MEET THE MAN BEHIND COMIC SANS

We’ve all seen Comic Sans; a form that is both loathed and (secretly) admired some people have even devoted a website to educating people about the very limited use of comic sans cases! It has had a major global influence over the decades since its initial use-case, the Microsoft Bob software.

By 1996, it was popular enough to be pre-installed on any Macintosh machine that rolled off the assembly line, but how exactly did this font come to be? What kind of mind was behind this ultra-kiddy font?

Comic Sans: The Man Behind the World’s Most Contentious Font

Check out this video and meet Vincent Connare, the father of Comic Sans, for all intents and purposes. As he came up with the concept of the font, he searched through stacks and stacks of comic books, which is possibly unsurprising. In particular, he’s been reading through DC Comics’ Batman and Watchmen stories… and he’s been inspired!

Commissioned by Microsoft to develop a font, Connare came up with a font that resembled the comic lettering he’d seen in the story’s expression and thought bubbles.

Unfortunately for Connare, his boss at the time, Robert Norton, did not like his comic-inspired typeface. Norton figured the face was meant to be more “typographical” and had something to do with its general curiosity and strangeness. Connare continued and defended the potential of Comic Sans to stand out as it appeared markedly different from what people might have seen in their school textbooks. Even so, Comic Sans didn’t make it into Bob’s final release, but at the end of the day, Connare had the last laugh.

Today, comic sans is freely available all over the world! Although the font is undoubtedly overexposed, Connare always receives a large amount of reward from all the places the font has seen as he flies. Whether in neon signs for small businesses or in war memorials and packets of bread, Connare is vindicated.

To hear Connare say it he has no regrets about the font. On the contrary, while he openly acknowledges that comic sans is certainly not one of the best types of art, it is nevertheless, conceptually, the very best he has ever achieved in his career, in all probability.

All told, not a bad result for a guy who worked as a typographical engineer at Microsoft and, possibly, whose most popular font had never seen the light of day in the original Microsoft program for which it was intended. Interestingly, Connare was also a donor to other prominent faces, such as Trebuchet.

To understand why he first came up with comic sans, we need to understand his theory of art. Good art was an art that was noticed and poor art was an art that nobody noticed and was thus a failure.

THE HIDDEN COSTS OF MINIMALISM IN DESIGN

Minimalism also comes with hidden costs for consumers.

Minimalism is a movement that has essentially dominated the better part ofthe last decade. Its rise to popularity came as a response to the proliferation of heavy styling that preceded it. It created a clearer and cleaner design direction for websites and interfaces. Web and app designs have become less complex in terms of styling, speeding up production time and resulting in faster loading of digital products.

Minimalism has been around for a long time as a design direction. If you look back at product design and companies like Braun or modernist architects like Mies van der Rohe, designers have always looked for inspiration in simple forms.

More recently, it was the launch of iOS 7 that really moved designers away from the rich styles and effects that we’ve been so used to. Apple was aiming to develop an interface that mirrored the nature of the Apple product hardware itself. The result included buttons replaced by small, vague icons, little distinction between the components, and a general lack of any kind of feeling: strong and serious.

Since then, iOS has made some changes while also going for a course that strips back as much information as possible.

Apple is often an intriguing example of minimalism in general. It poses crucial concerns about aesthetics and user experience. As a business, their revenues are heavily dependent on a reductionist technique. They sell goods through obvious simplicity; they build something that everyone can look at and understand how it works and how to use it. Decisions such as the elimination of the headphone jack, I/O ports and the home button are all long-term decisions to further achieve this goal. That’s what Apple was built on, and why it produced beautiful, user-friendly products like the iMac G3.

But as you begin to look deeper into Apple’s minimalist design direction, it becomes apparent that beauty is by far the most important factor in driving sales and an obsession. Apple’s minimalist approach to product and software design is one size fits all.’ At product and app level, this is at the detriment of user experience. Apple’s mice and keyboards, for example, are gorgeous, but they deliver some of the worst ergonomics ever made. Sleek, low-profile designs cause wrists and hands to lie in uncomfortable positions and can place them under tremendous pressure over time. Contrast this with Microsoft’s offering, which seems like a more balanced design that is straightforward yet ergonomic.

 

You may also look at things like the iPod Shuffle 3rd Gen that removed the pause/prev/next track buttons for minimalism. It totally stripped away its ease of use, replacing it with something that was aesthetically appealing, but without any regard for the end user. It’s not just Apple that can be considered to implement minimalism in such a drastic way. From magazine publishers to car makers, it is present in some form in almost all industries. It is a common style for customers, thereby creating an incentive for businesses to manufacture goods that follow these requirements.

Minimalist tradeoffs in product design are almost the same as in digital product and web design. It has become the standard to drive minimalism to extremes, rather than to offer a more balanced design. This also results in inefficient color schemes, lack of element distinction, low usability and confusing navigation practices.

Primary acts are also difficult to spot, using black/grey and vague symbols with no corresponding text mark. Content typography is often too small to present usability problems to a wide number of users and tourists.

These design decisions become disruptive and can have a deeply negative impact on users, especially those most in need of adequate accessibility considerations.

Minimalism is still primarily about aesthetics. It’s about taking away the design, not adding to it and making educated design decisions. The renowned architect, Frank Gehry, once summed up minimalism as a ‘dead end.’ In this short interview, he points out how minimalism strips away all emotion and feeling, and is still going for the extreme.

It’s a tough job to do as a designer. On the one hand, it’s a coveted trend with a stunning visual direction that can be spectacular when carried out with care. On the other hand, the question is whether aesthetic considerations should play such a large part in the design of digital goods. Optimal architecture for usability and ease of use will rarely fall within the limits of minimalism.

This indicates that it should be limited exclusively to visual areas of design, not areas that have usability at their heart. This includes user interfaces, blogs and physical items. It’s more than anything about finding a balance in design, rather than pushing it either to extremes, be it minimalism or minimalism.

PANTONE COLOR OF THE YEAR 2021

We’re going to get two colors of the year for 2021. Ultimate Gray (a mid-range gray somewhere about #939597) and Illuminating (a citrus yellow that’s roughly #F5DF4D) are the colors chosen to grace museum gift shops and end-of-year blog posts.

A colourful marriage that conveys a message of resilience and hope that is both lasting and uplifting.

The last time Pantone chose two colors was Rose Quartz & Serenity in 2016, and we all know what a peaceful, serene year it was so 2021 is likely to set off the curse of an ancient mummy in the universe, or see us colliding with the Sun.

2020’s color, “Classic Blue,” was actually not much of the color of the year unless it happens to be the color you decorated your home office. If the company had real foresight, it would have opted for the softest beige it could findin reality, in the summer paint brand Dulux almost opted for that in 2021, calling “Brave Ground” its color for the next year, but for beige’s “resilient” consistency rather than some lock-down boredom.

Perhaps that’s why Pantone’s PR department opted for two colors in 2021: a nondescribed gray to keep us going until we’re all vaccinated, and a wildly luminous yellow for the latter part of the year.

To be fair to Pantone, its color choices are not, as is sometimes said, predictions, but expectations. Pantone suggests that the pairing “expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude,” which might be exactly what the world needs right now.

A mixture of colors is much more sensible than a single color, with too much of a context dependent color. But the real color treatment of 2021 is much more likely to be multi-colored gradients.