Comic Neue: Cool or Cruel?

For those of us with an eye for design or a love of typography, the big news this week is about the Comic Sans makeover and the reveal of Comic Neue. If this is news to you, head over to Craig Rozynski’s site to take a look at an old font frenemy with a seriously smooth facelift.

Sure, kindergarten teachers and break-room memo hangers love Comic Sans, but designers and editors consider it to be the red-headed stepchild of the great font family. That is suddenly sad to me because it’s just a child’s font. It seems cruel to pin so much disgust on a kindly sans-serif.

As early as college, Comic Sans was on my list of IGNORE fonts. Along with Brush Script, it just seemed to be trying too hard. It was clearly not cool, even if it was more legible than Brush Script. I’m anthropomorphizing my fonts. Had you noticed? I can’t be the only one. When you spend a lot of time working intimately with fonts, they begin to conjure up personalities in your mind. Of course they do; fonts are designed to convey a message that goes beyond the actual letters.

Brush Script has a strawberry-blonde mustache and four days of stubble. He’s got a slight drinking problem and he shows up six days a week to ride bucking Broncos because it’s the only life he’s ever known. Comic Sans… ah, well, I guess Comic Sans is that kid at a seventh-grade party who just can’t seem to say or do the right thing. Just as everyone starts to relax and enjoy themselves, he jumps up on the couch and announces, “IF YOU SPRINKLE WHEN YOU TINKLE, PLEASE BE NEAT AND WIPE THE SEAT!” He then guffaws and spills Hawaiian Punch on the rug. He’s not a bad fellow, he’s just hopelessly out of sync.

I have spent thousands of hours focused on choosing the right type for the message. I have obsessed about font sizes, kerning, tracking, bolding, underlining and shadowing. I have wrangled and stretched type, sometimes for its own good and sometimes for selfish reasons. In all that time, Comic Sans remained an old, bad joke. Any time a friend posted something online in Comic Sans, I cringed. When editing content in Comic Sans, I encouraged the author to reconsider his font choice. Every time.

There has never been any room for Comic Sans in my life and certainly not in my brochures, my websites or my headlines. But as of today, I feel differently. I feel a bit sorry for Comic Sans. I mean it’s in the name! “Comic Without” or “Without Comedy”? I know I’ve certainly always been humorless in my approach to this outsider font.

The release of Comic Neue has made me realize how much the design community has neglected and bullied poor Comic Sans. As Comic Neue makes the scene — flashier, smoother and just plain cooler — I can’t help but think of Comic Sans standing nearby in the shadows and wishing he could get this much fanfare for once, as he takes a sip of his punch and it dribbles down his chin and on to his new shirt.