Google surprised users Friday with an April Fools’ Day prank meant to irk font police everywhere. Google released a web page explaining that after conducting research using 41 free fonts, the reviled Comic Sans font out-performed them all. The company proceeded to announce that Comic Sans would be its default font across all Google products beginning on April 4, 2019.
Users also found they could install an extension to the Google Chrome browser known as “Comic Sans for Everyone” that allowed them to yield search results with that font. Even without the extension, users who searched for Comic Sans or Helvetica were presented with results in the despised font automatically.
Google had plenty of fun with Comic Sans for April Fools’ Day, but what makes the font so unpopular? Here is a look at the history of the backlash against Comic Sans:
* The font was created in 1994 by Vincent Connare, who, while working at Microsoft, was inspired by two comic books in his office: “The Dark Knight Returns” and “Watchmen.” The font later became a standard typeface for Microsoft products.
* The movement to stop the font began in 1999 by Holly Sliger. Sliger was told by her employer to design a museum gallery guide in Comic Sans. Believing it to be to cliché and ill-suited for the project, she suggested other typefaces, but her bosses insisted on Comic Sans.
* After Sliger married graphic designer Dave Combs, the couple began a crusade to stop the typeface in 2001. They started a website called “Ban Comic Sans,” claiming that the font “conveys silliness, childish naiveté, irreverence, and is far too casual.” Combs further clarified the typeface’s issues in a June 2005 article in the Boston Phoenix. She said of Comic Sans: “It’s poorly designed. Its strokes are irregular. It’s a really ugly, comical, stupid, ugly font.”
* In the 2005 session of the youth model parliament in Ontario, the New Democratic Party (NDP) included a clause in an omnibus bill to ban Comic Sans.
* In a 2009 Guardian article, “Watchmen” co-creator Dave Gibbons was asked what he thought of the Comic Sans typeface. Gibbons stated, “It’s just a shame they couldn’t have used just the original font because it’s a real mess. I think it’s a particularly ugly letter form.”
* BBC columnist Simon Garfield wrote in 2010 that Comic Sans is “homely and handwritten, something perfect for things we deem to be fun and liberating,” but noted that its ubiquity and simplicity has led to its misuse. Garfield pointed out that another popular typeface, Helvetica, is everywhere and is also simple, though it still possesses an air of sophistication while Comic Sans “just begs to be printed in multiple colors.”