Vincent Connare: The Father Of Comic Sans

April 6, 2010, Categories: Graphics, Web standards

1.    Hi Vincent! Would you please tell us a few words about your past? What is your background?

I was born 1/8 of a mile from Fenway Park in Boston. I went to art school after one of my sisters friends saw my paintings that I painted just for fun. I originally wanted to do fashion illustration at FIT in New York but they were full and I would have to wait for the next semester so I went to my second choice New York Institute of Technology in Manhattan. There I studied Fine Art and Photography.  I moved to Massachusetts and began working at a newspaper as a photographic technician (developing film and printing). In 1987 I was hired by Compugraphic and began working the second shift doing Ikarus and then later Intellifont and TrueType production. In 1993 I began working at Microsoft and I left in 1999 to go to the University of Reading in England. There I received an MA in Type Design. Today I work for Dalton Maag in London England doing font production.



Lazy Goddess silhouettes by Vincent Connare


2.    Did you have an excellent handwriting while you were at school?

Yes I was always a good at drawing so I could follow the examples exactly as I was shown. I use to draw letters like the masthead of the Boston Globe or type from books.



3.    Where you fond of reading comics?

I use to read comics when I was a kid and love to draw cartoons and characters from Walter Lantz and Walt Disney. When I was at university in New York the comics that were popular and I read were Love and Rockets, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (before they went soft), and American Flag. When I was at Microsoft we worked with the new Consumer Division acquiring and making 'fun' fonts, I had several comic books in my office including Watchmen and the Dark Knight Returns.


4.    How did you get in web typography?

The first project I worked on for the screen was when I had to engineer the Marlett font for Windows 95. This font was used to make some of the icons in the menus and needed to be scalable. The icons were made up of glyphs in the font and rendered to make the full icon. Each glyph had to be hinted in TrueType manually so that each size was clean and in exactly the correct position so the icons would come together. The next project I worked on was a prototype font that Matthew Carter was making for Windows. He created bitmaps on an old Mac and I recreated these bitmaps and made them into usable font files to be used as a system font on Windows. The font never made it as the system font but was picked up by Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer and became the Tahoma/Verdana project. As part of the suit of fonts for Internet Explorer I designed and hinted the font family Trebuchet.


Photo of HannaH Sandling by Vincent Connare for the Lazy Goddess book

5.    As we all know in 1995 Microsoft released your font Comic Sans that was originally designed for comic book style talk bubbles containing informational help text, etc.Since that it became extremely popular and is now used in countless contexts. Have you ever expected Comic Sans to be that widespread?

No. I expected this only to be used by the Consumer Division applications and never saw it as something the system would ever use.





6.    The other side of the coin is that nowadays some people find Comic Sans annoying probably because of being so-to-say overused. What’s your point on these things?

Sure it is 'overused' but I think you can't just make only traditional text fonts. Just as painting isn't only about painting pretty pictures, type isn't just about old style, traditional and Swiss typography.



7.    Do you think that using Comic Sans not according to its intended purpose is a bad idea?

No I think if you really want to get someones attention you could use it for that. I was once told a story about a girl who wrote a break-up letter to her boyfriend in Comic Sans. That must have really pissed him off.


photo by Vincent Connare

8.     Does it make you feel proud that people are still chatting about your creation?

No I made many other things that I am much more proud of such as the first scalable Arabic font for the HP Laserjet II in about 1991, I designed the type and madethe Ministry of Sound's logo. My last project at Microsoft was a favorite it was to correct the MS Sans Baltic bitmap fonts and I used Microsoft Excel to do it. I am also proud of my photography that has been used in books and magazines for some of my photographic clients.


photo by Vincent Connare

9.     Did Trebuchet MS get the same popularity as Comic Sans?

Trebuchet doesn't make as much noise as Comic Sans but it is used heavily on websites. The BBC  news program 'Newsnight' uses Trebuchet throughout, and many magazines such as the Wimbledon magazine use it.


professor Brian Cox by Vincent Connare

10.    What would you suggest for beginning designers?

Keep it simple. Notice the subtle things in type. There are visual changes made to make type appear balanced and equal even though they are not (mathematically). This is why round letters are slightly taller than flat letters and straight stems are narrower than round ones. The capital 'S' may be shorter than other letters in some designs.
Be aware that many of the digital versions of traditional typefaces are not correct! During the late 1980s and early 1990s Adobe's limited hinting technology required changes to be made to typefaces. Stems were made mathematically the same. Also many typefaces by different vendors have been processed several times for different font technologies and have gone under some alterations during these processes. Look at Williams Addison Dwiggin's Caledonia and compare that to Linotype's Caledonia. They are very different (New Caladonia is more correct).  Look at the ascenders specially the 'f'. Also if you compare Herman Zapf's Palatino done in the 1950s and compare the serif ends and stems to the ones in the Linotype or Microsoft Palatino fonts. Have a real good look at Adrian Frutiger's Univers you will see subtleties that will surprise you.


photo of Brian Cox for bob Magazine

PhotoArthur Johnson

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Vincent Connare

Vincent ConnareVincent Connare has been working professionally in the software industry producing font projects for corporations for over fifteen years. While working at Agfa/Compugraphic from 1987 till 1993 he was a member of the Ikarus, Intellifont and TrueType font production teams. In 1993 he joined Microsoft Corporation as a Typographic Engineer where he designed and produced two of the most popular typefaces of the 1990's, Comic Sans and Trebuchet. There he also wrote documents relating to TrueType hinting and font production. Today, Vincent is on the staff of Dalton Maag Ltd. A London-based type design agency which specializes in corporate font solutions, branding, and type design.
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