Scientists at the European research agency CERN announced recently that they had (or may have) discovered the Higgs boson, a new subatomic particle, which they believe gives mass to elementary particles.
This scientific discovery, which scientists have been looking for since around the middle of the last century, ranks among the most important in history, up there with the discoveries of gravity, of the earth’s being round, the theory of relativity, the TV remote control, and bacon & eggs.
The Higgs boson is so significant it’s often referred to as the “God Particle.” According to The New York Times, it’s “a key to understanding why there is diversity and life in the universe,” and without its force field, “There would be neither atoms nor life.”
With the announcement of such an important discovery, one would expect the news coverage and social media posts to be all about it’s meaning to the human race’s past and future. Much of it was.
But a good amount of the discussion was about the typeface used by the scientists in their slide presentation accompanying the announcement: Comic Sans.
This discussion was not positive.
Comic Sans was developed by Microsoft for a children’s comic package. It is hated by many type enthusiasts because, they say, it’s not a well-crafted typeface; it is, indeed, child-like; and, worse, it is a cartoonish font. Holly Combs, who founded the Ban Comic Sans movement, is quoted in the Guardian as saying “that using it in most contexts is a bit like turning up to a black-tie event in a clown costume.”
The announcement of the Higgs boson discovery is, for sure, a black-tie affair, if being “black-tie” means being the most serious of occasions.
That’s why the critics feel the typeface is completely wrong for the announcement. One tweet said, “Seriously, I’m not a fan of bashing Comic Sans…but presenting your god particle research with it is like playing J.S. Bach on a ukulele.” The Smithsonian.com goes so far as to ask how important we would have taken Newton’s announcement of the discovery of gravity if it had been made in Comic Sans. Another website asks, “Doesn’t the most important scientific discovery of this century warrant the use of a classier font?”
Perhaps something clean and clearly legible, like Helvetica, Georgia, Times New Roman. Or any other font whose appearance matches the seriousness and gravity of the message: the goal, one would think, of any typeface.