A defence of Comic Sans: could it help us remember more?

  • Blog
  • 26th May 2017

Today, we’re making a stand for Comic Sans.

What an incredibly contentious and polarising sentence that is. But before any designers out there start lighting the pitchforks and beating down our doors, we’re going to make a stab at sticking up for the little guy – that poor, belittled, very unfortunate font.

Comic Sans certainly hasn’t had the best of times over the years. It’s the unpopular kid of the font world – the one who never gets picked for the sports teams – and its jaunty, curvy lettering and casual appearance has been the proverbial thorn in the side of self-respecting designers everywhere for 23 years. An object of derision and slander since the start, there’s even a petition to get rid of it altogether.

But while poor old ugly Comic Sans sure has taken a fair walloping, recent studies have shown that all the scorn and ridicule may have been misplaced. As it turns out, while Comic Sans may not be the best-looking font, it’s secretly incredibly useful.

In a study conducted with college students, the students were asked to remember the biological characteristics of two fictional alien species – the norgletti and the pangerish. The pangerish profile was typed in grey 12-point Comic Sans, while the norgletti profile was easier on the eye, printed in pure-black 16-point Arial.

And the results? The students recalled 87% of the pangerish facts, and only 73% of the norgletti facts. This suggests that the harder the font to read, the more information we retain.

But surely that doesn’t actually prove anything – perhaps the pangerish facts were simply more interesting to read? But in a second, semester-long study, it was found that students exposed to slides and handouts typed in less legible fonts fared better in exams.

So could it be that Comic Sans is actually the dark horse of the digital world? Our attention spans are now so low – at a negligible 8 seconds, it’s a wonder we take anything in at all – that we could probably all do with the help of an ugly font to guide us as we attempt to absorb information. Is it time for Comic Sans to make a proud comeback? Could the font’s greatest limitation actually be its liberation?

With so much information bombarding us every second, equivalent to 34GB daily (to put that into perspective, that’s like memorising 8,250 songs per day) it can be difficult to retain what we really need to know. So when we’re communicating, we need to find sure-fire ways to make our messages stick.

So perhaps it’s time we stopped scolding Comic Sans and put it to good use – giving credit where it’s duly deserved?

And on second thoughts, we probably should have typed all this in Comic Sans.