In design circles, Comic Sans is the old punching bag of font jokes. Introduced as a default typeface in Windows 95 in 1994, the sans serif has since appeared on signs, menus, CERN’s Higgs Boson announcement and FBI files, despite regular mockery. As it turns out, Comic Sans MS looks the way it does because it was actually designed for a cartoon dog named Rover.
Type designer Vincent Connare conceived the cartoony typeface for a kid’s computer program called Microsoft Bob. “I booted it up and out walked this cartoon dog, talking with a speech bubble in Times New Roman. Dogs don’t talk in Times New Roman! Conceptually, it made no sense,” Connare told the Guardian in a March 28 interview. He mined speech bubble style lettering in graphic novels and comic books like Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns for inspiration.
But how did the kid-friendly font show up on everyone’s desktop? It turns out Connare missed his deadline for Microsoft Bob’s August 1995 release.
Only later did Tom Stephens, Microsoft’s internal “font-product matchmaker,” take a liking to “the groovy script font” and think to include it in the Windows 95 Plus Pack release, and later the kids comic movie program 3D Movie Maker, released for both Windows and Mac OS. Comic Sans was also a font option in Internet Explorer.
“It’s almost an anti-technology typeface: very casual, very welcoming,” said Stephens. ”When you use Comic Sans, you’re making a statement: ‘I’m more relaxed, more creative. I may be working in this area, but this job does not define me.'”