Gordon Smith

Not So Comical: How Comic Sans Demands Your Attention

For our money, Comic Sans is the Pol Pot of fonts. However, there is a method behind the brutal madness apparently (not that it has convinced us).


Comic sans. It’s ugly. It’s difficult to read. Most of all, it’s illegible nature demands your attention, requiring all the more brain power to understand just what it is exactly you see printed before you.

Psychologists in the UK worked with school teachers in an experiment that no doubt enraged any graphic designers-to-be in their classrooms.

Teaching handouts were reformatted with some formatted in a “standard font” like Times New Roman or Helvetica – your standard, go to, “easy to read” fonts; other classes received handouts written in the beautifully named Haettenschweiler, a tightly pushed-together Germanic font – the kind of which you’d see on the side of a Lutheran church or on the side of your local Belgian beer café; others still received the handwriting-esque Monotype Corsiva. But, most significantly – and hideously – many students received their work printed in the ultimate sin: Comic Sans, italicized.

Students who received their handouts in these generously described “difficult, ugly fonts” had better performance in their end of term exams across a range of subjects. The reason? While fonts like Times New Roman are incredibly easy on the eye, this can, in fact, be as much a curse as it is a blessing.

When a font is exceedingly easy to read, it can lead the reader to feel as though they have “already” read whatever the text may be. This ease in readability leads us to instinctively glance over our text rather than actively read it.

An uglier font like the infamous Comic Sans, however, attracts more attention from us due to its inherent lack of readability. Once these curvy pieces of hell font grab our attention, our brains then make efforts to try and understand whatever it is they are spelling out.

As economist Tim Harford says in a video with Business Insider, this perceived difficulty is in fact “helping you concentrate on your homework.”

So, as it turns out, the secret to improving academic results comes down not to our teachers’ abilities, but to just what font they use to show those abilities off.

Either that or this whole concept has been set up by a group of Comic Sans apologists.




Gordon Smith

Journalist by day, cunning linguist by night. A passion for politics, hypnotically involved in human rights. An Australian born with a Japanese tongue, hoping to hold the bigwigs in government to account.

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