Comic Sans creator Vincent Connare spoke at the fourth annual Boring Conference on how he created the apparently “world’s most-hated font” alongside a man cooking pancakes using two irons and an expert on Walkers crisps.
Vincent Connare for some may have seemed like the ideal figure to take the stage at the fourth annual Boring Conference. Connare took to the stage to deliver a talk about his equally appraised and reviled creation the Comic Sans font. Though clearly there was more than a hint of interest around Connare’s “boring” talk as the event at London’s Conway Hall sold out.
Whether you love or hate the Comic Sans typeface, the fact that it revolutionised the way that the average person sees fonts. Before its creation most people outside the industry of design barely paid any attention to fonts, but even today everyone recognises Comic Sans, in particular for times when its use just seems inappropriate and outright daft.
The font has seen its fair share of opposition, including campaigns aiming for its demise and the infamous Ban Comic Sans site, the jokey comic book style font still crops up on tombstones and office literature. Despite its “misuse” Connare invented it as a serious solution to a design issue, rather than the choice font for “Please Switch off the Lights” signs in offices.
“A typeface is an answer to a question,” Connare said to The Guardian in an interview earlier this year. “Everything I’ve ever done is a solution to somebody’s problem.” The problem that Comic Sans solved concerned a short-lived Windows interface named Microsoft Bob. For those of you who can’t recall this short-lived interface, it featured a cartoon dog who spoke to computer users through speech bubbles. Originally the words inside Bob’s speech bubbles were rendered in Times New Roman, but for Connare this didn’t seem right, he believed that the dog should talk like a cartoon character in comic book writing.
Connare’s insight came in at a crucial time; the software was about to shift and a solution was needed quickly. Connare speedily consulted several comic books, and drew his characters with a mouse to capture the “wonkiness” that he was looking for. “It only took about three days to get the basic font down,” he said. “You knew what you wanted.”
While Microsoft Bob did not endure the test of time, Comic Sans became immortalised when it was offered as one of the fonts on Windows 95, and strangely became a favourite. Connare believes that this is because “It sticks out,”. “Everything else looks like something traditional that you see in books.”
Connare was not put off by an invitation to tell this story at a conference called Boring IV. “I think it’s good fun,” he said. “They like things a bit funny and a bit weird.”
Moving on the conference itself, organiser James Ward admits that booking guest speakers can be a “delicate matter.” “I always say the theme is boring but the content isn’t,” he says. Though, the name itself has always provided Ward with a safeguard against any attendees left feeling bored by the event; “I can kind of go: ‘Well, it did say on the ticket’.” says Ward, “It would take a particular type of person to go to an event and enjoy it and then complain that they enjoyed it,”
The Boring Conference started in 2010, when Ward caught ear that something called the Interesting Conference had been cancelled, for which he jokingly tweeted that he would stage a Boring Conference instead. Eventually having to put his money where his mouth is he said, “The moral of the story is never to joke on the internet, Someone will say: ‘That sounds good’, and then you’ll have to do it.”
Despite the collective of speakers under the banner the Boring Conference, it seems that the common thread is that all of the speakers are prepared to go into depths to examine a boring topic in such endless detail that it becomes interesting. Lecturer Martin White gave a talk on “Boring German Interpretations of English Language Humour”, which he used movie poster translations to demonstrate; in Germany the title of the film Airplane! was translated as “The Unbelievable Journey in a Crazy Aeroplane”; Smoky and the Bandit 2 became “A Crafty Rascal Is on the Road Once More”.
Other boring highlights included calendar-obsessed dentist Toby Dignam enlightening the audience that all Walkers crisps go past their best before date on a Saturday; Ali Coote’s PowerPoint presentation on her two years working in an ice-cream van a lot of what James Ward demanded: “Insider information and sound clips”. Comedian George Egg solicited the valuable lesson in cooking using things you find in hotel rooms while making pancakes on two irons on top of an ironing board.
To cap the talk, lastly came Vincent Connare, his name being the only one spelled out in Comic Sans at the bottom of the programme- of course. Still to this day, Connare is mildly amused by the worldwide love- and hate for the font, wisely declaring; “Not everybody loves Justin Bieber.”
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