We always joke about Comic Sans, but it actually has a huge benefit.
Hey! Does this font drive you CRAZY?
You’re not alone. That typeface is, of course, Comic Sans, the incredibly ubiquitous and vehemently polarizing font that has come preinstalled in nearly every computer since its introduction in the mid-’90s.
It’s always been a popular choice for a fun, casual font, especially with kids: You’ll find it all over elementary schools, lemonade stands, PTA newsletters and church bulletins. It’s a distinctly unpretentious font.
Despite having a time and a place, Comic Sans has also inspired deep hatred. Maybe people just can’t stand the look of its cartoony, written-in-crayon lettering (which, fun fact, was based off the typography from comic classics like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, go figure) or maybe its popularity just caused too much misuse.
It’s regarded as a terrible web design choice, and professional wisdom tells us to steer clear of the font.
Teachers have refused to accept work in Comic Sans, and you’d be laughed out of an office if you submitted a resume or cover letter with a trace of it.
But what if the quirky font actually helped people with a reading disability?
While Comic Sans might be painful for some people to read, for others, specifically people suffering from dyslexia, Comic Sans is the most-readable, one whose distinct lettering makes it easier for people with the disability to decipher.
Dyslexia is a disorder, affecting about 10 percent of the population in some form. It’s characterized by difficulty reading or distinguishing characters and words. The irregular letter shaping in Comic Sans makes it easier for dyslexics to distinguish the letters and leads to faster reading comprehension.
And some people view the backlash against Comic Sans as discriminatory.
An article for The Establishment titled “Hating Comic Sans is Ableist,” the author describes her sister’s dyslexia and discovery of Comic Sans.
“For me, being able to use Comic Sans is similar to a mobility aid, or a visual aid, or a hearing aid,” the sister explains. But she also describes the resistance she receives, being told that the font choice is “unprofessional,” “juvenile,” and “stupid.”
There are other dyslexia-friendly fonts, some made specifically with the disability in mind, and none nearly as divisive. But Comic Sans has the benefit of being universal, web-ready, and free. It’s the most accessible font for people who need it.
Which might change, if the loud voices of the Internet mob ever get their way: There have been many petitions and protests to get the font off the web. Numerous anti-Comic Sans websites exist, t-shirts have been sold, and a Change.org petition to ban it from Gmail.
The protests are largely facetious, and it doesn’t look like anyone’s taken in the demands to boycott Comic Sans yet. But they do contribute to the widely held perception that it’s a frivolous, unprofessional font used only by those who don’t know better. It could discourage people who really benefit from using it.
So maybe we can all keep an open mind about Comic Sans. It doesn’t hurt anyone, while so many people can benefit from it. You don’t have to use it, but let’s maybe take a breather and stop trying to rid it from the face of the Earth. And if you still need to take your aggression out on a font, there’s always Papyrus.