Why this man created a Comic Sans typewriter


Story highlights

"Sincerity Machine" types letters in Comic Sans

Creator Jesse England hopes to make people think about how they consume media

England says he wants people to use media "in a considered fashion," he said

CNN —  

It’s one of the most mocked fonts on the Internet, the target of numerous campaigns and websites that believe its “comical” design has no place in civilized society.

Now, Comic Sans has gone analog with the “Sincerity Machine,” a typewriter that types letters in Comic Sans.

The idea came to Pittsburgh designer Jesse England one night in September, when he was lying in bed reading a comic that used a typewriter-style font in its lettering.

“It just struck me there was nothing stopping me from making a typewriter that could use a different font,” he said.

Why do it? It’s hard to say, exactly. But it’s the kind of project that interests England, an artist and educator who leads classes in laser-cutting and engraving at a digital media studio for a living. Through his job he had access to tools to etch letters out of acrylic and glue them onto the strikers of an old Brother Charger 11 typewriter he found on the street years ago.

He could have used any font, but he chose Comic Sans “to provoke a reaction.”

“If I’d made it in Helvetica people would’ve just observed it as a little design experiment,” he said in a phone interview Saturday. Instead, by altering a classic machine to type one of the most polarizing fonts, he hopes to make people think about how they consume, generate and store media.

It appears to be working. Reaction on his YouTube video has been mixed and extreme, much like feelings over the much-maligned font. The Comic Sans Criminal website urges people to take the “Comic Sans Pledge” to seriously consider whether it is “an appropriate font choice” before using it in any printed work.”

England has contemplated use of media in previous projects. As a Carnegie Mellon graduate student, he printed the pages of an eBook to create a bound book. He also leads YouTube tutorials on how to write in different fonts to show people that they can “retrain themselves” to use media differently from how they were taught in school.

He insists he’s not a Luddite: he uses a smartphone and the cloud, and he appreciates the benefits of the digital age. But he worries that our fetishism of nostalgia and “homage to older standards in unquestioned fashion” is misguided at times. He also worries about policies and governments that restrict access to digital media.

“It’s great that we can store our own content in the cloud and access email anywhere,” he said. “What I want to avoid is the ability to have control over my media life being removed.”

So, what does that have to do with a Comic Sans typewriter?

“I sincerely want people to consume and generate and make media in a considered fashion,” he said.

As for those who despise the Sincerity Machine as much as the font, he has a reminder: Nothing is permanent.

“If need be those stickers can come off the keys and the Comic Sans covers can come off the strikers, and the machine would be as good as new.”