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YESTERDAY IN PART 1, Comic Sans typeface entertained us with its popularity—and notoriety: Indeed, which other typefaces foster hate groups? To which I‘m tempted to respond “Get a life.”
Today in Part 2, graphic designers discuss my other favorite typeface, Helvetica. Indeed, one of the designers does a pica-à-pica duel of Helvetica and Comic Sans. And I get my own finger in the inkwell too.
Helvetica. In his most illuminating Fifty Typefaces That Changed The World, John L. Walters calls Helvetica “the blue jeans typeface” and quotes another saying it’s “the Beatles of typefaces.”
Yet Walters cites another designer seeing Helvetica as “representing the industrial-military complex that her generation rebelled against at the time of the Vietnam War.”
Heady talk indeed for simple little squggly images.
Helvetica, the Documentary. Helvetica is the only typeface I know with its own movie. In 2007, Gary Hustwit made the documentary Helvetica celebrating this typeface’s 50th anniversary. Says Wikipedia, this indie flick is “a history of this typeface interspersed with candid interviews with leading graphic and type designers…. It also explores the rift between modernists and postmodernists, with the latter explaining their criticisms of the famous typeface.”
In This Corner, Wearing Blue Jeans, Helvetica; In This Corner Wearing Funny Trunks, Comic Sans. So what’s wrong with Comic Sans? Its typographical faults are well characterized by @kadavy in “Why You Hate Comic Sans.“
Briefly, this typeface offends some graphic designers in the same way a Cockney accent might distress a BBC enunciator.
For example, @kadavy notes that Comic Sans is unmodulated; that is, its strokes are of uniform thickness. This may sound like artsy nit-picking, but indeed it affects the aesthetics of letters.
What’s more, Comic Sans has poor letter fit: @kadavy says that combinations of certain Comic Sans characters defy proper “kerning,” the minute spacing artfully placed between letters.
The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time. “So,” @kadavy says, “the story of Comic Sans is not that of a really terrible font, but rather of a mediocre font, used incorrectly on a massive scale.”
I’d agree with this. Indeed, there’s irony in its inappropriate uses: In particular, avoid Comic Sans in notices of automotive recalls, hurricanes, or obituaries.
Where I Like Comic Sans. Back when I spoke at technical meetings, I found Comic Sans a perfect counterpoint to the guy who puts up a visual of minuscule detail and says “We’ve got a lot to cover, so….”
Comic Sans is eminently legible and anything but seriously dull. I like to think it goes well accompanying my love of technicalities.
Reconciliation. Vincent Connare, the inventor of Comic Sans, admitted, “If you love Comic Sans you don’t know much about typography; and if you hate Comic Sans you need a new hobby.”
Like I said, it’s time for reconciliation. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021