Anna Winston: What do you think it was about Comic Sans that made it so popular? Anna Winston: What are you working on at the moment? Comic Sans is loved by kids, mums and many dads. Typeface usually refers to the whole family of Times Roman. I was just showing them how I thought it would look better in a cartoon style.”
Related story: Christian Boer designs typeface for readers with dyslexiaAlthough the sans serif typeface was never used in the program it was originally designed for – it was introduced too late in the development process – it became popular in internal communications at Microsoft. Today we are actually doing less internally in the code of fonts than we did 15 years ago. I said I liked the drawings and cartoon characters and it was fun but I think it was lazy to just use the system font Times New Roman in the speech balloons. Connare once described the typeface as “the best joke I ever told”. The old word fount referred to the specific case of letterpress letters in a style and weight of a typeface. “Technological advances have transformed typography into a tawdry triviality,” says the Ban Comic Sans manifesto. Vincent Connare: Small screens are not a problem. Vincent Connare: There are 200-300 fonts installed on every computer but people pick Comic Sans because it is different and it looks more like handwriting and does not look like an old school text book. I was just showing them how I thought it would look better in a cartoon style. Is this a problem? I created Agfa’s (formerly Compugraphic) first TrueType fonts. We were addressing issues with various types of screens and devices. “I think people who don’t like Comic Sans don’t know anything about design,” said Connare. Anna Winston: Has the public’s changing relationship with Comic Sans affected how you think about designing typefaces now? It was not used in Utopia which was later named Microsoft Bob because the program was in its final beta and they could not change the default font at this time. The group back then were doing things five years or more ahead of everybody. “They don’t understand that in design you have a brief.”
“Comic Sans matched the brief, the brief of the entire Microsoft Consumer Division to put a ‘Computer in Every Home’ and to make something popular for the people of these homes and their kids. Vincent Connare: Currently I am working in the group responsible for training (called Skills and Process) at Dalton Maag. It matched the brief!”
Vincent ConnareConnare is now based in London, where he works for font foundry Dalton Maag training new designers. The group back then were doing things five years or more ahead of everybody,” Connare told Dezeen. In 1993 I began working for Microsoft in the Advanced Technologies research group. In French software, the menu reads: police des caractères. On computers the term font is synonymous with typeface because it is used in menus this way. I thought, if they have nothing better to do, why should I stop them. Anna Winston: What’s the most unusual use you’ve seen of the typeface? In 1995 it was included in the company’s standard font package for Windows, putting it in the hands of millions of computer users. Interview: ahead of his talk at London’s VA museum on Friday, typographer Vincent Connare talks to Dezeen about creating the typeface that designers love to hate. I looked at the comic books I had in my office and drew up with a mouse on a computer an example of hand lettering that I showed to the group with images of the cartoon dog Rover talking in this style of font as opposed to Times New Roman. This was 15 years ago and it is now commonplace that we have to address type on these new small devices. I then moved into the Intellifont hinting team, creating fonts for Hewlett-Packard Laserjet printers. If the font doesn’t scale then you could just use .png or bitmap font formats like we used to do for screens or printers. Something like a watch would have a limited amount of font sizes and doesn’t need scalable font formats. It is a personal decision. In 1991 I was chosen to work on the new TrueType font format that Apple released. I would love to make something again that everyone loved and others would hate. If we want to be pedantic we could say the menu should say Fonts since it is a list of all the font names of the font files on the computer. So it did its job very well. The same could be asked of why do people like Ugg boots, Justin Bieber or pink tracksuitsAnna Winston: A lot of people say they don’t like Comic Sans, why do you think that is? They don’t understand that in design you have a brief. Vincent Connare: It was important at Microsoft to show people how things could be done. Comic Sans is loved by kids, mums and many dads. No it doesn’t bother me in the least. First I was converting their type library from a photographic library to the new Ikarus font format by URW in Germany. Its marketing manager was the future Melinda French Gates. So every computer sold with Windows 95 had Comic Sans in it and every copy of Internet Explorer had it too. Comic Sans matched the brief, the brief of the entire Microsoft Consumer Division to put a “Computer in Every Home” and to make something popular for the people of these homes and their kids. I was living in New York City and decided to move back to Massachusetts for work. Anna Winston: What led to the development of Comic Sans? “There are 200-300 fonts installed on every computer but people pick Comic Sans because it is different and it looks more like handwriting and does not look like an old school text book,” explained Connare. Comic Sans matched the briefI was asked to comment on what I thought of the use of typography in this new application. I started working as a photographer and darkroom technician but got bored of the hours and being in the dark for eight hours, so I applied to [typesetting systems company] Compugraphic in Wilmington, Massachusetts. I did not intend to make a font. Today we are actually doing less internally in the code of fonts than we did 15 years ago.”
Originally designed in 1994 to fill in the speech bubbles in a programme called Microsoft Bob, which featured a cartoon dog that offered tips on how to use a computer, Comic Sans was based on the hand lettering in comic books that Connare had lying around in his office. We later were reorganised into Microsoft Typography. So it did its job very well. Vincent Connare: I began my career in type design back in 1987. This is the version of Windows that is given to computer manufacturers to install in their computers. takes place at the VA from 6.30pm until 10pm and includes talks from Connare, typographer Jonathan Barnbrook and Christian Boer, designer of the Dyslexie typeface. The same could be asked of why do people like Ugg boots, Justin Bieber or pink tracksuits.”
Microsoft BobBy the end of the 1990s, the ubiquity of Comic Sans in home-made signage and children’s school projects was beginning to generate a backlash from some designers. I worked the second shift from 4pm to midnight. Type design and developing fonts is much more technical than other fields of designAnna Winston: What makes typography different from other fields of design? The only other field of design as technical is web design and development. In 2000, Connare received an email from Holly and David Combs, the founders of the Ban Comic Sans website, alerting him to the growing animosity towards his creation. It was also included as a standard option in the Internet Explorer browser, expanding its reach even further. These are fast and ready to display unlike outline fonts. It was used in another cartoon application called 3D Movie Maker. Vincent Connare: Probably when I received an email back in 2000 from the people who set up the Ban Comic Sans site. Vincent Connare: I think people who don’t like Comic Sans don’t know anything about design. Read the full transcript from our interview with Vincent Connare:
Anna Winston: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you became a typographer? Vincent Connare: No. The same could be asked of why do people like Ugg boots, Justin Bieber or pink tracksuits.