The truly villainous font is the ubiquitous Times New Roman.
February 25, 2017 9:34 PM   Subscribe

 
Also if you hate Papyrus you hate Egyptians.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:38 PM on February 25, 2017 [29 favorites]


Combine your hates with Comic Papyrus.
posted by Rumple at 9:42 PM on February 25, 2017 [8 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that the Comic Sans mocking is only because it has been so overused for things like shitty break room printout announcements and stuff like that. It's an unimaginative choice of font for communicating that people use to say "hey, this should be read but shouldn't be taken too personally even if it is an edict issued from Above".

The fact that it's a useful font for people with dyslexia has nothing to do with how it's overused. I do think that for someone who has dyslexia, stating that using Comic Sans is what works best for them should be reason enough for them to submit their work in that font without any problem.

BUT... the problem is that there's cultural baggage attached to the font. And therein lies the abelism.
posted by hippybear at 9:43 PM on February 25, 2017 [44 favorites]




Hrmm, I think the comic sans is for rubes and your mom to forward shit on the internet jokes probably should've been abandoned years ago because seriously dead horse but the idea that such a near universally reviled font could actually be used for a positive effect is kind of cool.

It's perhaps also a reminder that in these bleak days that very few things or people are irredeemably evil. Because if Comic Sans can be used for a good purpose obvious there is possibly good in all of us.
posted by vuron at 9:48 PM on February 25, 2017 [26 favorites]


Could this be a parody or joke? I realize if I think so I'm supposed to write something funny, but I'm not sure, just suspicious.
posted by cccorlew at 9:56 PM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


I've liked Comic Sans from the moment I first saw it.

I don't know why people dislike it the way they do -- could it be because it doesn't have repetitive elements (in the sense of sameness as a rotation or reflection of another element) and so makes more demands on visual memory?
posted by jamjam at 9:58 PM on February 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


HEADLINE: FUCK YOU FOR HATING DYSLEXIC PEOPLE, WHICH YOU OBVIOUSLY DO

STORY: Here's a valuable if awkward truth about Comic Sans of which you were almost certainly unaware

Like, is there a chapter in the internet activist journalism style guide that dictates important articles must be front-loaded with shrill rhetoric to drive away anyone who isn't already inclined to agree?
posted by Mike Smith at 10:03 PM on February 25, 2017 [227 favorites]


The Woke Stylebook, of course.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:06 PM on February 25, 2017 [56 favorites]


You know, the OpenDyslexic font had my dyslexic little sister tell me it was a godsend. She's never mentioned any other fonts.
posted by Samizdata at 10:07 PM on February 25, 2017 [24 favorites]


Hmm. It's a terrible font, that's why it's mocked. In fairness, it was - font that was never intended for widespread use and is probably okay for its intended niche (screen font for an onscreen assistant). There are other fonts with the same qualities that do not have its technical terribleness, like Chalkboard for instance, that do not get the same mockery.

(Also if you get caught lettering an actual comic in it that should be a flogging offense.)

That said - being able to change fonts to help with dyslexia is a real boon to a lot of people, so if it helps them they should go ahead and use it whatever font nerds say.

There's also this odd look but possibly useful dyslexia font that may be of help, though I think the evidence is not really in on that.
posted by Artw at 10:09 PM on February 25, 2017 [11 favorites]


I always thought comics sans was more Watchmen than Dark Knight. Here's Gibbons on it: The inspiration for Comic Sans gives his verdict on this 'awful' font
posted by Artw at 10:12 PM on February 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


People don't per formatively hate comic sans because of their internal sense of good design making them physically unable to not be shitty. They hate it just like people hate upspeak and AAVE and Southern-isms, they are markers. Harhar, look, Val the secretary who didn't go to university used that dumb font in the kitchen again.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:14 PM on February 25, 2017 [71 favorites]


Mainly I hate it because see above re: people actually using it for comics sometimes.
posted by Artw at 10:17 PM on February 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


(Admittedly that is a specialist concern)
posted by Artw at 10:18 PM on February 25, 2017


Papyrus is an affront to PoC.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:28 PM on February 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


I dislike comic sans after years of seeing it used to announce "fun" office events at terrible, dead end call center jobs. I don't want crazy hat day or a potluck. I would like decent health benefits or maybe a living wage. In my head, anything in CS is read in the condescending HR lady voice.
posted by pattern juggler at 10:29 PM on February 25, 2017 [56 favorites]


Can we just construct another Esperanto and corresponding font that is offensive to none? Then three of us can unoffensively use it to converse among ourselves.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:30 PM on February 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


it would be amazing if comic sans became the de facto font for all academic papers and documents, including diplomas.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:42 PM on February 25, 2017 [11 favorites]


From the piece:

"There are fonts that have been specifically created for people with dyslexia, all of which lack the clean minimalism or elegant balance and perfect kerning favored by typography snobs. But they are crucial disability aids."

This is a bizarre generalized claim to make when no research backs it up. Some individuals with dyslexia may prefer them, but it seems that other sans serif or monospaced fonts (like Verdana, Helvetica, or Courier) perform better for most (see e.g.).

Glad for someone to correct me if new research has shown otherwise in the past couple of years.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 10:45 PM on February 25, 2017 [41 favorites]


The latter frustratingly has “Alternative Dyslexia Fonts” on its nav bar, as if acknowledging that attacking Comic Sans disadvantages those who are dyslexic is enough to absolve the site of its ableism.

What the hell. The site explicitly recognizes that repealing Comic Sans requires replacing it, and dutifully provides options for doing so. How is the site ableist? Not to mention, the very article discusses the existence of such typefaces, including Arial, which is very commonly-used font and is universally available. If anything, the article is ableist for suggesting that dyslexic people cannot be served by a font of quality design and proper dignity.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:45 PM on February 25, 2017 [14 favorites]


I don't get why people are feeling fragile about this. The statement that something is ableist is an observation of fact, not of intent. The author clearly lays out the argument, that the stigma behind comic sans and its associations with being uneducated and unprofessional results in additional and needless barriers for people with dyslexia. It's not an accusation that anyone is being actively malicious, nor an implication that people with dyslexia are not acutely aware that no one has people with dyslexia in mind when they say things about comic sans being unprofessional. It's a simple, factual statement.

Papyrus is an affront to PoC.

And then as a disabled person of color, this is a frustrating statement for you to say because: I say that ableism is about impact, and not intent. But this is also what I've been saying about racism for years! See, how much ground would we be able to actually cover on racism if people like me could say something like "this policy/idea is racist" and have people go, "oh, sorry, we never considered that - how can we make it better" instead of "but the person who had the idea wasn't even thinking of PoC! Stop making everything about race! You don't know their hearts and minds!"

Same deal with ableism.

Ultimately, I might word things a bit more carefully, but that's more because I'm tired of fragility rather than because what I'm saying is wrong. I totally get it if someone else wants to go "fuck it" and just say this shit directly. If you decide to make a joke out of it instead of making your takeaway, "I never knew this - it's really great that I learned that comic sans could benefit a group I never considered", that's on you.
posted by Conspire at 10:48 PM on February 25, 2017 [76 favorites]


That said, bashing Comic Sans is cliche now and should be avoided simply because it's going after an easy, tired, target. Both low hanging fruit and a dead horse. But no one who has ever criticized Comic Sans in the history of the font did so because they wanted to mock dyslexic people. The font has "comic" in its name I mean c'mon
posted by Apocryphon at 10:48 PM on February 25, 2017 [10 favorites]


I feel like it's probably possible to hate the fact that we don't have a good dyslexia font that's more aesthetically pleasing than Comic Sans in a non-ableist way.
posted by waffleriot at 10:49 PM on February 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


I don't get why people are feeling fragile about this. The statement that something is ableist is an observation of fact, not of intent.

I don’t feel fragile. I just think Comic Sans is supremely ugly. I’m glad some people find it useful. It’s still ugly.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:50 PM on February 25, 2017 [20 favorites]


based on the lettering by John Costanza in the comic book The Dark Knight Returns

ugh, really? If it's actually based on the work of a noted hand letterer I gotta say, what a shitty job. I can't really dispute the thesis of the article, that letterform irregularity increases legibility for dyslexics, but if the face is really inspired by a hand letterer's work at the top of their game, it can only be considered an insultingly poor parody. *Any* comic-industry hand letterer's letterforms will exhibit irregularity and a lack of mirroring; therefore *any* faithful adaptation of these letterforms will be useful to dyslexics.

I am pretty skeptical of the "inspiration" story. I suspect it to be retcon.
posted by mwhybark at 10:53 PM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


As pointed out, there are other fonts designed to address dyslexia. There is nothing specifically dyslexia-worthy about Comic Sans outside of this one case.

The reason a lot of people hate comic sans is that it is, on just about every level, a deeply insincere font. It's supposed to look like a hand-lettered font, but it's not; it begins as a lie. It's commonly used to express enthusiasm, but the user is clearly not actually enthusiastic, because if they were they would have chosen another font, because comic sans is the laziest possible choice.

Opposition to Comic Sans is not just designer snobbery. It's a natural reaction to a font that is generally used to spoon feed us bullshit.
posted by phooky at 10:54 PM on February 25, 2017 [60 favorites]


ugh, really? If it's actually based on the work of a noted hand letterer I gotta say, what a shitty job.

It was and it is, because it was knocked off in an afternoon to be the font for a cartoon dog.
posted by Artw at 10:57 PM on February 25, 2017 [9 favorites]


I am pretty skeptical of the story. I suspect it to be retcon.

Well, the story as told in the article is incomplete. It's based on the lettering in both The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen (it's weird that the article leaves the latter out because it's usually the one I see cited), so it's not directly drawn from any one person's particular style. It's basically a pastiche of mid-80s DC lettering style.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:59 PM on February 25, 2017


Watchmen very much isn't a generic lettering style though.
posted by Artw at 11:00 PM on February 25, 2017


And yet it has a lower case, which my current memory doesn't remember seeing much in comics at all.
posted by hippybear at 11:01 PM on February 25, 2017


I don’t feel fragile. I just think Comic Sans is supremely ugly. I’m glad some people find it useful. It’s still ugly.

That's cool. But at some point, you have to wonder why people are systematically voicing their personal situation as their first instinct, and the way it drowns out conversation about the systematic issue. If the issue raised is "the collective negative reaction to comic sans can create barriers", I fail to see why dozens of people chiming in with "I personally dislike comic sans for my own reason" is relevant to the topic or even helpful?

Again, I'm going to point out this isn't a unique reaction to just this situation. Like, bring up how our schools are becoming more segregated because white people keep pulling their kids out of majority PoC schools, and you'll get a billion anecdotes going "no, no, I switched my kid's school because to be closer to family/because I didn't want them to walk super far/because they really wanted to go to this program/etc". No one is talking about the reasons, they're talking about the phenomenon. The need to always have to pull back to the feelings, intent, and individual snowflake situations of able-bodied/white people means that less energy gets spent upon dissecting and dismantling issues, which of course people find more uncomfortable.
posted by Conspire at 11:03 PM on February 25, 2017 [60 favorites]


Can't believe noone's dug this up yet:
Comic Sans previously on Metafilter.
posted by quinndexter at 11:07 PM on February 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


The article is anecdata just about one single person who says Comic Sans is a solution to a very real problem. The research doesn't support that, and there are many other dyslexia-friendly fonts.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:28 PM on February 25, 2017 [41 favorites]


Huh. Turns out that seeing "it turns out" forces me to read things in Merlin Mann's voice in my head, much like how "good news, everyone" forces people to hear the following sentence in Professor Farnsworth's voice
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:29 PM on February 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


Like, bring up how our schools are becoming more segregated because white people keep pulling their kids out of majority PoC schools

Yes, this seems exactly like voicing a low opinion of the aesthetics of a typeface
posted by RogerB at 11:31 PM on February 25, 2017 [31 favorites]


Like, bring up how our schools are becoming more segregated because white people keep pulling their kids out of majority PoC schools

Yes, this seems exactly like voicing a low opinion of the aesthetics of a typeface


Pulling out one part of an explanation to mock it is pretty shitty. Conspire doesn't seem to be comparing these two situations themselves, but people's similar reactions to being called out on their responses to them.
posted by greermahoney at 11:40 PM on February 25, 2017 [18 favorites]


My mother, who is definitely not dyslexic, begged me to fix her phone when I was visiting last, because "it's gone all weird." We narrowed the issue down to "the text has gone all weird", and when I took a look, oh my god, the font in her email, her text messages, and on almost all apps had changed to something like 20pt comic sans. I finally found the setting to put it back to the default, and handed it back, glad to have been of help.

"What did you DO?" she asked, not looking as happy as I thought.
"I fixed it!"
"You changed my pretty writing!"

It turned out her issue was with the 20pt size, but the comic sans was something she had set everything to on purpose.
posted by lollusc at 11:42 PM on February 25, 2017 [25 favorites]


[If we state for the record that a) disliking Comic Sans doesn't necessarily mean you hate dyslexic people, and b) there have been quintrillionbazillion person-hours already spent on how much people hate hate Comic Sans so maybe we don't have to just zombierepeat all that here again, and c) online articles like to frame normal things in clickbait terms to get people to link link link and fight about how controversial it is as opposed to just being interesting and possibly helpful information, then can we have this discussion without melting down and burning up my flag queue? Because I'm stating all that, so let's try to have a non-stupid discussion, okay?]
posted by taz (staff) at 11:47 PM on February 25, 2017 [60 favorites]


The irregular shapes of the letters in Comic Sans allow her to focus on the individual parts of words. 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”).

You know what also has distinct letter forms-- including distinct, unmirrored b's and d's? Pretty much every typeface with serifs, including the one the article is written in. So...yeah.

I have heard that Comic Sans is anecdotally good for people with dyslexia. That is the only thing approaching a fact in this article.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:47 PM on February 25, 2017 [7 favorites]


It sounds like her experience as a dyslexic person with trying to do what is really basic and easy to me as a non dyslexic person has been really frustrating and needlessly difficult, so if I could help in some small way by not relentlessly complaining about or stridently defending my right to complain about a fucking font or dismissing and ridiculing her frustrations while demanding facts!!!, that's cool with me and probably the literal least I could do.
posted by automatic cabinet at 11:49 PM on February 25, 2017 [49 favorites]


When people start hipster signalling, making jokes or hating on Comic Sans, I tune the fuck out.

For Christ's sake, freshen your material, people. There's this band called Nickleback, I hear they are quite overrated!

And dyslexic folks helping themselves with comic sans is my favourite new street finding its own uses story, thanks for sharing it.
posted by Sauce Trough at 11:52 PM on February 25, 2017 [27 favorites]


Thanks for the reasonable perspective, automatic cabinet. I shall endeavor to do the same.
posted by greermahoney at 11:59 PM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


It sounds like her experience as a dyslexic person with trying to do what is really basic and easy to me as a non dyslexic person has been really frustrating and needlessly difficult, so if I could help in some small way

I'm not sure you can unless you know her.

(fwiw, I have nothing against Comic Sans and haven't wasted any time mocking it as far as I can remember.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:14 AM on February 26, 2017


"Comic Sans was originally designed to be used in the talk bubbles of a program called Microsoft Bob. The font wasn’t completed in time to actually make it into the program, but it lived on to eventually ship with Windows 95; and that’s when the font really got ugly.

Once the font was in the hands of Windows 95 users, there was no telling how people would use it. Now, it was going to be printed out on bake sale flyers, birthday party invitations, and even business cards. But remember, this font was designed to be used on-screen, and in 1994, when the font was designed, most computers for personal use – and Windows 95 – didn’t have anti-aliasing."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:35 AM on February 26, 2017 [6 favorites]


Yeaa I actually think this article is super interesting, and good. I used to know a girl who liked comics, but she was a slow reader, couldn't ever finish a book, and was bad at spelling. I always figured it was the pictures and the fact that there were less words on the page? But I guess the hand-lettered fonts might have a lot to do with it too.

It's actually pretty common that I hear someone use *being unable to spell/read* as a synonym for being dumb as fuck, and I always end up saying something about it, a little defensively-- because from what I can tell dyslexia or at least some symptoms of dyslexia are hella common. It's cool to see it being written about.
posted by mammal at 12:40 AM on February 26, 2017 [7 favorites]


Comic Sans previously on Metafilter.

Ten years old this August! They grow up so fast!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:47 AM on February 26, 2017


I'm not sure you can unless you know her.

I'll rephrase: it costs me nothing and in fact rewards me with extra time and energy to let this absolute nonsense about typefaces go, and may actually benefit people who are in a similar position to her in that they are subjected to less overall absolute nonsense as they struggle to write a paper without being perceived with derision and/or demands to prove their problems exist or matter enough.

It means so little to me, and it could be such a big help to her and anybody who might experience things similarly to her whether or not statistics support that concept, that although I'm quite certain not all dyslexic people (or visually impaired people, or other situations) have the same problems, as she herself acknowledged, then I can somehow just exist in this world without being really witty about comic fucking sans or feeling as if that's some kind of burden.

Like, for once, doing nothing will actually be OK. Even though I don't personally know her and am not present in her life or in a position to make minor accommodations for her, specifically.
posted by automatic cabinet at 1:06 AM on February 26, 2017 [20 favorites]


A little surprised this isn't more well known (a 10K thing I guess), I stumbled across this use a couple decades ago when my father would write all his emails in comic sans and he explained that is was less confusing for him to read.

Apocryphon: "If anything, the article is ableist for suggesting that dyslexic people cannot be served by a font of quality design and proper dignity."

Comic Sans may be easier to read for some people than the specifically designed fonts (if only because users have trained with it before they knew of the existence of specialty fonts). And it is available on all Windows systems plus many phones. Having to futz around installing a font (if one even can) every time you sit at a new machine can be a serious hassle all on it's own.
posted by Mitheral at 1:21 AM on February 26, 2017 [7 favorites]


DoctorFedora: "Huh. Turns out that seeing "it turns out" forces me to read things in Merlin Mann's voice in my head, much like how "good news, everyone" forces people to hear the following sentence in Professor Farnsworth's voice"

Good news, everybody! It turns out I have confused the language center of DoctorFedora's brain!
posted by Samizdata at 1:40 AM on February 26, 2017 [13 favorites]


The origins of Comic Sans are rooted in Microsoft Bob, which pre-dated vector fonts in Windows by a little bit. The pixellated version of that font was actually quite reasonable, and some of the weird decisions in Comic Sans were designed to make it match the original pixel font at that resolution. It's a bizarre ancestry, but there you go.
Even Comic Sans' popularity is easier to understand. Those poor bastards just want a lower-case a that takes its hat off indoors.

Ah, on review, man of twists and turns got to this point first!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:12 AM on February 26, 2017


> "The truly villainous font is the ubiquitous Times New Roman."

I know this is a serious subject, but this keeps making me want to respond with the quote about how "'Times New Roman' combines the coarse ambiance of a tough steak with the structure of a potato, its flinty bouquet mixed with a moist texture" from City of Saints and Madmen.
posted by kyrademon at 2:48 AM on February 26, 2017 [6 favorites]


So it's good that I don't really get all the aggro about fonts at all? I'm right-on now? Sweet.

They made me use callabria (sp?) at work, and it looked ok. Come at me.
posted by pompomtom at 3:54 AM on February 26, 2017 [6 favorites]


(pompomtom: Calibri, I believe. Default font of MS Office starting with 2007.)
posted by XtinaS at 5:08 AM on February 26, 2017 [3 favorites]


While I've often seen mention of Comic Sans' origins in mid-80's DC comic lettering, one thing I'd love to explore is why those comics are lettered that way, and therefore why Comic Sans looks the way it does. It's not just because the letterers were lazy or working fast; it's a distinct style that isn't random at all and some thought obviously went into it.

Comic art in general is about projecting motion and energy, grabbing the reader's attention and focusing it on important story elements. One thing you never want to see in a comic is a wall of text, so text tends to be used judiciously and when it is used, it tends to be important. This is why Comic Sans comes off as being loud and shouty; it really is trying to grab your attention. And people use it for their office flyers because they sense that it will grab your attention, because that is what it was designed to do. And it does this by combining recognizable features of the alphabet symbols with deliberately jarring twists and exceptions.

This combination of features is probably why it is also useful for dyslexics, since it is those jarring twists that seem to keep things nailed where they belong on the page. For this reason asking for a dyslexic-friendly font of "proper dignity" is probably like asking for a panel truck that gets proper gas mileage and can go 150 miles per hour. Any vehicle that gives you 40 mpg and that kind of speed isn't going to work for delivering furniture.
posted by Bringer Tom at 5:45 AM on February 26, 2017 [10 favorites]


As an ex-professional typographer, I think people who are into typography are naturally fragile about it, because typography is an art that is best unnoticed. The best typography is invisible. The best typographers are known only to each other. The best typefaces for reading are best not because they are fancy or recognizable, but because they are readable. Serifs don't exist to make type more formal, but to ease the eyes. Desktop publishing hasn't much changed the way text heavy books look, because they've been optimized for readability for a long long time. Of course I'm being ablist. They're optimized for readability for most people, which for others means they're optimized for frustration. It's expensive to print books in different formats. Only bestsellers got a large print edition. One great thing about e-readers is the ability to optimize the type for different people. Type junkies need to get over themselves and remember what they're really trying to accomplish: clear communication.
posted by rikschell at 5:53 AM on February 26, 2017 [36 favorites]


Interesting article (despite the hyperbolic headline), and a perspective I hadn't considered.

The article is anecdata just about one single person who says Comic Sans is a solution to a very real problem. The research doesn't support that, and there are many other dyslexia-friendly fonts.

Note that the article linked to by cichlid ceilidh did not compare Comic Sans to other fonts; it only investigated "standard" fonts such as Arial & Helvetica, along with two fonts (OpenDyslexic and OpenDyslexic Italic) specifically designed for dyslexic people. While you're correct that the research doesn't support the assertion that Comic Sans leads to better outcomes for many/most dyslexic people, I think it's more accurate to say that it's still an open question. (Unless you know of other articles that investigate Comic Sans, in which case I'd be quite interested in reading them.)

Also, from the article:

“Have you ever tried to format a scientific paper when you have to get everything lined up so specifically? You’ve got all of your legends that have to go underneath your figures. 12 points in Comic Sans is not 12 points in Arial is not 12 points in Times New Roman. You can spend hours formatting your paper in Comic Sans and then turn it into 12 point Arial and it will mess up everything.”

Well, yes; MS Word is not well-designed for scientific writing in general. I'm a physics professor, and if a student came to me with this complaint I would tell them to try using LaTeX or LyX instead. These are "typesetting languages" that divorce formatting from content; and while they're tricky to learn at first, they might actually solve this complaint.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:47 AM on February 26, 2017 [9 favorites]


> “Have you ever tried to format a scientific paper when you have to get everything lined up so specifically? You’ve got all of your legends that have to go underneath your figures. 12 points in Comic Sans is not 12 points in Arial is not 12 points in Times New Roman. You can spend hours formatting your paper in Comic Sans and then turn it into 12 point Arial and it will mess up everything.”

Well, yes; MS Word is not well-designed for scientific writing in general. I'm a physics professor, and if a student came to me with this complaint I would tell them to try using LaTeX or LyX instead. These are "typesetting languages" that divorce formatting from content; and while they're tricky to learn at first, they might actually solve this complaint.


Forget "you shouldn't be using Word" (which is very true), you shouldn't be getting things lined up in Comic Sans knowing you're going to change the font! That's like arguing with LaTeX about linebreaks before you've finished writing--it's the very last thing you do.
posted by hoyland at 7:26 AM on February 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


you shouldn't be getting things lined up in Comic Sans knowing you're going to change the font!

I think that person's point is "Why should you have to change the font from what works for the writer based on a hate for Comic Sans that really just comes off as snobbery at best?"
posted by Etrigan at 7:56 AM on February 26, 2017 [7 favorites]


I am frankly astounded by the number of people going on about how ugly the font is and that hating it is not somehow ableist. If there is good information that it helps people with dyslexia read more easily, then I don't care if you think it's ugly, because everyone should be able to read easily.

By the same token, I run into a lot of people who aesthetically prefer stairs to ramps and complain about how ramps ruin the appearances of beautifully designed places, having to change old architecture to be accommodating to a minority of us who can't take stairs is unreasonable.

The idea of aesthetic pleasure is not without an ableist bias: I read easily and love weird fonts, but this isn't true for my brother, and I want him to be able to read. Similarly, when I see architecture that's full of stairs and has no other way for me to navigate it, I know I am excluded from it. It may be pretty, but it is for other people who do not have the kind of physical disability that I have to live with.

I don't care whether you don't like disability accommodations or whether you think they're ugly. For those of us who need them, they are vital, and your discussion of them as aesthetically displeasing is inconsiderate at best.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:29 AM on February 26, 2017 [14 favorites]


Simon Peyton Jones famously uses comic sans in all his talks about Haskell and GHC. Which are kind of essential. Also, come to think of it, high contrast color schemes. He's said it's because it's easier to read (important when you're being hit with a ton of new mathy notation and concepts).
posted by joeyh at 8:46 AM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


One interesting thing I noticed one day, while we were in the hospital waiting for my wife to give birth to my kid.... The instructional label on the infant warmer bed-thing was printed in Comic Sans. This was most definitely a factory supplied label. If it helps readability, great. use it.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 8:47 AM on February 26, 2017


For those of us who need them, they are vital, and your discussion of them as aesthetically displeasing is inconsiderate at best.

Are you willing to consider the possibility that people with dyslexia might want -- or even deserve -- a typeface that isn't aesthetically displeasing? Getting one requires the admission that Comic Sans is aesthetically displeasing, figuring out why, and correcting it. The first step is admitting it's fugly.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:49 AM on February 26, 2017 [15 favorites]


Similarly, when I see architecture that's full of stairs and has no other way for me to navigate it, I know I am excluded from it. It may be pretty, but it is for other people who do not have the kind of physical disability that I have to live with.

The thing is, it shouldn't be either/or. I work in the field of historic preservation/adaptive use, and this is a balance we constantly work to achieve...how to reasonably accommodate people of different abilities while still preserving the essential historic character of a resource. Absolutely, our goal is to provide equal access to everyone. In most cases, this can be achieved through good design. Sometimes, it isn't possible. How, for example, do you provide equal (physical) access to a historic lighthouse? Sure, you could (maybe) attach an elevator to the side of it, but then you basically destroy the historic character of the entire site for everyone, including those of different abilities. That's when you have to get creative to find ways to still enable people to have that experience, or a reasonable facsimile.

On the other hand, I've seen some pretty awful "solutions" to access which involve complicated ramping systems, awkward lift placements, or bringing people in through loading docks and alley doors - that isn't reasonable accommodation in my books, either. Good design takes into account both what is significant/important about the original resource (and sometimes symmetry/aesthetics is part of that) and how best to structure equal, reasonable access to allow everyone to enjoy that character.
posted by Preserver at 9:01 AM on February 26, 2017 [16 favorites]


Simon Peyton Jones famously uses comic sans in all his talks about Haskell and GHC.

Every time I think Haskell can't be more insufferable, it surprises me. (We can still hate Haskell, right?)
posted by dame at 9:02 AM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


Well, yes; MS Word is not well-designed for scientific writing in general. I'm a physics professor, and if a student came to me with this complaint I would tell them to try using LaTeX or LyX instead. These are "typesetting languages" that divorce formatting from content; and while they're tricky to learn at first, they might actually solve this complaint.

Divorcing formatting from content is a huge, important part of making information more accessible, and it's one that I've encountered a whole lot of resistance to designing corporate websites and other, ummm, content delivery systems (there is a better term for this, but I am completely blanking right now).

People have different, often conflicting, needs, and if you want to make information accessible to as many of them as you can, you have to give individual users some control over the presentation. Some people find Comic Sans easier to parse, while some probably find it more difficult. Some people need a larger font size, some need it to be screen reader compatible, etc. You cannot accommodate everyone's needs with a single presentation.

I don't take huge offense to the font itself and have always assumed people were exaggerating their dislike of it, but I do have a reaction to it similar to pattern juggler's. There's something almost Dancer in the Darkish about the way it's often used in corporate environments, tacking this chirpy, cutesy veneer onto things like everything is OK when it's really, really not.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:03 AM on February 26, 2017 [5 favorites]


a valuable if awkward truth about Comic Sans of which you were almost certainly unaware

I was aware, and I'm pretty sure it was Metafilter that made me so. Can't remember when. It was a good while back.
posted by flabdablet at 9:03 AM on February 26, 2017


I don't think Comic Sans is ugly. However, it has a playful, childlike feel to it which makes it jarring when it's used in certain contexts. It was one of Microsoft's first "fun" fonts, so it was way overused in the 90s and is now associated with chain e-mails and passive aggressive signs.

We're going with Arial for my work's new website. There is some research that shows that Arial might be a preferred font choice for readers with dyslexia. Also important is letter crowding, the length of sentences, and the size of the font. We considered changing the font colour and background colour, but then we run into readability problems for other users.
posted by Stonkle at 9:08 AM on February 26, 2017 [3 favorites]


Do people really still get off on making fun of comic sans? I'm as far from a typographer as possible and even I know that joke is as stale as the nickelback cliche.

This thread has already suggested that the need for comic sans as a tool for dyslexic people is kind of tenuous. Why can't we all just be satisfied that hating comic sans is lazy humor without having to create some facade to socially shame people who make bad jokes?
posted by laptolain at 9:08 AM on February 26, 2017 [4 favorites]


I want to push back on the comparison of Comic Sans to upspeak that Soace Coyote made a while ago.

During my time at college I had a tenured professor who chronically up spoke and spoke in incomplete sentences. A few days into the semester, one of my classmates raised his hand and asked the prof: "what's the question?" Said student was non-neurotypical, and many elements of the Becky from Calabasas accent (upspeak and frequent use of "like" as a discourse marker) took him out of the lectures and confused him.

I know that studying and taking seriously the Rich White Girl accent is trendy in some circles, but venerating young, affluent White women's speaking patterns cuts out many people who aren't The Patriarchy. Uptalk can freeze people with learning disabilities out of the dialogue the same way that using fonts with excess kerning and uneven weights can prevent dyslexic readers from texts.
posted by pxe2000 at 9:47 AM on February 26, 2017 [4 favorites]


We're going with Arial for my work's new website. There is some research that shows that Arial might be a preferred font choice for readers with dyslexia.

This strikes me as likely, given that it was the default choice in so much if consumer computing for so long - you like what you're familiar with, what you're used to, the font where you can recognise the shape and size of words as much as their constituent parts. Monospace of any kind can be good for this (Courier New ftw!) but what you really want is familiarity.
posted by Dysk at 9:59 AM on February 26, 2017


There are quite a few comic-ish fonts that are better designed than Comic Sans while retaining the "playfulness" of the font. Chalkduster is my go-to when I need to use something like that (generally, stuff for kids in Cub Scout meetings).

Hating one specific font is OK. It isn't necessarily ableist when there are near identical drop-in replacements already in existence.

Try using Chalkduster, then you can have fun poking at your colleagues; they might have figured out Arial vs. Helvetica by now but you can still feel superior when they fail to recognize it isn't truly Comic Sans you are using in that flyer
posted by caution live frogs at 10:04 AM on February 26, 2017 [4 favorites]


Starting in the early days of the web, HTML font tags (and later, CSS font specifications) were designed to get approximately-correct results rather than pixel-perfect results, both because particular fonts might not be available on the viewing device and because users might override font choices.

Today in 2017, we use electronic documents of all kinds more than ever, but we seem to have given up on that kind of flexibility. The typical web page has no alternate styles, most big-budget sites actually download fonts. There's no easy way to change viewing fonts in a .doc or .pdf.

So I feel like this is a discussion that shouldn't even be necessary. We should be able to submit a term paper in Comic Sans or whatever, and the professor reading it should be able to read it in Papyrus if he/she really wants to. But we have collectively chosen magazine-grade ease and glitz over choice and flexibility.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:07 AM on February 26, 2017 [5 favorites]


I don't get why people are feeling fragile about this. The statement that something is ableist is an observation of fact, not of intent.

hating a font is not ableist. penalizing and shaming people who rely on it is. it is a problem of fact, not of intent.

tldr; the headline sucks.
posted by listen, lady at 10:08 AM on February 26, 2017 [12 favorites]


Joking about Comic Sans is old and unoriginal, but I agree with laptolain that it's kind of ridiculous to be using shame to argue that point.

But as someone with learning disabilities and visual processing problems, my opinion is that comic sans is still ugly, and just doesn't compete with all the other dyslexia friendly fonts out there. I always use serifed fonts and when writing for long periods of time I use specifically made disability friendly fonts or a colour gradient program. I actually much prefer the colour program as it's the only thing that actually sped up my reading time consistently.

There's so many options out there that are tried and true, and aren't as unappealing to look at as comic sans. Hell, there's plenty of other comic-style fonts that are much better made. I personally just can't use comic sans as while it's readable, I feel offended that those of us with disabilities are expected to work with such an unappealing font. Personally I'd much rather see effort put towards showcasing the work of typographers and programmers who are making new and liveable options for dyslexia and learning disabilities.
posted by InkDrinker at 10:10 AM on February 26, 2017 [15 favorites]


Did anyone else overuse the RSVP font making banners in The Print Shop on their C=64?
posted by hippybear at 10:15 AM on February 26, 2017 [8 favorites]


Are people really venerating young affluent white women or are they just respecting that different groups of people have different patterns of speech?

I had many brilliant and fascinating professors in college who spoke english with a strong accent. Should this have prevented them from being professors? Some of my classmates certainly though so but there were times when I felt that one insightful class discussion made up for all of the communication struggles we had throughout the semester.
posted by laptolain at 10:16 AM on February 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


The article is anecdata just about one single person who says Comic Sans is a solution to a very real problem. The research doesn't support that, and there are many other dyslexia-friendly fonts.

You aren't correct about the article. It's not "one single person", as they point to advocacy organizations.

If you are correct about the research its not supported by the one paper referenced here.

That paper looks at a few highly variable measurements for 48 people with dyslexia and draws conclusions for the averages. It's useful if you're Yahoo and thinking about web page design for a broad audience. It provides not the slightest bit of data supporting the claim that Comic Sans doesn't help.

The paper doesn't really address variation at all. Preferences could be correlated strongly with severity, which the paper doesn't look at. There could also be non-severity related variations in the condition that change preferences.

cichlid ceilidh's introduction was measured (of the form "some may benefit, most don't.") We've now had multiple posters who have moved on from there to discounting individual claims of benefits as if they were cognitive illusion.

Most conditions have more than one possible treatment. Patients try one, and if that doesn't work try another. Statistically speaking mild painkillers like Alleve might be the "best" treatment rheumatoid arthritis but people with crippling cases are sure glad they can inject Enbrel. We can probably support multiple font options for dyslexics and trust the reports of which ones they like best.

More generally, some of these responses only make sense if the argument was about proposing Comic Sans as a new default font for the world. That's not even under discussion.

"Why should you have to change the font from what works for the writer based on a hate for Comic Sans that really just comes off as snobbery at best?"

I will object to the phrasing of the last part (and that part only.) Teaching people to be aware of design and how it's received may be snobbery but that is the worst interpretation of the motives, not the best.

IMO allowing an high schooler or undergrad turn in a paper in Comic Sans to accommodate severe dyslexia is obviously a reasonable accommodation and any teacher who refused is an asshole. In other cases guidelines around typefaces and docking points for those who don't follow are fine.
posted by mark k at 10:24 AM on February 26, 2017 [4 favorites]


Futura is the new Comic Sans.
posted by Sphinx at 10:31 AM on February 26, 2017


I just took a look at open dyslexic, and while I don't care for its asthetics as a designer font-nerd type, it IS easier to read, by far. I was diagnosed as a mirror-type dyslexic in second grade (literally could not tell a p form a q or a b from a d) & really wasn't functionally literate until 3rd grade.

I seem to have gotten over it fine (through therapy), but reading on the internet exhausts me much more quickly than reading books for the most part, so I'm wondering if there's something to this, despite my open & repeated criticism of comic sans as a thing.

Being a printer by trade, one becomes over-exposed to certain fonts that after a while seem bad because they're commonly over-used in middle-brow contexts or lazy ways, so maybe what I dislike about comic sans, papyrus, & my personal enemy remedy, in not the font themselves, but the contexts by with we've all been belabored about the head & shoulders.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:45 AM on February 26, 2017 [7 favorites]


Futura is the new Comic Sans.

Futura bold is a perfectly cromulent headline font & you will not dissuade me.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:52 AM on February 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


Laptolain: This is probably a derail, so I will keep it brief. A few prominent "feminist" sociolinguistics scholars have gone on the record as saying that young, affluent White women are linguistic innovators, and that they should "disrupt" by using the rich-White-girl accent whether it's appropriate for the venue or not. I find this problematic for a bunch of reasons outside the scope of this thread, both for the advice they offer and for the method in which they came to this conclusion. (Robin Lakoff oversampled from young White women for her In A Different Voice study.) This is getting outside the scope of this thread, so I will bow out now.
posted by pxe2000 at 10:54 AM on February 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


Teaching people to be aware of design and how it's received may be snobbery but that is the worst interpretation of the motives, not the best.

"how it's received" is the problem here. Even if the person doing that teaching isn't a snob, the person is accommodating other people's snobbery.

I'm a tech writer for a U.S. company staffed largely by Indians. A huge chunk of my workday is explaining to people that okay, you don't need to say "which" here, "that" does get the point across, but some people are persnickety* about word choice and will judge our technical documents unfairly for it. That's snobbery too, but I admit it.

And I haven't ever heard an argument against using Comic Sans in particular that didn't boil down to "Someone doesn't like it", which is such a close relative to snobbery that I'm comfortable using that word in this instance.

* -- I apparently use this word so much that I can stop such a conversation merely by deploying it:
"I don't understand why we have to change this."
"Persnickety."
"All right then."

posted by Etrigan at 10:58 AM on February 26, 2017 [4 favorites]


It's OK not to like Comic Sans, and *you* don't have to use it. But keep your mockery and fontist comments to yourself.

STOP FONT SHAMING!
posted by BlueHorse at 10:58 AM on February 26, 2017


Please print this out on a giant poster in Comic Sans and march with it at a protest in your area soon.
posted by hippybear at 11:12 AM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


"how it's received" is the problem here. Even if the person doing that teaching isn't a snob, the person is accommodating other people's snobbery.

I honestly don't see how to read this without interpreting it as a claim that *any* aesthetic or stylistic preference is snobbery. Since that's probably not what you mean I won't go on unless you want to clarify.
posted by mark k at 11:31 AM on February 26, 2017 [3 favorites]


important articles must be front-loaded with shrill rhetoric to drive away anyone who isn't already inclined to agree

Metafilter: &c
posted by Sebmojo at 11:42 AM on February 26, 2017 [4 favorites]


I don't think Comic Sans is ugly. However, it has a playful, childlike feel to it which makes it jarring when it's used in certain contexts

I have an awful coworker who is awful in part of her awfully brusque email communication style. She's been spoken to about it several times, but she just doesn't have the people skills to recognize why the way she communicates rubs people the wrong way.

In an effort to tone her emails down, she started using Comic Sans. So now her emails are completely abrasive in a whole 'nother way.

It's been weaponized for me. Now I imagine phone friendliness every time I see it. It's great that it's helpful for dyslexic people, but that's not how it's most often deployed. Being critical of Comic Sans' use is like being critical of someone who carries a decorative cane for aesthetic purposes. Canes are great for people who need them, but if you use one as a fashion statement, you are, in my opinion, a bit of a dink.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:55 AM on February 26, 2017 [6 favorites]


This really is nothing to do with Comic Sans. As said by a few people upthread, it's about not letting technology separate the aesthetics of information from the information itself. Which we could easily do.

In my case, a recently-acquired eye condition has left me immensely font, line weight and chrominance/luminance contrast sensitive. There are particular combinations of font, colour and contrast which make a page easy for me to read, even at quite small font sizes, and others (far more common) that make it illegible. It's a little like late-onset dyslexia - and, as someone for whom the written word has been on a par with oxygen in his life, this is irksome.

All I need is a universal widget that, for any document or web page, lets me render it in my choice of attributes. That would make my life infinitely better. Or have a standard that says people who provide documents, etc, provide those options. (App writers, take note particularly. How many apps can I not use because even if they have font size/style options, they're very limited? Answer: most of them.)

At that point, if you don't like Comic Sans or Zapf Chancery or whatever, or if you do, you're in luck. A whole class of problem has gone away.

But we're not at that point. Instead, every day - every hour, every ten minutes - I click on a link and find that the information I need is closed to me, often for arbitrary reasons (low-contrast grey text? WHY?), and if I'm lucky or particularly needy, I may be able to use one of my high-contrast plug-ins, or cut and paste to an editor, or whatever, to wrestle the text from its cloak of invisibility.If I'm not lucky, the text is behind some sort of 'no copy' blocker or in some format my hi-contrast stuff can't touch, or any of the other myriad embuggerances that exist to make me miserable.

Academic papers? That font is hard for me. I read a lot of academic papers. It hurts, Can you think of a way to make that better? So can I. And it doesn't mean anything about the accepted standards for academic paper presentation has to change, or the process of producing them (or that anyone has to learn LaTex or whatever).

If there was one standard library of tools that web and app designers could use, and its use became de-facto, my working and personal life would be immeasurably improved.

As would yours. Because healthy eyes have lots of bad things waiting for them down the years. I'm on a spectrum of visual disability that's shared by millions of people, there is a hugely helpful thing that could be done, and it's not happening.

If you want to get angry, this is the thing to get angry about

(And I, too, have had these arguments with designers and publishers, who cite 'design rules' and 'enhanced presentation' and 'house style' and so on to say why only their choice of font or their weight of line is acceptable. Which is bullshit twice over, first because if what you see when you first see the page is lovely, then no harm done; secondly, you're telling me all the stuff we get on the Web is some acme of design wonderfulness?)

All happy eyes are alike in their happiness. All unhappy eyes are unique in theirs. We could fix this little bit of the world, and fix it easily. Damnit, I'm filing a bug report.

Or I would be, if I could read the entry forms.
posted by Devonian at 12:40 PM on February 26, 2017 [18 favorites]


I don't care whether you don't like disability accommodations or whether you think they're ugly. For those of us who need them, they are vital, and your discussion of them as aesthetically displeasing is inconsiderate at best.

whooooooooooa what wait
posted by listen, lady at 1:26 PM on February 26, 2017 [5 favorites]


Given how often disabilities are not accommodated for, it's not surprising at all that someone might come to the conclusion that the able-bodied view accommodation as an annoyance or not necessary.
posted by Stonkle at 1:38 PM on February 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


No office announcement in Comic Sans is complete without a Screen Bean.
posted by lagomorphius at 1:49 PM on February 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


Publicly performing dislike of ms comic sans is primarily a form of class signaling publicly arguing about the oxford comma is primarily a form of class signaling public persnicketiness about grammar and spelling is primarily a form of class signaling publicly calling out class signaling is primarily a form of class signaling intense self-awareness about the class signaling that one does when calling out class signaling is primarily a form of class signaling most everything done in public is primarily class signaling it's primarily class signaling all the way down
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:55 PM on February 26, 2017 [19 favorites]


Canes are great for people who need them, but if you use one as a fashion statement, you are, in my opinion, a bit of a dink.

Nonsense, Everybody Loves a Cane!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:07 PM on February 26, 2017


publicly arguing about the oxford comma is primarily a form of class signaling

Shit is going down now.
posted by Preserver at 2:32 PM on February 26, 2017 [4 favorites]


This is a fascinating discussion for me as I've lately been pondering principles of Universal Design for Learning and trying to adapt my teaching to be more inclusive of more students, with and without leaning difficulties.

I've also, personally, been suffering from a deterioration of my eyesight which means my preferred font size is not 12 point anything but rather 14-16 point. It's just so much easier to read. But the standard academic font size is not nearly that large, so my documents often look comic and absurd when I print them out, and I've started to rely heavily on my e-reader because I can easily crank up the font on that fucker to 18 point if I so choose.

Soooooo, I'm finding myself gravitating away from paper/hard copies and towards digital reading materials.

This provokes very interesting discussions with colleagues and friends who proclaim they hate e-readers and you will pry paper books from their cold dead fingers etc. and they lament the replacement of paper books with e-books blah blah blah. I usually listen for a bit, then tell them that as I've become more visually impaired, my e-reader has meant I can still enjoy books I otherwise wouldn't be able to, simply because I can control the font. There are copies of paper books I own that I'll never be able to read again, because the font is too small.

Most of the time when I point this out, the other person has literally never thought about how e-readers might provide a tool for someone with visual difficulties, and it ends up reframing e-readers somewhat from being this tool of the devil on which they can blame the death of print. They're not bad people; they just weren't considering that something they saw as an abomination embraced by philistines might serve a valuable purpose for someone with a disability...much like Comic Sans.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:17 PM on February 26, 2017 [9 favorites]


Sometimes if you hang on and read these seemingly pointless Metafilter discussions to the end, you realize something you didn't realize before. I create a lot of scientific posters. It's a lot of work and often seems pointless, because at big meetings no one seems to read them. What I suddenly realized is that I spend a lot of time on the data and how I present it, but little time on readability (besides making sure the text is short enough so the font is big enough). I never considered that *everyone* might like font that is easy to read. So, Devonian, what font would you advise me to use? Or what would be an acceptable pro-Dyslexic font? I do tend to choose Arial as an acceptable "scientific" font. And I can't use comic sans because my research is not comic or breezy, sorry.
posted by acrasis at 4:24 PM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


" Or what would be an acceptable pro-Dyslexic font?"

The British Dyslexia Association has some thoughts, including standard software fonts that are easier to read; open-source dyslexia fonts; purchasable dyslexia fonts; and a font available to publishers. (And, indeed, per Devonian, they say: "Publishers often ask the British Dyslexia Association which typeface dyslexic people prefer, for PDF files, web and print. For word-processed files on-screen, they like set their own preferences of style, size, colour and background colour, though it may upset the pagination, so MS Word is the most useful format.")

My kids' schools are using dyslexia-friendly fonts in pretty much all their K-1 reading material, I think because it also helps beginning readers distinguish the letters? It looked lumpy and odd to me at the beginning of the year but, like anything else!, I got used to it with exposure and it just registers as "a font" now.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:36 PM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


Acrasis - as long as it's a clean, balanced sans. Things with a good track record in print media for decent slabs of text are, I guess, Helvetica, Verdana... and Century Gothic has a schoolbookish feel to me, but works well.

No doubt others would disagree - font arguments are the best arguments. The usual thing to do is look at lots of other bits of text in the format you're working in, so lots of other scientific posters, and when you find something that appeals and appears particularly legible, find out what the font is and experiment with that yourself.

I think of it as a signal processing problem. The channel from the image on my retina to the image processing parts of my brain is randomly disrupted; the best chance I have of correctly recovering the original information is if there's a strong signal and low noise. That means bold, simple, unambiguous shapes, strong contrasts and no extraneous flourishes. (Captchas are... well, lots of people have problems with those, so imagine that the whole world of text is Captcha'd, and you'll have some idea. Do what you can to de-Captcha your text.)
posted by Devonian at 4:58 PM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


I don't get why people are feeling fragile about this. The statement that something is ableist is an observation of fact, not of intent. [...] It's not an accusation that anyone is being actively malicious

I'm not entirely on board with the idea that intent is meaningless and impact is everything, but it's the conventional wisdom here, so let's apply it to the post I quoted above: the intent of someone who says "such-and-such is ableist/racist/etc." may be to state a fact, but the impact is often that the audience feels they're being accused of acting maliciously, ergo such a statement is, practically speaking, an accusation.

Ultimately, I might word things a bit more carefully, but that's more because I'm tired of fragility rather than because what I'm saying is wrong.

I don't deny that fragility is a thing, but in this case it sounds like an excuse for not doing the work of communicating in a way the audience can reasonably be expected to understand, and then blaming the audience for not understanding.

I totally get it if someone else wants to go "fuck it" and just say this shit directly. If you decide to make a joke out of it instead of making your takeaway, "I never knew this - it's really great that I learned that comic sans could benefit a group I never considered", that's on you.

If someone makes a statement knowing full well that it will be misinterpreted, then the resulting misinterpretation is on them.
posted by shponglespore at 7:03 PM on February 26, 2017 [4 favorites]


the intent of someone who says "such-and-such is ableist/racist/etc." may be to state a fact, but the impact is often that the audience feels they're being accused of acting maliciously, ergo such a statement is, practically speaking, an accusation.

How To Protect White People's Feelings In The Workplace
posted by flabdablet at 7:53 PM on February 26, 2017 [7 favorites]


“Using Comic Sans is like turning up to a black-tie event in a clown costume.”

Do you mean it's AWESOME? Because that sounds awesome.
posted by mmoncur at 8:39 PM on February 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


Given how often disabilities are not accommodated for, it's not surprising at all that someone might come to the conclusion that the able-bodied view accommodation as an annoyance or not necessary.

Except for the part where not liking a font is not equivalent to callousness about disabilities. As a person with one. Which I have to say, of course, because I only get an opinion if I display my bona fides. Given how often people with disabilities are treated as though their conditions have to be visible in order to be accounted for (HEY INCLUDING DYSLEXIA), something something something drop the smug.
posted by listen, lady at 11:05 PM on February 26, 2017 [7 favorites]


  1. CTRL-F "undertale" brings up not a thing, which surprises me.
  2. That article on the origins of Comic Sans, linked by two different people, infuriates me, because the whole first screen is an ad for something completely unrelated with just a tiny arrow at the bottom to indicate scrolling, and when I scroll down to the text an email registration form cheekily darkens the page and slides in from the side. These things with fill me with FAR FAR MORE HATRED THAN COMIC SANS.
posted by JHarris at 12:07 AM on February 27, 2017


I would really welcome a separate post on the derail that almost happened about vocal linguistic patterns and their affect on learning acquisition.
posted by greermahoney at 1:07 AM on February 27, 2017


Except for the part where not liking a font is not equivalent to callousness about disabilities.

Then why not say that, instead of a flippant comment to a person who is clearly frustrated? In a thread with quite a few frustrated people?

. . . I only get an opinion if I display my bona fides.

Oh, stop. I also have a disability, one that very rarely is accommodated. I spoke up because I know what it feels like to have had it with people ignoring or disparaging what you need. If you think that's "smug" then so be it.
posted by Stonkle at 6:58 AM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


I just took a look at open dyslexic, and while I don't care for its asthetics as a designer font-nerd type, it IS easier to read, by far. I was diagnosed as a mirror-type dyslexic in second grade (literally could not tell a p form a q or a b from a d) & really wasn't functionally literate until 3rd grade.

And for people asking for what is the best way, YMMV. When I read Open Dyslexic (and I'm dyslexic myself) I can see absolutely why some people find it easier to read. But for me it. Feels. As. If. Every. Word. Has. Been. Physically. Nailed. Down. So. I. Can't. Read. Freely. Of course when some people find words float more than I do I can see why they want them physically nailed down. All of which means that although Open Dyslexic is added to make things easier for dyslexics I'm going to go for the normal version - or nope out of your webpage.

For accessibility the answer is almost always:
All I need is a universal widget that, for any document or web page, lets me render it in my choice of attributes.
This of course means a content/presentation separation. I don't care if you set the font to anything short of wingdings so long as I can set it right back to something I can use.
posted by Francis at 8:19 AM on February 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


I have loathed Times New Roman ever since High School because of its association with MLA Formatting. I'll happily accept any evidence that it is the devil's font.
posted by ethansr at 8:56 AM on February 27, 2017


This is based on conjecture, mostly, but I have a strong feeling that a lot of people find Comic Sans and other dyslexic friendly fonts more difficult to read. I've never had to, but I would bet having to read a long text in one of those fonts would slow me down considerably. Which: OK, I should just suck it up. But what about someone who has low vision or other issues?

It really comes down to what constitutes a reasonable accommodation, as you cannot accommodate everything, and many types of accommodations can actually conflict with others. There is no single model that's going to accommodate everyone. Ramps are great for people in wheelchairs and walkers, but they can be more difficult for others, including those who have other types of disability. It's a reasonable accommodation to have a ramp, but it would be unreasonable to eliminate stairs, and if you did, I wouldn't call it ableist for someone with conflicting needs to be upset that they had to use the ramp.

You need options, and cases like this, that means separating out content and formatting, period. This is something that can be done. I used to have a whole suite of stylesheets and tools I wrote on my own time (so my employer at the time wouldn't own them) that I'd use to design and maintain accessible websites. I'm sure there are more up to date versions of the same thing out there right now. The downside, of course, is that making something accessible takes a little extra work and imposes some (to me pretty minor) limitations on your design options. The main obstacle, though, is that people just don't want to do it for reasons I don't fully understand. I have run into real, strident resistance from clients who apparently really really didn't want disabled people to be able to access their materials.

There are standards. There are people who study and work on exactly these types of things all the time, and there are a handful of common features, including the one where you give the user control over the presentation. There are ways to make most material accessible to far more people, even with conflicting needs, as long as companies make a few reasonable design accommodations.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:00 AM on February 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


This is based on conjecture, mostly

Uh oh..

OK, I should just suck it up. But what about someone who has low vision or other issues?

So here's a thing people do that I want to point to to raise the fact that it is a problem. If someone is coming to you asking for an accommodation, inventing another theoretical disabled person who might be hurt by that accommodation feels an awful lot like trying to get out of having to make any change. Since I've started noticing this it's been a pretty common refrain and I'd like it to be something folks start to become aware of as an anti-pattern.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:33 AM on February 27, 2017 [7 favorites]


I remember back in the early 90s going to a reading teacher conference where one of the breakout sessions I attended was about a form of reading disability where an apparent solution was to use colored transparent plastic sheets as overlays for reading because, if you could find the right color, the person needing this would suddenly find all the text was entirely clear to them instead of sort of swimming around on the page or doing odd things having to with black text on a white background.

Now I don't suffer from this condition personally but it made sense to me that this could be a thing that kept kids from reading. During my weekend at the conference, I met up with someone who was on the same ListServ mailing list as me, a very early version of an online IRL meetup. And during the evening I spent with this guy, I ended up meeting his boyfriend who when he heard I was in town for a reading conference told me he had never been able to read and then he went on to describe text on the page doing exactly what had been described as what people who need these color overlays talk about when they describe their difficulty about reading black text on a white page.

Part of the goodie bag from attending that session at the conference was a set of color overlay sheets of various colors. I talked about what I'd learned at the conference and gave the boyfriend that set of colored sheets and told him to try it out and see what happened.

The next morning I got this insane email from the guy I'd met up with, with him telling me about how his boyfriend had gone through the colors and found one that worked for him and how he'd been kept up half the night with his boyfriend just insanely READING AT HIM basically anything he could find. He said it was a life-changing experience and he felt like an entire world was open to him that he'd never had access to before.

Now, today, this kind of reading difficulty diagnosis is largely unsupported by hard research evidence. There is apparently a controversy about whether this kind of color overlay or using color lenses in glasses to help improve reading vision actually helps at all. But it definitely helped this one guy. And so, maybe it's a valid thing to try even if there isn't a lot of hard evidence that it helps.

That's sort of like using Comic Sans. It helped this one person. It might help others. It should certainly be tried if someone is having a hard time reading. There may not be hard evidence that it helps in a way that could be published as a scientific paper, but if people say it helps them, there is no reason not to believe them.
posted by hippybear at 9:57 AM on February 27, 2017 [10 favorites]


Uh oh schmuh oh, Space Coyote. All I'm saying is that I'm not about to claim I have authoritative evidence of this, because I don't. I didn't say I was pulling everything wholesale directly out of my ass. There are plenty of anecdotes, and if you search on Comic Sans hard to read, you'll get a lot of people begging the question and saying it is. I just don't have studies at my fingertips confirming it.

What I do have is decades of intermittent (by which I mean this has never been my sole job responsibility) experience researching and studying accommodations like this and finding resolutions to users' conflicting needs. Sometimes those users are theoretical, yes, but the issues are often predictable based on previous experience and observable patterns. I've only been given the go ahead for comprehensive usability testing I think twice, but I have consulted with and done a whole lot of casual usability testing with users--usually coworkers--including those with a variety of disabilities, including low and no vision. Font does matter to low vision users. I just don't know specifically about Comic Sans in large part because the resolution is always lower level than that: Users need control over presentation.

And you know what else is largely based on conjecture and anecdote? That Comic Sans is more readable for dyslexics. That's not based on studies, either. And I don't discount that position simply because there haven't been sufficient studies backing it up. Most usability guidelines in the real world are based on anecdote and self-reporting.

Don't go all chidey with me because it bears some superficial resemblance to something else you saw someone say.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:17 AM on February 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


Now, today, this kind of reading difficulty diagnosis is largely unsupported by hard research evidence. There is apparently a controversy about whether this kind of color overlay or using color lenses in glasses to help improve reading vision actually helps at all. But it definitely helped this one guy. And so, maybe it's a valid thing to try even if there isn't a lot of hard evidence that it helps.

I'm starting to think that the best solution to digital accessibility might be software based, rather than document or site based. Browsers can already change the font size and style (if you dig around in the settings), but it would be fantastic if web browsers and pdf viewers allowed users to easily change things such as text and background colours, adding a colour overlay, etc. There are add-ons that can do some of this stuff (I really like Mercury Reader for Chrome), and there's a browser called WebbIE that displays websites as text-only, but I don't think that's enough.
posted by Stonkle at 10:48 AM on February 27, 2017


Or what Francis said.
posted by Stonkle at 10:51 AM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Stonkle: "it would be fantastic if web browsers and pdf viewers allowed users to easily change things such as text and background colours"

Don't they already? Firefox has a checkbox labeled "Allow pages to choose their own fonts, instead of my selections above" - unchecking it instantly flips every open page into the fonts I selected. Likewise, there's a box for colors too - "Override the colors specified by the page with my selections above" allows me to change it all, permanently. The options could be a little easier to find, but pretty much all browsers let you do this.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:30 AM on February 27, 2017


But we can all agree that the Chopstick font feels pretty racist, right?
posted by FatherDagon at 12:06 PM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Don't they already? Firefox has a checkbox labeled "Allow pages to choose their own fonts, instead of my selections above" - unchecking it instantly flips every open page into the fonts I selected. Likewise, there's a box for colors too - "Override the colors specified by the page with my selections above" allows me to change it all, permanently.

Not all of them do. Chrome will let you change font type, size, and style, but not colour (that I can find). You also missed a key part of my sentence: "easily change." In any case, my point was not that browsers already do a couple of things to make web pages more accessible, but that they, and other software, could do more.
posted by Stonkle at 12:41 PM on February 27, 2017


But we can all agree that the Chopstick font feels pretty racist, right?

I'd best go break it to my local Chinese takeaway.
posted by mushhushshu at 2:48 PM on February 27, 2017


The in-browser stuff is, in my experience, quite unusable. I don't want a global default imposed, because often it causes more harm than good.

For example, Metafilter's Classic clothing is well-nigh perfect for me. It is by far the most pleasant combination of attributes of any of my normal pixeleries (not perfect; nav and editing gets v mucky on high zoom on smaller screens, but I know a good thing when I see it and I'm seeing it right now). But that's quite closely coupled to the extreme cleanliness of its presentation and the way it eschews graphics with religious zeal. I could impose a Metafilter vibe on everything if I told my browser to do that, but it just wouldn't be appropriate for a whole slew of places with different layout and formatting.

I don't doubt that if I spent all my time doing one sort of thing with one type of data, I could use what's around and the moment to make it usable pretty much whatever the original format was. But that's not what I do, and not what I expect most people to do, and less so as time goes on.

Usability is a force multiplier. The amount of usability that a small amount of intelligent work would add would produce goodness far beyond the effort, especially compared with the global amount of effort expended and re-expended reinventing wheels in a dazzling array of really bad approximations to a round thing with an axle in the middle. The trouble is, there is no mechanism I can find that will tap off that minuscule amount of work from the thundering deluge of UI energy expended.

There is no IETF equivalent at the top of the stack. In fact, the entity at the very top of the stack - the human - is completely invisible on every protocol abstraction diagram I have ever seen.
posted by Devonian at 2:49 PM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


for a long time i didn't actually realize comic sans was the font it is; i thought it was much more extra(vagant) (like a decorative font (despite the fact that sans means what it does)), i think i had it mixed up with jokerman (comic -> joker). but so i only really knew of it as the butt of a joke and never actually saw it. it wasn't until maybe about a year ago that i found out (or recognized/realized) what it actually is, and was somewhat surprised. to me it's like crocs; i don't see its/their ugliness save as it inheres in its domesticity, if that makes sense...

(my first, post i've been lurking for about nine years, hello)
posted by LeviQayin at 12:28 AM on February 28, 2017 [4 favorites]


Hi LeviQayin--hope you stick around!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:44 AM on February 28, 2017


Just a reminder that Metafilter supports Open Dyslexic as a site font -- in Preferences, write in open-dyslexic in the font name box, save, and it should work in most browsers.
posted by E. Whitehall at 4:51 AM on February 28, 2017 [5 favorites]


I'm starting to think that the best solution to digital accessibility might be software based, rather than document or site based. Browsers can already change the font size and style (if you dig around in the settings), but it would be fantastic if web browsers and pdf viewers allowed users to easily change things such as text and background colours, adding a colour overlay, etc.

You won't see a lot of this kind of support for PDF files, because the PDF format was specifically designed as a high-fidelity representation of print-ready documents. Aside from running counter to the philosophy behind PDF, changing things like typefaces and font sizes in a PDF just isn't very feasible from a technical perspective, because a PDF file typically doesn't have enough information about the logical structure of the document to re-flow the text in a sane way. A very ambitious PDF viewer could make a best-effort attempt to render a document with different fonts, but it would be costly to implement well enough to be worth using. I think the real solution for PDFs is social rather than technical; content creators need to be pressured to stop using PDF documents when other formats (e.g. HTML or EPUB) are more appropriate.

There are add-ons that can do some of this stuff (I really like Mercury Reader for Chrome), and there's a browser called WebbIE that displays websites as text-only, but I don't think that's enough.

Chrome will let you change font type, size, and style, but not colour (that I can find). You also missed a key part of my sentence: "easily change." In any case, my point was not that browsers already do a couple of things to make web pages more accessible, but that they, and other software, could do more.

(emphasis mine above)

The right solution for browsers, IMHO, is to use extensions like this one for Chrome. The features needed to implement these kinds of extensions are, for the most part, already present in major browsers, but they're either hidden away in menus, or not exposed in the UI at all. There's a good reason for that: overwhelming users with too many features is an accessibility problem in itself, especially for people with limited computer skills (i.e. most of the people in the world), or people suffering from cognitive impairments (i.e. pretty much everyone at some point in their life). Relying on extensions keeps the basic UI for the browser simple while letting users pick and choose which features are important enough to justify a prominent place in the UI.

I certainly would not argue that there's no room for improvement, but on the other hand, I think there's a lot more being done to support users with disabilities than most people realize, because it's the kind of stuff you don't generally learn about unless you're a UX developer, or you have disabilities yourself.
posted by shponglespore at 3:39 PM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


Chrome will let you change font type, size, and style, but not colour (that I can find).

What shponglespore said, and also NoSquint Plus.

NoSquint Plus for Chrome
NoSquint Plus for Firefox
posted by flabdablet at 6:22 PM on February 28, 2017


NoSquint looks interesting - thanks for that...
posted by Devonian at 9:27 AM on March 2, 2017


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