by Paul Vallett
The hatred of Comic Sans is well documented elsewhere, but I want to inform you of the special science rage I get whenever I see Comic Sans used in any sort of professional science setting.
Last year, I went to the American Chemical Society’s fall meeting in Denver. I learned a great deal and saw some amazing presentations, some ‘meh’ presentations, and then some gouge-my-eyes-out-with-a-pipette awful presentations. I also saw way too many presenters using the infamous Comic Sans font in their slides. Even just walking by doors to other sessions I spied nearly one out of every four presenters using Comic Sans in some way.
Now let me put it to you straight: Every font has its appropriate uses, even Comic Sans. Say, for instance, you’re making an invitation to your three-year-old son’s birthday party. Comic Sans is probably fine. Maybe you’re making a flyer for puppies that are up for adoption — also a good use of Comic Sans. But if you’re going to give a professional scientific presentation in front of your peers from across the country and want to impress them, show them what kind of researcher you are, and how awesome your results are, then Comic Sans is not the font you want to use. It makes you look like you have no clue as to what you’re doing. With its exaggerated cartoonish shape, the dreaded font leaves the reader with an impression of levity, childishness, silliness and irreverence. This is the opposite of the voice you want to use when displaying your scientific results: professionalism, precision, confidence and class. As bancomicsans.com puts it: “it is the equivalent of showing up to a black tie event in a clown costume.”
And who wants to be the clown? You want to impress the people at these conferences. They could be your future bosses or people you want to collaborate with, or maybe they’ll be on the committee that reviews your next big grant proposal to the National Science Foundation.
It’s not just graduate students and post docs making this egregious error. Big name researchers do it all the freaking time. I saw MIT chemistry professor Daniel Nocera, known for his work with artificial leaves, using Comic Sans at the meeting in Denver.
Some people will say, “hey, maybe I like Comic Sans!” To them I will say that I like cute pictures of kittens as well but I wouldn’t put them in my science presentation.
Paul Vallett is pursuing a Physical Chemistry PhD and a Graduate Energy Certificate at the University of Colorado Boulder. He currently uses ultrafast lasers and electronic structure theory to design and explore new types of ruthenium dyes for use in solar energy devices. He also blogs about science and energy at http://electroncafe.wordpress.com and tweets at https://twitter.com/#!/pvallett.