Day 6

Meet the man who created the Comic Sans font — and no, he's not sorry

Comic Sans is the world's most loved — and simultaneously hated — font. It's used for everything from church bake sales to passive aggressive office kitchen notes. Former Microsoft designer Vincent Connare explains how it came to be.

'Sometimes I wonder if people think that's all I could do,' says graphic designer Vincent Connare

A transport van is pictured with a company name and slogan written partially in Comic Sans. (Submitted by Vincent Connare)

The creator of Comic Sans has only once used the font he became famous for.

"I used it to complain about bad service by a company," said designer Vincent Connare. 

"I thought if they didn't respond to me the first time, if I write a letter and I use Comic Sans, they'll at least notice it."

The plan worked, and he scored a small refund from the company. But he says he can't imagine using it again any time soon — except maybe in jest.

Connare designed Comic Sans 26 years ago. It was originally intended to be the textual voice of the cartoon dog Rover in software Microsoft created for new users, called Microsoft Bob.

At the time it was being developed, Connare was a designer for the company and wanted Rover to be represented by something more whimsical than the system's default font.

"Dogs don't speak Times New Roman," he told Day 6 host Brent Bambury, laughing.

Though it didn't make its way to Microsoft Bob, Comic Sans first hit home computers back in 1995 as part of a Windows 95 update.

'Criminal' uses

Connare expected the font to be a playful option for Microsoft Bob, but didn't know it would end up as a wide release for most computer users.

With its round, childlike, handwritten letters, Comic Sans was inspired by the speech bubbles of comic books. 

"The [comic] that actually looked the most like a typeface was Watchmen, and the lettering had enough variation in it that I could get some inspiration from that," he said. 

Vincent Connare was a designer for Microsoft in 1994 when he first designed Comic Sans, a playful, childlike typeface that has polarized computer users and designers alike since its release. (Submitted by Vincent Connare)

Thanks to its style, the font has polarized computer users since its inception, and regularly comes under fire for uses that some deem inappropriate, such as in work emails or on posters with important information.

The website Comic Sans Criminal was launched to document chronic misuse of the typeface, and offer alternatives.

When asked about the worst use of Comic Sans he had seen, Connare recalled a small business.

"There was a store in Seattle that had a neon sign in Comic Sans and said 'Fun Stamps,' and it was like a stationery store. That was kind of weird, but especially in neon," he said.

"I just find it weird if somebody goes the extra mile and has to build something with it."

Day 6 host Brent Bambury challenges Vincent Corrare, the creator of the world's most polarizing font, to determine when it's appropriate to use Comic Sans.

'Oh, you did this'

But Connare isn't particularly worried about what people do with his fonts.

"People will use typefaces how they use them," he said.

Now living in southern France, Connare says he often comes across the typeface in his small town on a digital sign that displays messages for the village's 1,000 residents.

Connare says Comic Sans should be used in situations where a playful tone is important. (Submitted by Vincent Connare)

"It's just funny when you ride through there and you see it up there — and that's weird," he said.

"But somebody made that choice and they're not a graphic designer, because they're just somebody that works for the mayor."

Connare has designed a handful of fonts aside from Comic Sans, including Trebuchet. He has no regrets about creating the world's most polarizing typeface, but he does worry about what it means for himself as a designer.

"Sometimes I wonder if people think that's all I could do, because everybody looks it up eventually," he told Bambury. "The next time I meet them, they go 'Oh, you did this.' And it's usually, 'You designed Comic Sans.'

"So, in a way, that's the only regret, is that people think that's the only thing I've ever designed."

To hear the full interview with Vincent Connare, download our podcast or click Listen above.