My main issue with the use of the Comic Sans typeface on the front page of Wednesday's Sydney Morning Herald is that it wasn't my idea.
I have been designing newspapers for 20 years. I have railed, and fought, against poor font choices. I have snuck font purchases on to company credit cards. I have been officially cautioned for buying fonts without permission.
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'Comic Sans was the right choice'
In the biggest font typeface scandal of his career as a newspaper and website designer, The Sydney Morning Herald's executive editor Matt Martel explains why he used Comic Sans on the front page.
Sometimes font choices keep me awake at night.
I have laboured and argued with our tech teams over the kerning (that's the space between the letters) or lack of it in our paper and the way our fonts display online.
When I started at the Herald five years ago, I changed the body font from Nimrod (it was awful) to Utopia. It was only after I did it that I found out the last guy to do that got fired. When we moved to compact we increased the size and leading and changed it to a more modern typeface, called Benton.
But I have come to terms with Comic Sans. It is like an aged uncle who drinks a bit too much, doesn't wash enough and is a tad too informal at weddings and funerals. He wears a Hawaiian shirt when he should wear something more formal.
Comic Sans is the first choice of people trying to "keep it light". I have seen it all over the world. The worst time was in a logo for a funeral director.
It has its place, and that place is firmly not on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald. Not even in the classifieds. Not anywhere.
Except today. Chris Hartcher's and Eric Roozendaal's comments to the ICAC were treated typographically with the respect they deserve. And they deserved Comic Sans.
We have been pilloried this morning on social media and elsewhere for putting Comic Sans on the front page. It represents the final decline of the Fairfax empire. It is an abomination. We should be ashamed.
BuzzFeed wrote an article on it. Some of the Twitterati is up in arms (see below). It is a type-face-off.
I imagine Sydney is divided between those who hate the choice and those who will staunchly defend their font of casual communication.
Such as our editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir, who is an unreformed Comic Sans criminal.
He wrote, "The decision was made to match the surreal nature of the shocking revelations at the ICAC - and it was felt the font would best depict the comic-book feel we were trying to give to the front; as if to make a mockery of the appalling displays in the witness box from a former politician and a current parliamentarian. I am very pleased with the result."
I can't disagree with that - not only because he is the boss.
Comic Sans has been around for 20 years and was designed by Vincent Connare for Microsoft. The intent was to have a typeface that is more informal than the others Microsoft offered.
It has been wickedly successful. Possibly. the most successful font ever.
It is ever controversial and, rightly, it has its defenders. McSweeneys had a fantastic blog post a couple of years back titled, I'M COMIC SANS, ASSHOLE by Mike Lacher.
Lacher's intro was spot on."Listen up. I know the sh__ you've been saying behind my back. You think I'm stupid. You think I'm immature. You think I'm a malformed, pathetic excuse for a font. Well think again, nerdhole, because I'm Comic Sans, and I'm the best thing to happen to typography since Johannes f___ing Gutenberg."
He goes on. "People love me. Why? Because I'm fun. I'm the life of the party. I bring levity to any situation. Need to soften the blow of a harsh message about restroom etiquette? SLAM. There I am. Need to spice up the directions to your graduation party? WHAM. There again. Need to convey your fun-loving, approachable nature on your business' website? SMACK. "
Comic Sans is here. It is not going away. It has its place. Let's hope that we don't feel the need to shame anyone else with a font for a while.
You've been warned, Clive Palmer.
I've been mean to the SMH. Their ICAC coverage is great and I out it to you that comic sans is actually not that bad— Rob Stott (@Rob_Stott) September 2, 2014
Today's @smh comic sans faux pas ranks second only to the Higgs boson announcement being done in comic sans.— Michael Slezak (@MikeySlezak) September 2, 2014
Dunno about you but I think using Comic Sans to quote Eric Roozendaal and Chris Hartcher is spot on - pic.twitter.com/Kvttvag1sQ— Rick Eyre (@rickeyre) September 2, 2014
BREAKING: SMH news conference resolves to do tomorrow's entire front page in Wingdings font #ComicSans— Bevan Shields (@bevanshields85) September 3, 2014
Finally got across this SMH comic sans situation. Bit like walking in on your grandparents having sex. pic.twitter.com/9nnjCKCVYB— Samantha Maiden (@samanthamaiden) September 3, 2014
Matt Martel (@matt_martel) is executive editor of photography and presentation at Fairfax Media.