Comic Sans: How to Forget that We Just Confirmed the Higgs Boson
So I stayed up all night in order to watch the July 4 CERN announcement. It was worth it, and in case you somehow missed the news: We haz a boson. The various detectors at the Large Hadron Collider detected a particle consistent to that of the Higgs with the needed 5 Sigma certainty. In some cases, the combined data from detectors exceeded 5 Sigma (which is 99.9999% certainty that the event being detected isn’t a fluke).
During the various powerpoint presentations, something stuck out at me. While the slides were a little blurry due to internet streaming, I could see a familiar typeface scrawled across the screen. A dread typeface. You know the one. I set up my comic for the morning, making a quick addition to play on this design gaffe. Then I fell asleep.
Alright, I’m awake now, and art rage circuits are operating at 100% efficiency. Let’s talk about comic sans MS.
I’m talking about this right here.
Speaking to the entirety of the scientific community, I ask: You’re about to announce to the entire world that you have found the missing piece in the standard model of physics, and you do it with comic sans?
Scientists. Scientists. Even if comic sans were an acceptable typeface, this is not the time for whimsy here. That slide will probably end up in the Library of Congress. Oh geez, I made myself sick just thinking that.
It wasn’t even the first time either. I’m beginning to think this is some sort of inside joke—that CERN is not content with trolling journalists alone, but anybody with eyes. Or perhaps there is some sort of misunderstanding? Is there some sort of cultural divide here, where comic sans is acceptable in Switzerland? Are we being insensitive with our narrow perspective on typeface usage? Probably not.
Nadir, my compatriot over at sci-ence.org sent a note to me this morning saying,
As graphic artists we’re putting an effort into understanding their work accurately—WHERE’S THE TURNAROUND, SCIENTISTS?
To make matters worse: Et tu Brian? Et tu Ed?
It’s entirely appropriate to present in Comic Sans @VincentConnare !
— Brian Cox (@ProfBrianCox) July 4, 2012
Can we just agree that if you discover a new fundamental particle, you can use whatever font you damn well feel like using?
— Ed Yong(@edyong209) July 4, 2012
No bueno. Not okay. Just as I would NEVER draw an Erlenmeyer flask when a Thiele tube is required, nor would I EVER call it the “god particle,” so should science presenters stay away from Microsoft Word clip art and comic sans. Indeed, this sort of thing is a stab in the heart for anybody in the field of science communication. We try so hard to dust off the journal articles and put them in a form that people can understand and appreciate, and then they go and present a finding 50 years in the making in COMIC SANS. Even cartoonists don’t use comic sans anymore.
This nonsense must stop! Scientists, you need to meet us halfway. Meet us halfway, science.
And stay away from Papyrus!
Post excerpted from Sci-ence.org
Bora Zivkovic and I had a jovial facebook exchange where it was jokingly suggested that the slides might as well be fully animated with fades, swipes, sound effects, and clip art. I agreed, “If you’re gonna go comic sans, go all the way.”