Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Occam's Sin

Dignified and to the point, I think
A snippet caught my attention recently. It has been suggested that handwriting is a dying art – I can’t remember the last time I used a pen to do anything more than sign my name on a birthday card. When the Higgs boson was announced, a researcher gave a presentation using instead of the more thoughtful Trebuchet, ponderous Times New Roman or even fail-safe Arial, the laughably jolly Comic Sans, which has been described as turning up to a funeral in a Hawaiian shirt. Incidentally and for the record, if anyone at all turns up to my funeral they can wear full morning dress with pyjama bottoms and slippers if they feel like it. Despite the font's simplistic, hand-lettered appearance, a recent study has reported finding Comic Sans harder to read than almost any of the others. So a Comic Sans fan might argue that using it to announce the Higgs boson could have nudged people into paying more attention.
Cooking recipes in fonts that look like handwriting are perceived as more demanding and because it takes longer to read them, they’re more difficult to follow and the food will be more difficult to prepare. I find myself wondering how much of the backlash against Comic Sans is due to the font's name rather than its appearance. Looked at dispassionately, the font is not really "funny" – it seems to me to have no comedic currency at all. It is, on the other hand, highly legible, especially when used in low resolution. This was probably why it was chosen, sensibly, to label presentation slides. Also, using it gives one a distinct kindergarten tingle as if one's teacher is about to award a gold star in one's writing book with a suitably encouraging  (handwritten) comment.
But, it has the word "comic" in its name. This clearly means that it is not suitable for serious, grown-up endeavours. Had the same font been named "Gravitas Sans", the reaction might have been more favourable, but it wouldn't've made such a delightful anagram for the title. I hope the CERN presenters are taking notes.


  1. "John can barely contain himself."


    Having seen John when he truly cannot contain himself,and knowing this happened because he was surprised by HandyMan's sly wit, I am quite certain that a mere font (of any shape or size) did not produce the same reaction.

    Hence, I can only assume the stuff dripping down the screen of my new MacBook is sarcasm.

    Pass me a tissue.

    1. In waterfalls. You'll need more than a tissue. Not being written in Comic Sans clearly lends gravitas to 'sly wit' How deceitful.

    2. In waterfalls. You'll need more than a tissue. Not being written in Comic Sans clearly lends gravitas to 'sly wit' How deceitful.


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