A "Comic Sans" for the 21st Century
June 29, 2017 1:13 PM   Subscribe

 
The new Inkwell font is really quite lovely. Or "universe of fonts", there's an enormous amount of diversity there. Inkwell Sans is the font you'd reach for where you might have used Comic Sans. It's got a bit too much personality for my tastes. And at $200+ for a license it's not likely to show up in grandma's church newsletter soon. But it sure looks good.

Font designer Jonathan Hoefler, previously on MeFi.

Making fun of Comic Sans is lazy and trite.
posted by Nelson at 1:22 PM on June 29, 2017 [6 favorites]


Yeah, this looks good. But the number one reason people use Comic Sans is that it's installed already on everyone's computers.
posted by sleeping bear at 1:24 PM on June 29, 2017 [24 favorites]


And it can all be yours for the low price of $399. ::weeps tiny broke typographer tears::
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:24 PM on June 29, 2017 [18 favorites]


“Italics have a syntactic value—without them you can’t communicate in English"

That's, uh, not actually true, is it?
posted by thelonius at 1:26 PM on June 29, 2017 [6 favorites]


In my experience, most of the people who hate Comic Sans aren't actually designers. They watched some TED talks and read a few blog posts, which guided them to a strong opinion on the matter. Comic Sans, Georgia, Helvetica, whatever. They all have their place, and designers who are worth anything hate when they're used badly.

The greatest rant on the matter is from McSweeney's: feast your eyes on this

FWIW, I'm also not a designer. Inkwell looks nice, but it isn't free on every computer in the world, so... good luck guys!
posted by MengerSponge at 1:27 PM on June 29, 2017 [18 favorites]


I guess I'm infected enough by hanging out with designers (and comics letterers) that I hate it, though my special red-mist-descending case for hating it is when people actually use it for comics. No, just no.

This new font is nice, but eh, so are a lot of handwriting fonts. Quality was never really the issue, just ubiquity and people not knowing better.
posted by Artw at 1:39 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


There's always Comic Neue which is free, for those people who want to take the church newsletter up a notch.
posted by honestcoyote at 1:39 PM on June 29, 2017 [26 favorites]


In my experience, most of the people who hate Comic Sans aren't actually designers.

Ooh! That's me. I hate Comic Sans, and I'm not a designer.

They watched some TED talks and read a few blog posts, which guided them to a strong opinion on the matter.

Oh. No. I sat through two dozen too many scientific talks done entirely (or, worse, partly) in Comic Sans.

I think the issue might be generational, more than profession-based. In order from oldest to youngest, we have three generations that:

* Use Comic Sans too much
* Hate Comic Sans because the previous generation used it too much
* Kind of think Comic Sans might be not that bad

Maybe Inkwell is a way to repeat the cycle over again. Joy?
posted by gurple at 1:46 PM on June 29, 2017 [7 favorites]


Not to be confused with I Hate Comic Sans, despite the link text.
posted by one for the books at 1:48 PM on June 29, 2017


> That's, uh, not actually true, is it?

It's approximately true. If you REALLY need to indicate word-stress emphasis without adding extra words, there /are/ some other options.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 1:54 PM on June 29, 2017 [13 favorites]


I was a typesetter for more than 20 years and never hated Comic Sans, but that's probably because that time was mostly before desktop publishing so it wasn't everywhere. Want to know a font I used to love and than came to hate because everybody jumped on the bandwagon and it was every damn where? Arnold Bocklin (first available in Letraset, which is when I used it)
posted by MovableBookLady at 1:55 PM on June 29, 2017 [6 favorites]


Also, 64074 Never Forget
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 1:57 PM on June 29, 2017 [5 favorites]


Sorcery!
posted by shockingbluamp at 1:58 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Inkwell: for when you need everything to look like a Chester Brown comic.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:03 PM on June 29, 2017 [12 favorites]


I remember in business school, the textbook for my linear programming class was entirely in Comic Sans. This was 2001, I think, and I thought that it was different but not particularly galling.

I really like this Inkwell font and wish that $400 was a reasonable amount of money for me to spend on a font.
posted by bluejayway at 2:04 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


I found Inkwell hard to read.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 2:05 PM on June 29, 2017


obligatory the disease is inside you
posted by entropicamericana at 2:14 PM on June 29, 2017 [5 favorites]


If only Inkwell had been available five years ago, when the Higgs boson was discovered—infamously, the scientists chose to unveil their achievement to the general public by explaining it in Comic Sans.

Ah yes, research scientists, a group of people well known for their ability and inclination to pay hundreds of dollars for fonts.
posted by Pyry at 2:16 PM on June 29, 2017 [6 favorites]


Ah yes, research scientists, a group of people well known for their ability and inclination to pay hundreds of dollars for fonts.

but couldn't they have had an engineer do it? after all, an engineer can do anything as well as a professional after spending a few minutes researching it on the web
posted by entropicamericana at 2:26 PM on June 29, 2017 [11 favorites]


Too much choice - Inkwell looks beautiful but choice and decisions are not what Comic Sans users want. They want the not-Times and not-Arial font. A fun pseudo-handwritten font with serif and sans versions? Waaaaaay too much thought required there.
posted by GuyZero at 3:20 PM on June 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


Nice fonts!
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:34 PM on June 29, 2017


I mean, I quite like this font family, but I don’t $200 like this don’t family.

Amusingly, the McSweeney’s thing about Comic Sans tendered on my iPad as a more attractive replacement don’t, which threw me off.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:39 PM on June 29, 2017


Counterpoint: Hating Comic Sans is ablist, an essay on how Comic Sans helps dyslexic people read better.
posted by miguelcervantes at 3:46 PM on June 29, 2017 [10 favorites]


For primary academic purposes, I think Dash To School or Sweater School or Report School are better substitutes.
posted by bz at 4:26 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


I have an aesthetic dislike of many things (it keeps me fresh and motivated, and impresses others with my muscular intellect), including some that are supposedly better for disabled access and some that actually do help my impaired vision. What, I should check my sensibilities at the door with my sensory deficit? Isn't that in itself demeaning?

Often, there are alternatives - or at least research to be done, experiments to be tried, and so on - with the ugly stuff, especially in these digital days when you can actually provide user choice at the point of consumption. Perhaps this will happen, when all the web mavens de nos jours get to the point when their own eyesight starts to spark out.

In re Inkwell, I don't really know what I think, as that article makes such heavy use of light text on pastel backgrounds, other wonky colour combos, and delightful pop-ups, that I couldn't really make out most of the examples. But I understand that the publication is for designers, by designers, so actually having a good solid example of the font in a high contrast, decent sized example or two, would risk the plebs not noticing the design, thus missing the article's real point (haha, see what I did there? Oh, you gotta pica pocket or two-oo).

I love good design; it enhances life in so many ways. And I respect and admire good designers. including the font and graphics tribes. But everyone with those words in their LinkedIn profiles should be forced by law to wear glasses ten percent of the time that simulate some of the more popular visual afflictions. It'd be an, if you will, eye-opener. (God, I'm on fire tonight.)
posted by Devonian at 4:40 PM on June 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


I printed out every paper I wrote in college in Comic Sans, and I'm pretty sure I continued that in graduate school. I found it easy to read, and the only time anyone commented on the typeface it was to say he liked it (much older - 50s to 60s - professor).

The Comic Sans hate peaked after I went to college, and I remember being baffled by it when it happened. Now I think it was a result of over-saturation; it is clear and easy to read, so anyone who wanted to do something a little different used it in a "designy" manner, which upset actual designers and font people, and the hate spread from there. It's entirely possible some of the hatred is as organic as my liking it, but the main critiques I've seen is that it's overused and it's overly casual.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:44 PM on June 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


Comic Sans is notable to me by being the only font that I can identify easily. I can tell the difference between serif and sans but other than that I have no idea what fonts I use or even what one I'm typing in right now. As long as I can read the letters, I don't really care what font someone is using.
posted by octothorpe at 5:17 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Apple should give Hoefler & Co. a blank check for however much it would cost to bundle a version of Inkwell in the next version of MacOS.
posted by Sokka shot first at 5:26 PM on June 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


MacOS already comes with Chalkboard though, which already is a comics sans clone with most of the problems corrected.
posted by Artw at 5:41 PM on June 29, 2017 [6 favorites]


There's really no comparison between these other than that they are both handwriting fonts. I mean, Inkwell isn't even actually a font, it's a whole family of fonts (Including blackletter versions! That blackletter one is *weird*.) which just happen to be handwriting-inspired and share some stylistic similarities with each other. Also, one comes with your computer whereas the other is a $400 add-on. And I bet Inkwell would look a lot less interesting if it became as overused as Comic Sans.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:19 PM on June 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the blackletter variant is kind of fun. You don’t often see that style done without a trademark wide nib.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:23 PM on June 29, 2017


I like Comic Sans, and use it for the font on my phone for text messages. A friend threw a screaming hissy over it when I shared a screenshot of a hilarious exchange with my son. I don't understand being so emotionally invested in how someone else handles their fonts.

Inkwell is nice. If I could justify it, I'd call $400 a steal.
posted by MissySedai at 6:45 PM on June 29, 2017


Inkwell is nice. If I could justify it, I'd call $400 a steal.

Agreed, except there is never any way I could do $400 for a font.
posted by Samizdata at 6:57 PM on June 29, 2017


You don’t often see that style done without a trademark wide nib.

Except in math lectures; Fraktur, blackboard bold, and calligraphic (vaguely Arrighi, usually) are common enough that they get special treatment in software aimed at mathematicians and physicists. On a chalkboard you can break off a short piece of chalk and use it as a wide nib, but on a whiteboard it's more like this font.
posted by clew at 7:32 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


obligatory the disease is inside you

As somebody with a signed, framed print of this, I thank you.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:37 PM on June 29, 2017


There's a great quote by the guy who developed Comic Sans, "If you love Comic Sans you don't know anything about fonts and if you hate Comic Sans you don't know anything about fonts."
posted by paulcole at 7:46 PM on June 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


Comic Sans itself is not the problem. Inappropriate use of Comic Sans ... that's the problem.
posted by jferg at 8:28 PM on June 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


In another 'previously' I discussed the letter I dislike in almost all fonts, because it is so different than the way we write it: the archaic printed letter 'a', sometimes called the double story 'a', as opposed to the single story 'ɑ'.

Inkwell claims to be based on handwriting, yet they get this wrong.

Comic Sans is one of the only fonts to get this right. Comic Neue, mentioned by honestcoyote, also gets it right, is more professional looking, and doesn't cost $299. It may be my new favorite font.
posted by eye of newt at 8:31 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Inkwell, to my cartoonist's eye, looks a lot like the mannered hand lettering of Harvey Kurtzman.

It's pretty, and I like its character, but it's nothing any competent comic book letterer couldn't knock out in an afternoon.

Typographers, in my experience, are extremely impressed with themselves, and treat their profession as if it were some secretive medieval guild. It's fun to watch them clutch their pearls when they see the proles (like me, heh-heh) start playing with their precious glyphs. But I digress.
posted by KHAAAN! at 9:04 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


I don't understand being so emotionally invested in how someone else handles their fonts.

No doubt! I bet that person isn't usually very rude, either. But here, it didn't occur to them that it doesn't much matter, and is furthermore none of their business, what font you want to use, on your phone, for your text messages?

It's like Comic Sans hate has changed from being a nerd shibboleth to a superstition, like it's an actual harmful presence and must be stopped.

On preview:
It's fun to watch them clutch their pearls
trolling typographers is shooting fish in a barrel, they are like a bundle of live nerves
posted by thelonius at 9:07 PM on June 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


Inkwell claims to be based on handwriting, yet they get this wrong.

I handwrite with double story 'a's and so does at least one of my daughters (and I'm pretty sure she didn't get it from me). I think I started doing it in college because I liked making the æ ligature.
posted by straight at 10:53 PM on June 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


Comic Sans itself is not the problem. Inappropriate use of Comic Sans ... that's the problem.

Like filing your response to the other side in a lawsuit?

If you need a + sign, don't use this font in legal papers, whatever you do.

(now that courts allow PDFs I'm wondering if I can get the embedded MOV format to work so I can do a .GIF animation of the text blinking in and out as a MOV so yes....a blink tag in a filing. Audio of confessions have a certain appeal for a filing.)
posted by rough ashlar at 12:18 AM on June 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


Inkwell looks to me like it was inspired by the many IBM selectric "cursive" fonts, which if I understand correctly, were developed to serve the now-departed market for library hand. I could be wrong on both counts.

I have to hand at the moment a manuscript, a fifty-odd page biographical memoir of my maternal great-grandfather. His last wife chose to type it in one of these cursive fonts, fairly comparable to the use case for Comic Sans or Inkwell. I beleive, as the material is in fact a mauscript, the word implying hand-written, that she selected one of the fonts as appropriate to the form of the material she was preparing.

That said, I can certainly understand how we came to refer to the style as cursive, because I find myself cursing a great deal at the way that the separated letterforms fail to join and at the same time look familiar and identifiable. It's the uncanny valley of type design!

Upthread someone castigated late-pre-DTP era typesetters for overuse of Arnold Böcklin. The champion of overused fonts where I lived when I was working as phototypesetter was unquestionably Cooper Black, whose plump, self-satisfied letterforms were used in any conceivable instance where the 1980s Hoosier client wished to signify that at some point in their lives they had been cool and smoked pot, but now voted for Reagan.
posted by mwhybark at 1:13 AM on June 30, 2017 [3 favorites]


Comic Sans didn't get popular because it was beloved. It was the only "non-serious-looking" font available in Windows for a decade. And nobody who's not a designer ever installs more fonts than their computer came with.

So people flipping through all eleven choices looking for something a little more fun than Generic Business Correspondence Bold for their passive-aggressive breakroom sign would always land there, shrug, and print.
posted by rokusan at 3:56 AM on June 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


Comic Neue should be preinstalled everywhere.
posted by floatboth at 4:10 AM on June 30, 2017


The problems with Comic Sans are manifest, with the principle one being its misuse. If you are literally not printing a notice on US letter (landscape, for preference) of a neighborhood carnival to be tacked to a telephone pole, then Comic Sans is not the font you're looking for.

Once you get past that (and, believe me, this issue is orders of magnitude down the scale from the first point), the kerning sucks. Full stop.
posted by oheso at 4:16 AM on June 30, 2017


Blambot has some great comic fonts, some of which are free.
posted by tommasz at 5:03 AM on June 30, 2017


I just heard from a typographer who has been working on a free and very full-featured release of a font set based on John Cotton Dana's Library Hand (previously). It's very lovely. Hope it's available soon.
posted by scruss at 5:38 AM on June 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


The problems with Comic Sans are manifest, with the principle one being its misuse.

Perhaps what's so enraging to type people is that the people who use CS don't care at all about any of this.
posted by thelonius at 6:36 AM on June 30, 2017


Even if they don't use CS they're just going to print Arial in green or something.
posted by Artw at 7:25 AM on June 30, 2017


The first two lines on the Inkwell description page basically summed up why I don't hang out in the typography world as much as I used to. It's like a parody of itself sometimes.

Also: There's nothing wrong with Comic Sans that aren't wrong with a hundred other free fonts, so I don't single it out. But it did cause the following story:

On a past job, I worked for a university health center as a designer. I had two rules: 1) No Comic Sans, 2) No clip art. For the years I was there, I had an open door policy and I would help anyone who worked in the health center. If they came to me, there was no job too small or too large that I wouldn't take on. I would help them create posters, handouts, and signs that actually got noticed, and made information actually flow. I even helped some of the graduate students set up a small video editing suite in a corner of my office so I could help them design better presentations for public health events. Everyone, from the nurses to the administrators noticed that students were actually reading the information we were giving out and they all came to me with their pet projects, and I had a ton of fun showing them how to make things communicate effectively. There was one exception, a grumpy older doctor who somehow took my salary as an affront to something, but I got my revenge when I drew a caracture of him as Charlie Brown for a poster, which the staff all snickered at behind his back. Anyway, time came and went, and the time came for me to move on, as I so often do. On my last day at work, all the staff signed a card for me that said, "We don't know what we'll do without you." It was set in Comic Sans and had clip art of a crowd cheering. God, I loved those folks.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:44 AM on June 30, 2017 [14 favorites]


rokusan: "And nobody who's not a designer ever installs more fonts than their computer came with."

425 fonts installed currently. I'm not a designer, I'm an administrator/scientist.

Fonts, like words, allow freedom of expression. Just as you want to find the right word for a specific occasion, the right font can make or break things.

Having said that, out of the 400+ fonts installed, I probably only make regular use of 10 or so. But then again, I don't try to work unusual vocabulary words into every sentence, either - even if they are in my head when needed.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:05 AM on June 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


I work at a Boys and Girls Club, our programs database is almost entirely in Comic Sans.
posted by Harpocrates at 9:00 AM on June 30, 2017


Typographers, in my experience, are extremely impressed with themselves, and treat their profession as if it were some secretive medieval guild.

Alternatively, type design actually is a technically demanding and difficult-to-acquire skill whose best application is either invisible or ineffable to the layman, and unless you're a typographer—honest question—how would you know either way?
posted by Sokka shot first at 1:34 PM on June 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


My problem with Comic Sans, I think, is that it's meant to look a bit handwritten, and I'm fine with that part, but nobody would aspire to have their print handwriting look like Comic Sans. It's fine that it's casual; it's a problem that it's childish. I can think of appropriate uses for Comic Sans, but all of them involve things geared at kids. I can't imagine someone past elementary school looking at Comic Sans and thinking, yeah, I want my writing to look like that. If it were just generic, that would have been fine--Comic Neue is casual and generic and I like it plenty. Comic Sans looks like it was produced by someone with an 8-year-old's fine motor skills. I honestly don't know how other people don't find that wobble distracting in grown-up contexts. I have a coworker who does reports in Comic Sans and he might as well be reading them aloud in baby talk.
posted by Sequence at 1:45 PM on June 30, 2017


I started a side-obsession with fonts in 1979 when I started publishing a 'news'letter called "Wendell's Weakly"(sic) and looked for rub-off letters to make page headers. I discovered Bookman Swash (not the Bookman Old Style Microsoft has since included with Office), and fell in love with it for what it enabled me to do (oh, those swash W's).

Soon after I started working with computer fonts, I became disillusioned with 'Comic Sans' because it didn't LOOK like comic book or comic strip lettering, and having grown up on Peanuts, Rick O'Shay and Carl Barks, I knew how they were supposed to look. I made actual minor investments in fonts from Blambot and Comicraft, but rejoiced when I discovered the Komika family, all 100% free and fully adequate (with minor quibbles). And, frankly, still somewhat superior to the Inkwell family.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:46 PM on June 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm on both the Hoefler & Co. and the Frere-Jones Type mailing lists, and though it was just a bit interesting that they released Inkwell an exact day after Frere-Jones released their new typeface Exchange. Pure coincidence, or attempt to steal the thunder of an ex-partner?
posted by rlio at 5:18 PM on July 1, 2017


I don't like Comic Sans much, though Comic Neue looks okay. I'm not a designer in any way, shape or form. If I want a sans serif font I'll probably choose Arial, because I don't much care. I use Bookerly on my Kindle, and the one font that gets installed on every machine I use is Courier Prime, because I love typewriter fonts and Courier New is an anorexic abomination.
posted by lhauser at 11:13 PM on July 1, 2017


My hatred of Comic Sans results from a deeply imbedded association between it and breakroom announcements for "Crazy Costume Wednesdays!" that my employers would put up to pretend were all one big fun loving family while they cut benefits and timed your bathroom breaks.

Inkwell looks pretty cool, but I doubt I could afford $400 for a whole computer, nevermind one font.
posted by pattern juggler at 2:50 AM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


I've been crazy for fonts since I first started reading. There are many fonts that are gorgeous in their individual letters but don't work for easy eye scanning during reading. Others are tight and cluttered--I despised Times Roman (messy, cluttered pages especially in less than 10 point!) and it was absolutely the default font everywhere--vile! I happened to seriously like Comic Sans and found it useful for specific things like flirting. Inkwell Sans seems okay but also meh, I wouldn't spend $ on it. It does reflect the increasing trend to hand-write in large and small caps--I do that myself since my handwriting's deteriorated so much with constant keyboard use that no one, including myself, can read it now.
posted by lphoenix at 11:31 AM on July 2, 2017


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