The designer of Comic Sans Ms, a font that could be very easily labelled the most hated font public font in the history of typography, said in an interview with De Zeen Magazine “I think people who don’t like Comic Sans don’t know anything about design”. Critics might dismiss this as him defending his own creation, but in reality, this is the bitter truth. Compared to many fonts out there, Comic Sans is very well designed, being very thoughtfully spaced, shaped and formed into something that only performs the basic function of a font – being readable – it also fits it’s original brief. Design is a response, and Comic Sans did a perfect job of being a friendly replacement of Times New Roman in Microsoft’s MS Bob, software designed for novice PC users at the time.
In reality, Comic Sans own enemy is not itself, but the people who use it. Being included as a default font on all Windows computers, many people eager to create their own pieces of design with no knowledge in the subject would chose Comic Sans over Arial or Times New Roman as a more casual alternative, often better suiting a sign at a child’s nursery, or a car boot sale. That’s a perfectly reasonable choice, but it’s one that was made perhaps too many times, leading to the font being littered across shop signs, personal websites or other small businesses, to a point that was exhausting to anyone that actually cared to notice where Comic Sans was being used.
No doubt, if Comic Sans had been locked behind a pay-wall, as many more respectable fonts are, it may well be the choice of professional designers, but history has hurt Comic Sans too much. And as we all learnt in history lessons at school – history is prone to repeating itself.
When Calibri was chosen by Microsoft as the default font for it’s Office software package in 2007, I was excited (even at the age I was). What I knew this would mean, is that those who never bothered to change the font wouldn’t be stuck with using Times New Roman, and those torn between Arial and Comic Sans finally had a suitable middle ground – Calibri strikes a fine balance between the professionally simple choice of Arial, with the rounded edges of Comic Sans. It was a font the world needed, in my opinion, a font that doesn’t scream ‘boring’ like Arial and Times New Roman did, but didn’t look like you’re trying too hard to seem fun and approachable like Comic Sans. But the sad thing is, all default fonts are failed to doom, and to no fault of their own either, since it doesn’t always scream ‘boring’ or even ‘fun’, but something much, much worse – ‘lazy’.
Being a jack-of-all trades, many people will see the default font and see no reason to change it, so font selection goes untouched, and Calibri remains. When you use Calibri, it will always denote ‘I was too lazy or rushed to change the font’. Even people who don’t know what Calibri is, will have seen the font used so many times that they will, at a subconscious level, know that the font means that the design work using Calibri is nothing out-of-the-ordinary, and the ordinary by nature demands a lack of attention.
Just as Comic Sans has spawned hate campaigns internationally, even leaking outside of the design community, I fear that the use of Calibri, at this point, justifies to same response. As I’ve said before, it’s an absurd shame, but while becoming the default font on a piece of software as widely used as Microsoft Office is a godsend for being noticed, it’s secretly a bullet in the head at some point down the road. In a few years, I’m sure Microsoft will be eager to refresh their Office brand with a new default font, but it will surely be the death of another undeserving font.
You may have the best intentions when using Calibri, you may even have looked over all other fonts you have stored in your system and decided it’s the most appropriate, but I urge you – never use Calibri. If you’re writing an essay, turns out Georgia might actually get you better marks.
And as for everything else? Well, if in doubt, Gill Sans will always work.