lauren Hudgins recounts just how beneficial the font has been to her sister Jessica, but Jessica isn’t alone: it’s estimated that one in ten Americans have dyslexia, with statistics on school-aged children reporting one in five.
That’s one in five children that have to work that much harder to do the same assignments – but it’s not just children. In Hudgins’ article, her sister describes difficulty in higher level classes:
The lecturer printed out these handouts in Times New Roman. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh my god. This is so easy!’ I handed him the thing back and I was like, ‘It’s not that your instructions are difficult, I cannot read them. I’ve nearly cried three times during this.’ What I did is I eventually downloaded the handout, blew it up to 16 point font, turned the paper green, and turned it into Comic Sans.
But it’s not just about getting the work completed, it’s also about acceptance within submitted work. When people ask Jessica why she doesn’t begin her assignments in Comic Sans and hand in her papers in Times New Roman:
Have you ever tried to format a scientific paper when you have to get everything lined up so specifically? You’ve got all of your legends that have to go underneath your figures. 12 points in Comic Sans is not 12 points in Arial is not 12 points in Times New Roman. You can spend hours formatting your paper in Comic Sans and then turn it into 12 point Arial and it will mess up everything.
And then there’s proofreading.
You cannot fix formatting errors you cannot see! I can and have had people in my class look over my work, but you need to understand that we’re not collaborators, they’re my peers. This is an encroachment on their time.
When people imagine using Comic Sans in an educational environment, most people’s minds go directly to grade school, but the impact of dyslexia and hard-to-read fonts goes beyond primary school. Dyslexia isn’t “curable”, but it is manageable. Using Comic Sans just one of the tools many Americans with dyslexia use to improve their quality of literacy.
Comic Sans isn’t the only font available for those with dyslexia, but it is the most well known, and for many, the easiest to use. So why are we still so angry at a font whose existence is so beneficial to so many people? Because we don’t know any better, I guess, but ignorance isn’t a good excuse any more.
Featured Image Via Reader’s Digest.