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Industry Insight

Comic CERNs?

By Richard Romano
Published: July 13, 2012

Unless you have been trapped in an underwater pyramid, you are probably at least somewhat aware of the announcement last week from CERN that they may have found the elusive Higgs boson. (An excellent essay at Science News explains why it is important. The money quote: “the Higgs is responsible for the structure of the universe as we know it. It's the Higgs that makes physical reality the way it is, with atoms, chemical reactions and life. No Higgs, no molecules. No planets. No people.”) So it was a pretty meaty announcement. But the graphic designer in me was, like some others, shocked and appalled that the smartest people on the planet chose the absolutely worst typeface* to use to communicate their findings: Comic Sans. But then perhaps I’m a typography snob:
One study suggests that Comic Sans is easier to read and more attractive than other leading fonts such as Times New Roman and Arial, at least for 9 to 11-year-olds. Another suggests that using Comic Sans doesn't make you seem less professional or mature, finding no significant difference between readers' impressions of people using the font versus the more serious Calibri. That slightly contradicts the results of a third study which found Comic Sans is perceived as happy, cuddly, young and passive.
There is also a movement afoot to change the name of the typeface to Comic Cerns, although I like one commenter’s suggestion of Cosmic Sans instead, but there is already a typeface called Cosmic. However, one can’t fault Fabiola Gianotti, one of CERN’s presenters of the findings, for paying more attention to physics than fonts. And, of course, I also discovered to my chagrin that I am equally complicit in the Comic Sansification of the world. On July 4, I participated in Saratoga Springs’ annual four-mile run and, as I was running, I happened to notice the back of the event’s commemorative T-shirt I had on (sported by many others, as well): yes, I was wearing Comic Sans. Sigh.

So perhaps it’s high time I stopped fretting the font and learn to live peaceably with it.   *Yes, for the sticklers out there: Comic Sans is a typeface, not a font. Exceptions made above for alliteration purposes.

Please offer your feedback to Richard. He can be reached at richard@whattheythink.com.



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