RE: Comic Sans (was: RE: FORK Grant Applications (fwd)

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From: Edward Jung (
Date: Thu Dec 07 2000 - 21:16:46 PST

Just wanted to pipe up with a credit: Comic Chat was the wonderful invention
of David Kurlander, the recipient of the ACM award for best thesis when he
received his PhD from CMU years ago. I was one of the people who hired him
into Microsoft. He was the main programmer in Microsoft Research working on
Peedy, the 3d speech-driven parrot that was demoed at SIGGRAPH. Right after
he did Comic Chat, he led my multimodal user interface team which is now the
.NET "universal canvas" group. David is a great guy -- super smart,
creative, artistic, and nice.

One of the things that was neat about how Comic Chat worked was that it
allowed complete interoperability between text-only and GUI Comic Chat users
over IRC -- because each GUI/comic strip character action was rendered into
emoticons or punctuation.

There was very interesting research-level work in how to lay out the
characters and also break dialog into comic strip "panels". Amazing amount
of technology under the covers for a product that, as Lisa points out, had a
"big respectability barrier to overcome"! But that's the way things should
be in UI -- passing the "it just works" test.

-----Original Message-----
From: Lisa Dusseault []
Sent: Thursday, December 07, 2000 3:22 PM
To: Jeff Barr; 'Matt Jensen'; 'Gordon Irlam'
Cc: fork@Xent.Com
Subject: Comic Sans (was: RE: FORK Grant Applications (fwd)

>From humble beginnings... AFAIK, "Comic Sans" was invented at MS by the
"Comic Chat" team. I'm not certain, but I believe that when I installed CC
was the first time I installed Comic Sans, and thereafter it was available
to me for general use, e.g. in Word documents. I think I even published a
white paper about chat using Comic Sans as a title font.

The font was used in CC in the dialogs in the comic-strip-style chat room
conversations that the client displayed. Apparently no existing font was
comicky enough to look right in the speech balloons that appeared above the
heads of characters.

If you've never seen CC, it had a library of characters with names. When
you entered a chat room, your CC client told the room what character it was
using. Then other people's clients would insert your character's graphics
into the comic-strip box whenever you said something, choosing appropriate
expressions if your comment ended with ! or ? or ..., or if you said
"hello", or "bye", or if you had the word "sad" (I think). Or you could go
to the trouble of picking your facial expression, and your CC client would
tell the room what expression to display for your character. The added chat
room traffic was very minimal, and usually not disturbing even to those with
text mode.

It was pure genius the way it managed to arrange the heads/bodies of these
characters in a frame along with their text balloons, in a seamless way that
looked stylish and appropriately comic-booky. E.g. it automatically made
characters face each other when they responded to each other (though of
course it couldn't tell if the response was part of a parallel

I loved comic chat, although it never got much respect, I felt it was a much
friendlier chat environment than your standard text-based one. But like all
chat technology, it had a big respectability barrier to overcome. Despite
that, its font will live forever :)


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jeff Barr []
> Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2000 1:57 PM
> To: 'Matt Jensen'; 'Gordon Irlam'
> Cc: fork@Xent.Com
> Subject: RE: FORK Grant Applications (fwd)
> Matt says,
> > (Note: this is the only gov't document I've ever seen in Comic
> Sans font.)
> Apparently Comic Sans is used to create a very "approachable" document. It
> is definitely less formal and therefore less intimidation than a more
> serious
> font. I would bet that there is some evidence that people in the target
> audience are more willing to start reading this document if it does not
> appear to contain legalese.
> Jeff;
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Matt Jensen []
> Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2000 1:22 PM
> To: Gordon Irlam
> Cc:
> Subject: Re: FORK Grant Applications (fwd)
> Sheesh, how many more bytes would it have cost them to just include the
> URL in the mail?
> (Note: this is the only gov't document I've ever seen in Comic Sans font.)
> On Wed, 6 Dec 2000, Gordon Irlam wrote:
> > From: "Alan Gold" <>
> > To: <>
> > Subject: RESULTS: FW: Food Stamp Outreach (FORK Grant Applications)
> > Date: Wed, 6 Dec 2000 14:46:20 -0500
> >
> > Until I read this message, I was not aware that most of the FORK Act
> passed
> > as part of the 2001 Agriculture Approps bill. Congratulations to all of
> you
> > who lobbied for FORK! Alan Gold
> >
> >
> >
> > December 5, 2000
> >
> > Dear CHN Member:
> >
> > We are writing to thank you for your support of the Food Stamp
> > Outreach and Research for Kids (FORK) Act. Thanks to your hard
> > work and that of your members, funding for most of FORK's
> > provisions was included in the FY 2001 Agriculture Appropriations
> > Act, which passed both Houses and was signed into law by
> > President Clinton on October 28, 2000.
> >
> > As you know, one of FORK's central purposes was to provide money
> > to community organizations for food stamp outreach. The grant
> > program is one of the FORK provisions which is being implemented.
> > At least $3 million will be available for grants of up to
> > $300,000 per proposal. Today the Department of Agriculture began
> > soliciting grant proposals. Completed grant applications are due
> > January 5, 2001, so we would encourage you to notify your members
> > and your local press about this important opportunity. We got
> > the idea for FORK from the innovative food stamp outreach
> > strategies your members and others were pursuing on their own,
> > and we are excited to see what they can accomplish with
> > additional resources. We hope your members and their
> > institutions will seriously consider applying for grant funding.
> > We hope this federal money will help them expand their existing
> > efforts as well as come up with new ideas.
> >
> > For more information about applying for food stamp outreach
> > grants, please contact USDA or contact Morna Miller in
> > Congressman Levin's office (202-225-4961), Matt Dinkel in
> > Congressman Coyne (202-225-2301) or Melanie Nathanson in Senator
> > Graham's office (202-224-6545).
> >
> > Senator Bob Graham
> > Congressman Sander Levin
> > Congressman William J. Coyne
> >
> > -----------------------------------------------------------------
> > Patrick William Lester
> > Director of Public Policy
> > and Program Management
> > Coalition on Human Needs
> >
> > Phone: 202-223-2532, x29
> > Fax: 202-223-2598
> > Address: 1120 Connecticut Ave, NW
> > Suite 910
> > Washington, DC 20036
> > Email:
> > Web:
> >
> >
> >
> > ----
> > Documents circulated on this email list are not necessarily
> > endorsed by the Coalition on Human Needs or its member
> > organizations.
> >
> >
> >

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