Comic timing

The Open Culture blog notes the 25th anniversary of Comic Sans. I’ve long felt that if there were a philosophy of typography, then Comic Sans would be an interesting case.

There are aesthetic objections to Comic Sans, some well-motivated and some driven by hipsterism. Back in the early 2000s, I thought about writing a short paper about it. The typeface was ubiquitous for a while. I remember seeing an advertisement on the side of a bus in Hungary written in Comic Sans letters two feet high. It does OK as a comic lettering font, but all its blemishes and imperfections come to the fore when its used for headlines and billboards.

That’s a matter of taste, though. The point I wanted to make was something else. As it happens, I already blogged about it back in 2015. Here’s what I wrote then:

Comic Sans reflected a kind of alienation. People use a standard font like Times or Helvetica when they want to be serious and official. When they use a handwriting font or something else non-standard, they mean to inject levity and personality into the thing they’re typing up. But Comic Sans, precisely because it’s ubiquitous, is not personal or expressive at all.

I remember searching out exotic true type fonts back in the 90s. This was before the internet, and I’d get font archives on CD-ROM. I browsed them, saved some, and used them selectively as the title fonts for papers. The fonts I chose, even if they were ugly or nigh-illegible, reflected aesthetic judgments I’d made.

The strangeness of Comic Sans is that people would select it when they wanted to be quirky individuals. Since it was a standard font on every Mac and Windows computer, though, it was everyones’ expression of individuality.

I’ve got nothing against handwriting fonts in general. I’ve even made several. Those are my own handwriting, so my using them is literally a reflection of how I write. If somebody else uses Ninjascript, they’re using my handwriting— but it’s still a reflection of them because they picked that font especially. They didn’t just end up with it because it was the most grotesque among the handful of fonts that came with their computer.

Now default installations have gotten more varied. The perverse monopoly of Comic Sans is over. Someone reaching for a quirky handwriting font might end up with Marker Felt instead. So now, 25 years on, someone selecting Comic Sans has made a deliberate and personal choice.

New scribbles from the past

I’ve had the Font Monkey website for many years, but it has been a while since I updated. Just now, three new fonts!

Tye Spices is a recent creation that’s meant to be suggestive of typewritten letter forms. The first draft was monospaced, but that looked stultified. The final version is neat and tidy the way a lived in room might be neat and tidy, rather than in the way a cathedral might be.

I hammered out Carrollus Magnus,which has the worst pun-name I’ve given to a font. I’m rather fond of a free font from almost twenty years ago which was patterned after the handwriting of Lewis Carroll. I often try to use it in various projects, but usually give up because of its erratic line weight. This is my take on the same problem. So it’s distally from Carroll and proximally from me.

While preparing these, I came across a font that I’d saved under the name “mildhand” without giving it a proper name. The file record indicates that I drew it in late March of 2008, but I honestly have no recollection of it. Since I was posting the others, though, I gave it a proper name and posted it too: Mild Hand Jive.

font specimens
font specimens for Carrollus Magnus, Mild Hand Jive, and Tye Spices

I also updated the version of the Ninjascript font family that’s on the site. I’ve made various small improvements to it over the years, and the version on the site was a few generations behind.

These are offered under the Open Font License, which is a long thing with definitions and disclaimers. My fonts have always been free, because I’ve never felt like trying to wring money out of them, but I used to just give give informal and hand-waving terms in the readme file. Even though I’m using the OFL, the readme file still asks that anyone who uses the font for anything nifty reach out to let me know about it.

Belligerent madness spotted in the wild

While poking around for something to watch on Netflix, I came across this title card for a Korean TV series:
God's Gift - 14 days

I recognized this as one of my fonts.

Belligerent Madness. It’s a very distinctive ‘G’.

I confirmed my suspicion by comparing the glyphs against the file on my computer, and then checked to see where else it showed up. It’s just the Netflix title card. The original uses Korean letters, and Hulu uses a different font.