We interviewed Vincent Connare, the creator of Comic Sans on how he came to design fonts in-house at Microsoft, what inspired his fonts, including Comic Sans, Trebuchet MS and Webdings, and what he makes of its widespread criticism of Comic Sans amongst the design community. He also shared his interesting views about how typography has developed over the past few years, and what the future holds for it given recent developments in web standards. Finally, he gave us an insight in to what he’s working on now at Dalton Maag London. His responses are published in their entirety below.
What is your personal background?
I was born 1/8 of a mile from the home plate of Fenway Park in Boston Massachusetts USA. I played lots of sports but mainly played baseball and ice hockey. I was trained in painting and photography at New York Institute of Technology in Manhattan NY and have a Masters degree from the University of Reading UK.
What did being an in-house font designer for Microsoft entail and what were your best and worst experiences there?
My job title was Typographic Engineer. Which meant supporting vendors to Microsoft and fixing font problems for Microsoft. The best experience was probably going to my first company meeting in my boss’ old Buick with a Swiss engineer listening to him talk about how he liked to go line dancing while we listened to country music on our way to the King Dome in Seattle. The worst probably would have been when my boss Robert Norton asked me to drive that same old Buick to his home and follow him (in his newish BMW) up route 405 in Seattle. He proceeded to cut through traffic to see if I could keep up.
Where did the inspiration for Comic Sans come from?
The idea came for working with the Microsoft Consumer division and making fonts for children. I had comic books in my office and when a Program Manager brought in the beta version of Microsoft Bob using Times New Roman in speech balloons, I made Comic Sans.
What was Comic Sans actually designed for?
Comic Sans was designed for screen use (that is why there wasn’t any kerning) in applications targeted to new computer users and families with children.
For every person that doesn’t like Comic Sans there are two that love it.
Did someone mention Justin Bieber?
Do you feel that there are any real uses for the font now?
Seems writing a letter to someone you dislike is one good use for Comic Sans.
Where did the inspiration for Trebuchet MS come from and why was it made?
What was the reason for creation of Webdings, and what’s behind the choice of the characters?
Webdings was to be Wingding for the web. Simon Daniels, Geraldine Wade, Sue Lightfoot, Ian Patterson and myself created the glyphs in Webdings. It was made in 1996 and the characters came from images the consumer division thought might be used on the web.
What is the secret behind designing a great font?
A great font is one that fits its purpose.
How has typography changed in recent years over the time that you’ve worked with it?
Now anyone can design a typeface. Which means there are tens of thousands of ‘fonts’ available now. When I started there were ~1,000 fonts available. And most people now know what fonts are.
What do you make of the way fonts and typography is used online now?
Most websites now use the web fonts we created 15 years ago because those are the only ones that they can trust are everywhere. In 2011 NASA uses Trebuchet on their websites. This small list restricts the design choice.
What is the future of typography – especially online?
The present is the future of web typography. Web embedding and specifying fonts that are on the website’s server will give designers choice as to how to set their sites just like they would do for print.
What are your all time favourite fonts now?
What are you currently working on now?
Currently I am part of the team at Dalton Maag London and we are making the typefaces for Nokia called Nokia Pure and the system fonts for the open source operating system Ubuntu. Both these projects have large character sets supporting Latin, Arabic, Hebrew, Thai, Indic, and many other scripts.
What do you think of Comic Sans? What do you make of typography – given how it has developed in the internet age? What do you think the future holds for typography?