Comic sans… intervention?

Like several other bloggers out there, I possess quite a few presentation peeves. Among the most irritable Powerpoint sins: using small and/or illegible fonts, overloading slides with text/data/figures, hideous and inconsistent backgrounds, and (*gasp*) reading from your slides. To keep the focus on your data, all that’s needed is a white background, consistent use of a sans serif font, simple slides, and very limited use of bullets and text (a picture speaks a thousand words).

However, there is one presentation faux pas that I have yet to surrender – the use of Comic Sans font. While I never use Comic Sans for posters or formal presentations, this fun and easy-to-read font can subtly enliven an informal talk, IMHO. So I’ve enjoyed the use of Comic Sans from time to time in small groups – lab meetings, for instance – and it’s never incited the ire I’ve seen on the web. Or maybe, unbeknownst to me, previous audiences have torn apart Dr. O voodoo dolls to punish me for my indiscretions.

So tell me, fellow science-y bloggers, what exactly is your issue with Comic Sans? Lack of professionalism? Inability to italicize? Unresolved issues from childhood? Please let me know; I need a good reason to give up this seemingly harmless presentational activity.

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14 thoughts on “Comic sans… intervention?

  1. My issue with it is the unprofessionalism. There are appropriate uses, though I have rarely seen them. I think in an informal (lab meeting) presentation, I might find it mildly annoying, but other than that it sounds like you aren’t overstepping your Comic sans bounds. Though, because of the general Internet outrage with this particular font, I have found that once I notice it in a talk it becomes distracting to me (that’s probably just me though).
    There are far bigger sins in a talk than using Comic sans. Simple slides with a white background and minimal text would most likely lead me to overlook a bad choice in font.

  2. You should check out: http://www.comicsanscriminal.com/
    I work with someone who uses Comic Sans in presentations within the university – and I’ve heard students say that it is insincere = fancy PI trying to be one with the ‘youngsters’. There is a disconnect because this PI is very serious & the fun font does seem out of place.

  3. There is nothing wrong with typefaces that imitate comic book lettering. It’s this particular one that’s the problem: it’s badly designed, and text set in it looks clumsy.

    People who work with type can articulate the serious shortcomings of Comic Sans better than I. Here’s what an actual comic letter, Todd Klein, had to say about the font (http://kleinletters.com/Blog/?p=3599):

    Comic Sans fails on every level, and I think deserves the scorn it’s gotten. Only the fact that it comes with so many Microsoft products, making it easy for the design deaf to turn to, has kept it prevalent. Computer users beware, Comic Sans is nothing more than a way to label yourself clueless about comics, fonts, and good design.

    Informal typefaces are fine. Just get a one that is better than Comic Sans.

  4. Okay, I’ll bite. What are some of the preferred informal typefaces?

    I personally like Bradley Hand and Chalkboard – both available in Pages – better than Comic Sans. But I always lumped those in with Comic Sans as “unprofessional”.

  5. Type webpages often have sections on alternatives to very popular (or, to some designers, old and tired) fonts.

    Here’s some Comic Sans alternatives:

    http://www.fontshop.com/fontlist/alternatives/comic_sans/
    http://www.fontscape.com/explore?9BU

    And for the hardcore:

    http://www.comicbookfonts.com/index.html?sid=0001XbhpJX4ZSzEVnM8D9G9

    That said, I totally sympathize with this post, which points out that there’s a user interface problem: http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/20-alternatives-to-comic-sans/

    Ditch the dropdown list – it makes it too time consuming to view a large number of fonts quickly. Don’t arrange the list alphabetically, as if “Centaur” gives us any idea at all of what the font will look like. Arrange them thematically. Allow us to search (and even assign) keywords – formal, fancy, hand written, etc. Have a wizard to suggest fonts. Have a “find fonts like this font” option.

  6. I’m with Dr. O on this one. I freely admit — I am not at all irritated by Comic Sans. In fact, my favorite (and seemingly everyone’s favorite) prof in grad school used it as a title font on his lecture slides. I think that’s where I developed a certain fondness for it and must admit that I don’t understand the interwebz irritation with it.

    However, seeing Times New Roman or any other serif font on a PPT presentation makes my eyes bleed and sends me into a spiral of rage.

    Btw, I am an Arial girl, and generally endorse the attitude that too much frill of any sort is bad for presentations. Therefore I use a simple templates and a simple font that does not get distorted no matter what or whose computer I have to end up using. The most important things about presentations are that they represent data clearly, do justice to the work presented, and can actually be assembled in an always too short amount of time. (The latter without compromising the first two dictates simplicity above all.)

  7. Apparently I’ll never have a career in graphic design, because I can’t really tell the difference. And some of the acceptable alternatives to Comic Sans look just like Comic Sans, to me. Oh well, one more back up career that I can cross off my list.

  8. Pingback: Twelve Months of The Tightrope | The Tightrope

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