February 07, 2004
The Vincent Connare Interview
You are sick of Comic Sans. I’m sick of Comic Sans. Why the hell are we still talking about it? Vincent Connare tells us a some things we don’t know about the world’s favourite font, the one designers love to hate and the one which has been discussed ad nauseam.
First up, did you really allow the guys behind the bancomicsans movement to use your picture as a mascot for the movement as they claimed in this issue of How? I remember you griping about it on the MS Typography site.
[Vincent Connare] I got an email from Dave Combes asking to use it. I didn’t answer right away and I didn’t say yes or no. I guess I said do whatever you want meaning if you’ve got nothing better to do with your time I don’t really care.
Tell us about your favourite and least favourite Comic Sans sighting.
[Vincent Connare] My absolute favourite was that at the 2003 ATypI conference in Vancouver, Canada. The lunch bags had Comic Sans on them telling you what was in the bag� the ultimate irony. Then there was the ‘Fun Stamps’ Neon sign I saw years ago over a store in WA state.
Worst use would have to be restaurant menus, or Apple’s iCards. The worst from way back was a Black Sabbath site. And some woman’s site selling her soft porn that gave me credit for the font at the bottom.
Favourite Comic Sans moment?
Laurie Anderson (or her people) called one of the Microsoft program managers and wanted to use it on her interactive CD. I told them give it to her. But I never heard that she used it.
Disney called once and wanted to use it. I said I wanted a signed picture from Mickey Mouse, but didn’t get it. But then my fianc�e, a talent agent, called Disney in London and explained the situation and they finally sent me a signed picture from Mickey Mouse, I got it this Christmas!
At ATypI I was LMAO as they say when I saw those bags. There was some university bloke who was presenting lists of numbers and other data about fonts and Comic Sans was listed as one of the most disliked ‘among the designers he interviewed’. Fantastic.
Eminem’s video with Bin Laden has Comic Sans in it.
What is your reaction to all this Comic Sans bashing? How did it feel? As the designer of the font?
[Vincent Connare] People don’t know why it was made. If they did they would realize that it was what design is about� designing for a product with an appropriate design. Not Times New Roman. They also need to pull their heads from their arses.
That’s it? Is this your final answer? How did it feel?
It pisses me off.
Anyone had an over-the-top reaction upon finding out you are the designer of their favourite font?
Yes, sitting at the pub after one of our baseball practices last summer, a new pitcher that had just joined us came up and said “I have to shake your hand. I can’t believe you designed Comic Sans, it’s my favourite font.”
There’s also this musician and writer, represented by my fianc�e. He gave her his preliminaries for his next book as a pile of papers about six inches high and it was all in Comic Sans about 500 pages, double-spaced, about 14 point. He said he loved it. I just smiled.
There are hundreds of stories of people saying things like that. I figure it says a lot about someone. If you love it, you don’t know much about typography and if you hate it you really don’t know much about typography either and you should get another hobby.
You have always maintained that it is inappropriate use that makes Comic Sans “bad”. What do you say to those who say that Comic Sans is just bad, no matter how it’s used?
[Vincent Connare] I usually say chose something else. I didn’t include it in Windows, if you want the real story just ask, and go out get a girlfriend/boyfriend and a life.
Designers can be pathetic. Some don’t understand being practical.
So is typography your life or a job for you?
I’m getting sick of the ponces in typography, the hypocrisy is outrageous.
Any theories on why the movement hasn’t run its course? Are there any fonts which you would like to ban?
[Vincent Connare] I think they should ban Apple. First they name their company after the Beatle’s label. Then they release ‘sosumi’ as a sound saying it isn’t music ‘so sue me’ and it doesn’t violate the contract with Apple Music. Now their best-selling product is� music.
They chose Microsoft core fonts as its iCard web fonts. Then it released Chalkboard eight years later and it looks to even professionals I sent it to like a copy of the style of Comic Sans. Welcome to the ban wagon.
Do you see the funny side of all these? Does this tickle you?
[Vincent Connare] Yeh it’s all quite funny and I just saw Carol Vorderman on Countdown about an hour ago.
You have designed Trebuchet, Comic Sans, Magpie and Fabula. If you could only pick one font to be known for, which one would it be? And why?
[Vincent Connare] I have to say Magpie since I had the time to research what I really wanted to do and not just make a font that solved a Microsoft issue.
Have you learnt anything from this Comic Sans incident?
Posted by Karen at February 7, 2004 02:11 AM in
[Vincent Connare] Not really anything other than that designers can’t make a font as popular, no matter how high a horse they want to ride. Sometimes the common man just doesn’t like what they like.
This might be the only decent coverage of the Comic Sans “debacle” I’ve ever read. God knows that HOW thing was crapola. Good catch (and good preparation - fish can be tricky) Karen!
Frankly what I liked most was Vincent’s “anti-designer” angle. It’s sadly very true that too many designers basically tune out the user.
Nice interview, Karen.
I like some of what Connare says: “If you love it, you don�t know much about typography and if you hate it you really don�t know much about typography.” Excellent. Truthful. He could have stopped right there. But the “get a life” stuff and his last comment about popularity just reeks of playground neener-neenering.
Type designers don’t necessarily want to make fonts that are “popular”. Most type designers I know want to make fonts that help make graphic design beautiful and readable - their goal isn’t to see it on as many pieces as possible. Also, It’s funny that Connare forgets the main reason for Comic Sans’ popularity. It’s installed on at least 95% of all new personal computers. If he thinks it’s popular because of its quality, he’s fooling himself.
Sorry, that last bit is poorly worded. I mean to say that Comic Sans is not so popular because Connare has some mystical connection to the “common man” but because it’s immediately available to most people with a PC. If House Industries had a some sort of casual, readable script bundled with Windows it would be as widely used as Comic Sans, and probably more so. People would also probably grow to be annoyed by it. It’s all about availability, not quality of design.
Thanks for treading into these waters, Karen. You are a brave, brave soul. Should have grilled him with those piquant hockey questions, though… ;)
I do sort of feel for the guy. I’m sure I wouldn’t like it if something I made became so reviled. On the other hand, I’m sure I wouldn’t have let Comic Sans out into the world as it is.
But out there it is. I agree that availability has been key to Comic Sans’s ubiquity; on the other hand, a whole lot of people sure do proclaim to love it. That said, the same people I know who have so proclaimed also seem to be people who don’t have a wide experience with typography. But people like what they like; unfortunately, they also tend to like what they’re familiar with — and Comic Sans is all over the damned place.
Connare does seem the worse for wear over the flap, though, and there’s a bitterness in him that belies the devil-may-care of his creation. His claim that Comic Sans haters don’t know much about typography is simply laughable. I think it’s precisely because some people know how many wonderful alternatives there are that they become annoyed when they see yet another appearance.
To his credit, Vincent was very nice about the interview. I emailed him firstly to ask if he would like to do an email interview and secondly if he could still talk about Comic Sans. I was surprised that he said yes to both.
And was even candid with his answers. The interview was much much longer, maybe two to three times longer, and he even talked about baseball, the Comic Sans Euro, which was nicknamed Euri the Euro and many other Comic Sans sightings. I edited it down to what I thought were the “good bits”.
If I was in his shoes, I might have just said, “Get a life.” :-P
> It�s all about availability, not quality of design.
I can’t agree more. It’s really the over-availability of Comic Sans that makes it both so popular and hated. This could happen to any font.
I think it’s more than just about over available. Times New Roman, Arial etc are all over available but doesnt seem to elicit the same love-hate polarisation that Comic Sans does.
Personally i dont see what’s to hate about any font. No font is truly ugly, only the inappropriate use of it.
Comic sans was never meant to be used on shop signs, letters, email, etc. The problem with it may be that the only place it doesnt look awkward is in a comic strip or a third grader’s mother’s day card!
It doesn’t look awkward here.
Bancomicsans was good for a laugh when it was first started, when the site was on a free server, hidden under an avalanche of pop-up ads, and when the design sucked. Now only the writing sucks. Just a bunch of puffed up non-sequiturs.
And, for me at least, the joke is stale.
But jimmy’s got a point about other even more ubiquitous fonts not eliciting strong emotions.
As for the “get a life” stuff, I agree it’s negative, but at least it’s candid. And just the fact that Vincent agreed to the interview means he’s not that bitter. Maybe he just has strong emotions about type himself?
I used to care, then got over it. I don’t really see the fuss. Poor Vincent. At least he talks openly about it.
Comic Sans used to bother me too. But now, I can think of so so many fonts that are worse.
Thank you, Vincent and Karen. I finally have context for Comic sans. I have experienced similar misnomers with clients who have attached themselves to a particular font. One client insisted that every piece of copy, even body copy, appeared in Lucida Handwriting. This misuse has caused me much disdain for the font. She thinks the font is pretty and will bring a Martha Stuart cutsie classiness to her work. It makes it less legible and uninviting.
Personally, I have never found Martha “cute”.
For the record, here’s the email in which Vincent gave the OK for me to use his image for ban comic sans:
It is ok to go ahead with your idea.
bancomicsans is one choice. It should be used appropriately which is:
Not italic, there is no italic only regular and bold. It is appropriate for fun and childish things.
I love comic sans site is ok too since some like chocolate and some like vanilla.
This was in response was to my email request:
I would like your consent to continue using your photo for stickers, t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc. to promote typography awareness through the BCS campaign/movement.
I propose to use the proceeds from any merchandise sales to fund a Vincent Connare Scholarship Fund. Any profits could be allocated to scholarships for students who would like to study typography.
Hopefully that sets the record straight about the permission issue.
So far, there hasn’t been anything that could reasonably be considered a profit. The small amount of money left after expenses goes into making more stickers to give away.
I know the joke is worn out for people who have been in on it since the beginning, but I receive emails almost daily from people who are enjoying it for the first time.
And don’t worry, we have plenty of plans for a post-Vince ban comic sans.
Hi Dave, glad you decided to post that email here. :)
I noticed you asked for consent to continue using his photo. Did you ask before you started using it? When were the two emails dated?
“Your witness, counsel.”
Mr Combs has been told to stop using the image based on the facts that the campaign is not living up to his claim in the email. He started using the image before asking permission and already registered his website before the email he posted here. I did not give him permission to post my emails on the web as well.
He has been asked several times now to STOP using my image on in his campaign based the actions of the campaign do not match the original email as he simply outlined.
There has never been any formal agreement and I do not approve of this campaign.
The OK from Vincent was dated Sat, 18 Jan 2003. It was in reply to my second request sent 17 January 2003. The first request was in December 2002 if I remember correctly.
And I did originally download his image from connare.com WITHOUT permission. I had no idea the campaign would become such an issue. I contacted Vincent immediately when I realized it was becoming a movement.
The request from Vince to stop using his image is dated Tue, 10 Feb 2004.
The problem I now have is, that though I would like to honor Mr. Connare’s request to stop using his image, I have invested quite a lot of time, money, and energy in the campaign. I was reasonably certain that I had his approval to use his image, otherwise, I’d have chosen a different one. Now I have inventory including thousands of stickers with his image. Please understand that I am not excited about the proposition of destroying all my current stock.
Anyone highly skilled in the art of arbitration care to help us settle this matter? So far we’ve been unable to come to agreeable terms on our own.
I think the fair thing to do would be to:
1) Be allowed to use the materials you’ve paid for so far.
2) Make no more material with his image.
3) Provide a formal -but terse- written apology on your site.
Good suggestions, Hrant. I’m not sure about the apology though.
But I never quite understood… what was the game plan for the ban comic sans movement? How did you intend to make money from the campaign to fund the scholarships? Are there concrete plans for some kind of scholarship programme now?
I can’t seem to find any mention of this on the bancomicsans site.
My problem with this is:
1. My image was used in a national design magazine without my consent. It was never part of the brief that it would be put into commercial magazines. How magazine is a commercial magazine.
2. It was not part of the brief that you or workers would be paid for their time or how the proceeds from any of this would be used. The proceeds were described as going to the scholarship only! Volunteers aren’t paid. And neither am I getting anything from this other than grief.
Regardless of the past, the present you are doing things that I do not agree with that you did not fully describe in the brief.
Therefore since there is nothing written or agreed it is too open ended and I object to the campaign based on this.
Stop using my image and you can do what the hell you want.
This is not up for debate. Stop using my image. This is the last time I am going to say this.
It is your fault for making stickers if they cost you money. Do what you like with them but I thought it was considered anti-social behaviour to put up bills in public places.
Keep in mind this is Microsoft’s font, they ship it and they own the copyright.
Originally there was nothing even vaguely resembling a game plan. It was nothing more than a little joke I expected a few design and type gurus to enjoy. I thought it might provide a little stress-relief break from the daily grind and hopefully free up some creativity. I started the campaign on a whim, mostly inspired by Shepard Fairey’s Obey Giant. I also adapted concepts from the blowthedotoutyourass.com site and citizensfortruth.org.
Almost immediately, I began receiving emails from people who were enjoying bancomicsans.com so I decided to take it to the next level by getting Vince’s permission to use his image. In exchange for permission, I thought it a good idea to offer to use any substantial money made for a Typography scholarship in Vince’s name. The money would come from the sales of stickers, t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc. It seemed unlikely to be a financially successful endeavor, but I wanted to consider all possibilities. It was enough for me that people were enjoying it. That’s the real motivation for me.
There hasn’t been anything to date that could reasonably be considered a profit. I invested a lot of my own money in things like silkscreening equipment to make t-shirts, but haven’t been very successful with those. If I’d been paid for the time I’ve invested in the campaign, I’d have made maybe 50 cents per hour. But instead of paying myself, I invest any money back into the campaign. I think it’s similar to the propaganda machine model that has made the Obey Giant campaign so successful.
Any scholarship plans are on hold for now. I didn’t mention the scholarship idea on the site because I don’t have the knowledge to execute it. I offered to let someone that Vince knows and trusts handle the scholarship. He didn’t respond.
I hope this sufficiently answers your questions, Karen. Thank you for the opportunity to present my side of the story.
>This is not up for debate. Stop using my image. This is the last time I am going to say this.
Or what? You’ll design another ugly font?
Guys, put your egos back in their cages.
Dave, you made the initial mistake of using Vincent’s image without permission. This means a formal apology (not least to [briefly] explain how we got to the point of Vincent no longer wanting to work with you) is necessary.
Vincent, you did give some form of permission, so you need to accomodate Dave’s desire not to lose money on this crazy thing.
The need for a resolution is as important as the details of a resolution. Your (plural) only choices are: let this piss you off for the rest of your life; utterly defeat the other party; or compromise. The last is the most challenging - can you do it?
Maybe Cheshire will do a remixed music video to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”. Hrant will play Michael. Vinnie and all the I love Comic Sans gang on one side, me and my crew on the other. I think it could be a hit. Can you dance, Hrant?
Seriously, though, I’m willing to compromise. Vincent?
You should issue an apology. Your emails were poorly written and misleading. I would get a job to account for lost investment, and work with the system. Posting any flyer or propoganda publicly without the permission of landowners is illegal, and at least questionable. I never felt comfortable with colleagues who promote secret postings. Yes, they work outside of our political system and uphold reacting against the �man.� If you have a problem with the system, work to change it legally. Build a legitimate posting site in your city for flyers.
With regards to your ban comic sans project. It’s catchy, but also negative. I would find another hobby. Your approach also lacks creativity. You could design a better typeface if comic sans irritates you to that extent. Your campaign profits from the established brand of Comic Sans. You have not contributed new material to the campain, only repackaged a designer’s work. Oh, and Vincent could sue you and win. I would offer him some respect and learn a lesson.
It is also repulsive for you to exploit the approachability of a designer and breach any trust they could have held for you by posting their emails online. Take a lesson in etiquette and intelligence.
Final-Recipient: RFC822; email@example.com
Remote-MTA: DNS; mx2.mail.yahoo.com
Diagnostic-Code: SMTP; 554 delivery error: dd Sorry your message to firstname.lastname@example.org cannot be delivered. This account has been disabled or discontinued [#102]. - mta132.mail.sc5.yahoo.com
Last-Attempt-Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 13:00:32 -0600
From: “dave combs”
Subject: Your post on Snog Blog
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 14:00:27 -0500
Is this your real email address? I’m asking because the answer will determine whether or not I reply to your post on Snog Blog.
> If you have a problem with the system,
> work to change it legally.
If voting could really make a difference it would be illegal.
Let’s get back to finding a solution to this mess. I agree to Hrant’s suggestion as outlined here:
1. I will sell the inventory of Vince stuff I have on hand.
2. I will not produce any more products with Vincent’s image. The image has already been pulled from the Cafe Press products.
3. I will post on the home page of bancomicsans.com a sincere, formal apology.
Over to you, Vince.
Me, I’m just tickled that Hrant’s taken on the role of arbitrator in this one. A very equitable solution indeed, HHP.
(Oh, you know I love ya, ya big lug.)
Design is Compromise is Design.
I’m actually the only person who has managed to get Bill Troop and Adobe halfway towards an agreement about a contested font design (thanks to what I think was the ingenious stratagem of reversing the royalty agrement). But in the end Bill had more psychological points to gain by pulling out - I can’t help people who dream of becoming a Greek Tragic Hero - anybody else is more than welcome to ask for help.
He he, it is quite funny that Hrant is arbitrating. Usually he is somewhere at the extremes.
But his suggestions are quite fair. And I do hope that Vincent will say something….
Take my image and anything negative to me off the site.
>1. I will sell the inventory of Vince stuff I have on hand.
Yes. Sell the stuff you already made.
>2. I will not produce any more products with Vincent�s image. The image has already been pulled from the Cafe Press products.
Yes. no more use of the image.
>3. I will post on the home page of bancomicsans.com a sincere, formal apology.
Yes thanks asap.
Thank you for your willingness to compromise, Vincent. I am sincerely sorry for any grief I have caused you with the ban comic sans campaign. I honestly never intended to do so. It was a practical joke that went too far.
Over the last few days, I’ve tried to think of things from your perspective, and I understand why you’re pissed. Please accept my written apology here and I will post a less personal, but direct apology on bancomicsans.com.
I wish you the all best in your future endeavors, Vince, and if you won’t count me as a friend, at least please don’t count me as an enemy.
In All Sincerity,
My apology is posted.
The image has been removed from the home page.
Additional necessary changes will be made in a timely manner.
And of course thanks to Karen for being such a primo catalyst!
Gee… when I did the interview, I had no idea there was all these beneath the surface. But I’m glad it’s all sorted out now.
Don’t stop coming to Snog Blog though!
Someone wrote this about the interview:
“For whatever record: I’m not entirely sure which level of geekdom (or that infernal Inferno meme) font squabbles are located in. A pretty darned amusing one, though.”
Which level of geekdom??? You tell me. And who is Kate?
i just asked a client to do a font dump from their standard PCs to select something to ‘type with’ on their new letterhead (designed by me) and i have to say the choice was pretty appalling. (client can;t afford to buy full set of licences)
i reckon microsoft would only bundle type with windaz if
a) it were crap
b) it were crap and quirky
c) it cost them zero do so
d) the foundries didnt really care about it anymore
e) nasty rip-offs of other decent fonts.
take your pick
The more recent fonts for Windows are nothing short of stellar! Many are designed by Matthew Carter (not at all for free), and they all look superb onscreen, and most of them look great in print too. Plus they’re mostly original designs.
Georgia is a rock - it’s the best “standard” font in history.
If your customer were using Macs instead of Windows, or better still Linux, which of the standard Mac fonts or Linux fonts would you have recommended?
Also wouldn’t it have been better to ask for the list before designing the letterhead?
Anyhow it’s nice to see you’re using one of Vinnie’s fonts on your web site ;-)
In all seriousness, the reason a particular font ended up in Windows may not seem obvious. But here are a few reasons�
1. To provide a level of compatibility with an existing industry-standard set - TNR, Arial, Courier New, Symbol
2. The fonts were part of another product that got absorbed into Windows - The ‘Web fonts’
3. The font supplies support for a particular language - the CJK fonts, Mangal (Hindi), MV Boli (Maldives) etc.,
4. Attempts to unify the look and feel with the product branding - Franklin Gothic
5. Showcase fonts that demonstrate a particular technology - Palatino Linotype
Adding a font to an OS is never taken lightly - it’s very difficult to ever take a font out once it’s in without upsetting a ton of people.
Not that I want to start the fighting again or anything, but I have to admit, I like Chalkboard better. I find it cleaner and more legible than comic sans while still having that comic book/playful feel. I’m glad Macintosh decided to do a spin off. I have found myself in need of a comic book font on an occasion or two and I would rather use Chalkboard than Comic Sans if was in a pinch and had to resort to system fonts. Of course there is always Blambot.com who is in the business of comic book fonts and even has some for free.
> I�m glad Macintosh decided to do a spin off.
More like “rip off”.
You’re happy because you don’t really care about the craft of type design.
Wow, I had seen the coin previously without realising that Comic Sans was the font used! Thanks for pointing it out Stewf.
> The more recent fonts for Windows are nothing short of stellar! Many are designed by Matthew Carter
With respect, Trebuchet and Verdana are pretty shocking. The latter is tolerable on screen but should never be seen on paper. Don’t get me started on Comic Sans (and the horrible Chalkboard). At least in this interview we at last have tacit admission that Comic Sans was a tactical and undercooked product (gee, from Micro$oft?).
It would be nice if honest opinions and criticism of the typefaces - sometimes trenchant ones are merited - were not so readily mistaken for personal attacks on the designer. Mr Connare seems to get as many bouquets as brickbats so why the prickliness? Few type designers ever achieve such fame for so little.
so, Vincent. you stopped e-mailing me asking me when I’m going to hurry up and get divorced, and also stopped IM’ing me making comments about my breast size. I wondered why this was, and then I read this interview mentioning a fiancee. How nice for you!!! congrats, man!!
Aimee (a.k.a. Silke)
I love Comic Sans so I got another hobby!
Thanks Aimee good luck to little ducky and the wackos in NM.
Do you still live in Reading?
This has turned into the Contact Vincent thread.
I live in Reading, you see. You are a bit of a celebrity and I felt rather honoured to live in a town where “Mr Comic Sans” himself once lived! I’m thinking of nominating you for a blue plaque (embossed Comic Sans obviously!) What pubs did you frequent when you were here?
Had friends who worked in the Hooden Hat or something that use to be called the Mitre. Both are closed and it might be a wine bar now.
The Roebuck for a quiet pint if it’s not quiz night.
Purple Turtle for a late one or when AtypI was on.
the George, I think it’s called on the far end of town near the mega cinema and towards the road to the M4. Overpriced food and some moody barmen.
Cool. Wow - to think I might have been at the Turtle when you were there! That’s crazy!
The video interview only available for mainland UK customers. sorry.
Did they use any screen grabs from this site?
Someone from Channel 4 emailed me about it.
I wonder if there’s any way we can get hold of that interview? People outside of UK want to see!
I have asked permission to use the clips and I will let you know if I can rebroadcast them. Your interview unfortunately never came up and they did not use any content from your site. If I put up the vids I’ll also link back to you for more detail.
Thanks Vincent. Can’t wait to see the interview!
I finally got it up on youtube and blogged them at:
Thanks Vincent. I had no idea you looked so benign. I was kinda expecting the pixellated posterized guy in the stickers to be sitting there at the interview.
No, I know plenty about typography and I hate it.
Damn right about usage, though…heck I’ve USED Comic Sans to great effect. It’s true it’s a solution. But man the fact that fonts are available to the mainstream kills it if it’s anything other than the most utilitarian of typefaces. I guess I feel like fonts shouldn’t be available to regular people any more than bulldozers, particle accelerators, cat-o-nine tails, or some other trade-specific tool should. I suppose Comic IS ok since I’ve used it in specific solutions. But geez. If I see the guy who made Papyrus on the street, he’s a goner.
And yeah chalkboard just sucks. I’m trying to imagine something worse than Arializing Comic Sans, but I just can’t.
actually i thought he looks quite benign in that pixelated posterized sticker.
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