chris barr


The Comic Sans Effect

If you don’t already know, I’m a huge advocate of the Ban Comic Sans site.  It’s a bad font, and it’s just plain overused.  Look for it next time you see anything that’s been designed, I’ve seen it everywhere from menus to billboards.  Another font that I similarly despise is Papyrus, so much to that I own – one day I’ll get around to making a real site for it, I promise.

I suppose you can link the use of comic sans to print design, but it really can be used in any kind of media.  But, I got to thinking the other day, every different type of media has it’s own “comic sans” per se.  These are all extremely common to see in their respective media types, but that’s because they’ve become overused and bland now.  Whenever I see any of these, it makes me wonder if the designer behind it is actually aware of how incredibly overused they are!  The problem with any of these is that when you look at a design, I shouldn’t see the tools or fonts used, I should see the design and overall message.

I’ve got a more detailed write up about all these after the jump.

Typography – Comic Sans/Papyrus

Just for clarity, I figured I should actually include these and some examples. Sure there are lots of fonts that are overused out there, but these two take the cake for sure. Comic Sans is commonly used when the designer wants to show something as being simple or for children since it looks like handwriting. The intended use of this font was, as the name implies, for comics – but since it’s inception it has been grossly overused and is no longer even good for this use.

So if you do need a font that fits into one of these categories, don’t use comic sans when there’s so many great looking alternatives that most people haven’t already seen! Here’s a great list of comic sans alternatives at Fontscape. Need a comic book font? Try Blambot for some fun comic lettering. For some simple curved and simple fonts, try the Bryant 2 pack. If you need something that looks like handwriting, try this group of contemporary handwriting fonts. Lastly, Ulixa is a great looking alternative.

Papyrus... on a liquor store

Papyrus seems to be assumed to be many things. It looks “asian” and I’ve seen it on chinese restaurant signs, menus, bottles, etc. It can also be used for “beach” stuff, and when one lives less than 30 minutes from the beach like I do, it gets used a lot. Many people seem to interpret this font as having a “natural” look to it and just use it for any kind of product that they want to portray this message about. The problem, of course, is that it’s already been done by everyone else!

For those tempted to use papyrus, here’s some great alternatives. Canterbury Sans, P22 Morris Golden, Tempo Medium Grunged, Platino Sans Informal, and The Florentine Set.

Motion Graphics – Shine

This one is a bit touchy for some people. Shine is a plugin for Adobe After Effects, and Trapcode is a great company that does a lot for the motion graphics community. They’ve made so many plugins that people depend on, and there’s several that I love to use when I do any sort of motion graphics. Shine is a brilliant idea for a plugin, and it does actually look pretty cool.


The problem of course, is that it’s incredibly overused! Yes, it is possible to use this plugin properly, and when done so you shouldn’t be able to recognize it as Shine. So commonly what is done is shine is simply applied to a title or name to make it feel powerful or futuristic. Many times designers just drop it on the text and move on, usually leaveing it on one of the default settings!

What sticks out most in my mind is The Mummy and The Mummy Returns. For such a high budget movie, I’m surprised they left it on the default colors! At least tweak a few of the settings to get it a bit customized, or perhaps they threw shine in there, liked it, and designed the rest of the poster around the colors from this plugin?

Regardless, the goal of most designers using Shine is to give depth and power to text with ease. This can be achieved so many other more original ways, and it just takes a bit of inspiration. I don’t condone just ripping off someone else’s ideas, but there’s nothing wrong with learning a new technique or combining several ideas into something thats new. When I need inspiration for motion graphics I jump on over to and take a look at some demo reels. There’s some amazing talent out there, so why not be inspired by it.



Audio Design – The “Wilhelm Scream”

Most people don’t know about the Wilhelm scream, but they’ve heard it. It’s been in nearly every movie ever made, and once you know it you’ll be able to pick it out from now on. Take a listen.

Not much explanation needed for this one. Sound designers seem to always flock to this sound when a character is falling to their death or getting hurt. It’s actually become somewhat of a running joke among directors and sound designers, they just throw it in somewhere because people in that industry will “get” the joke. Personally, whenever I hear it in a movie I’ll laugh, but I’m actually a little bit annoyed that they couldn’t come up with something more original. Just grab a microphone and scream in it for something new – or just use one of the thousand other stock sounds you can buy. Don’t nkeep using the same one over and over again.

You can learn more about the history of the Willhelm Scream from Steve Lee, a film historian.

How to Deal with Junk Mail

Do you get junk mail every day from credit card companies? I sure do, sometimes multiple offers each day! I’ve decided to write a simple tutorial on how to easily deal with your junk mail. Sure you could easily just throw it away, but that’s not secure and not the least bit fun.

Step 1 – Recieve Junk Mail » This is the easiest step. Just check your mailbox and you’re bound to find some. Open the envelope and make sure it contains a business reply envelope.


Step 2 – Tear it Up » Now comes the fun part. Set aside the business reply envelope, and tear up everything else into small pieces. This means the original containing envelope as well.


Step 3 – The Transfer» Now, take all the pieces you’ve torn up and put them into the business reply envelope.


Step 4 – Make it Fit » Now this is a lot of stuff to put in such a small envelope, but you can make it fit – I believe in you. Use tape if you have to.


Step 5 – Repeat » I got two credit card offers in one day, so I was able to send both companies their papers back, because they want them back and all I’m trying to do is help.


Step 6 – Send it » Now put them in the mailbox so that they can return to their rightful owners. Make sure you put the flag up on your mailbox!