science of us

The Reason Comic Sans Is a Public Good


Recently, Instagram added to its Stories an option that looks a lot like Comic Sans, a font design people have long derided. A campaign to ban the font has been afoot online since 1999. “Using Comic Sans is like turning up to a black-tie event in a clown costume,” the campaign’s co-founder Holly Combs said in an interview.

But, as Lauren Hudgins argues for the Establishment, the agreed-upon hatred of Comic Sans reflects a certain navel-gazing, since it’s one of the best fonts for people with dyslexia, including an estimated 15 percent of Americans. She tells the story of how her sister, who has the learning disability, has used Comic Sans as a tool to help her complete a degree in marine biology.

Interestingly, it’s the idiosyncrasy of Comic Sans that makes it accessible. “The irregular shapes of the letters in Comic Sans allow her to focus on the individual parts of words,” Hudgins writes. “While many fonts use repeated shapes to create different letters, such as a ‘p’ rotated to made a ‘q,’ Comic Sans uses few repeated shapes, creating distinct letters (although it does have a mirrored ‘b’ and ‘d’).” The ubiquitous Times New Roman, with all its serifs, is often illegible.

To wit, Comic Sans is recommended by the British Dyslexia Association and the Dyslexia Association of Ireland. An American Institute of Graphic Arts post from last summer said that it might be the best font for dyslexics, given its “character disambiguation” and “variation in letter heights.” While other fonts have been specifically designed to be read by people with dyslexia —Dyslexie and OpenDyslexic are two — they just don’t have the availability of Comic Sans. To hate on Comic Sans is “ableist,” Hudgins argues, and doing so discounts the reading difficulties of millions of people.

The Reason Comic Sans Is a Public Good