An Atheist Billboard Gets Mocked… and We Totally Deserve it

MSN Now has an article called “15 inappropriate uses of Comic Sans, the nation’s most hated font” and #13 on the list is… not flattering:

It’s part of a January, 2012 joint campaign by the Minnesota Atheists and American Atheists:

For what it’s worth, that font is actually Chalkboard… so that makes everything ok, right?

*sigh*

In the future, when atheists get all the Vatican money, graphic designers will be wealthy people.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Connie

    What’s not to like? Looks OK to me!

    • The Godless Monster

       It’s “cool” to not like Comic Sans or similar fonts.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comic_Sans

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      The font is overused and tacky. The spaces between the words are huge which makes it harder to read.
      The colors are bad and the picture of the baby was obviously taken in with flash in a darker room because the edges of him are very dark and don’t work well with the bright background.
      And it’s so horribly plain and boring.

  • Nicole Introvert

    I’ve never understood why so many atheist billboards are hideous. We are a geeky bunch. There must be a plethora of graphic designers among our kind.

    • Gam

      I’m a graphic designer and I have also noticed that most atheist
      billboards are mediocre at best. Buying billboard space is hardly cheap,
      so why are we so reluctant to put some money in to the design as well?
      And really, what is the point of a billboard if it looks like shit?

      But I guess that what we get when everyone think they are designers just because they got a computer…

    • cathouseumbrella

      Well, as a graphic designer, I’ve always thought of my crowd as more “artsy” than “geeky”. But, yeah, atheist billboards (and book jackets, websites, etc.) are almost always horribly designed. It’s depressing but it is what it is.

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      I’m a marketing/communications nerd, so I work with designers. Good designers are worth their weight in rhodium, and their ROI is extremely high. Pay a designer $2000 to put together a gorgeous, functional ad and it will help your market share increase in value by an order of magnitude compared to the results of a poorly designed ad.

      These atheist groups should absolutely NOT design their own billboards. Find an atheist-sympathetic designer, and they may do it for as little as half their usual rate. But pay them. Absolutely pay them. And don’t abuse them. Design is hard. GOOD design is very hard, and the designer should be paid accordingly. Decades of marketing experience has taught me that the outcomes will be that much more impressive.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

        or, KISS. 

        there are a couple of slam dunk, simple, easy to understand slogans that atheists groups can use. they aren’t copy protected or anything like that, and a simple black on white (or whatever color duo works best) will suffice. 

        “Good without God? So are we.” http://www.atheistorganization.org

        etc.

        our message is ‘eye catching’ enough. simply by announcing we exist, we’re guaranteed to get eyeballs. no need to spend the big bux on high end design. not that i’m saying that’s a complete waste, but in marketing terms, we’re a very rare breed: something so relatively unknown and controversial we don’t need anything to get people to start talking about us but buy a billboard. 

        there are very few products/services/markets that can make that claim, in today’s hypersaturated advertising market. 

        • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

          Indeed the message is unusual enough, but people don’t read everything (or even most everything) that is put in front of them. That’s where design can leverage our understanding of human decision-making behaviours to great impact.

          Simple is good, so long as it’s appropriate. Design doesn’t automatically mean visually intense and fancy. If you understand who your market is, you can tune the design and message to make the most positive impact.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    Chalkboard is not an orthodox font.

    • starskeptic

       I see what you did there…

  • starskeptic

    The only thing hideous about the billboard is the colors used – and I think the font choice is fine (but then, I like Comic Sans).

    • The Godless Monster

       Yes, the color scheme is beyond hideous. Comic Sans would not have been my first choice, but I don’t feel it’s egregiously offensive in its use here.

  • ortcutt

    It’s the ultrawide word spacing that bugs me more than the font.  

    • starskeptic

      Yea – I agree with that.

  • starskeptic

    This bugs me – the atheist sign is the only one on that list where the font choice is actually appropriate: school ‘setting’=chalkboard font, yummy baby=font associated with childishness…It seems people hate this font SO much that you can’t even use it where it works.

    • http://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

       It COULD work.  But it’s spaced terribly.  The photo is HORRIBLE.  Nothing against the baby, it just looks like a snapshot, not decent quality photography that should go on a billboard.  The bright yellow that makes everything look like it’s on a “green screen” is bad too.  

      I wish I had the skills to design.  I’d love to help these awful billboards.

      • starskeptic

        I’m referring to the concept – not the execution…

    • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

      I agree. The font is not the problem here.

  • The Godless Monster

    “…and We Totally Deserve it”

    Nope, there’s no “we” in this. I didn’t contribute to the design of the thing.

  • Shuteme

    The font is ok… But that’s an ugly baby. Sorry just sayin. :)

  • GwydionFrost

    I’m  a graphic artist. And thanks to computer programs that allow any talentless hack to “create art” with a few mouse clicks, I don’t make any money, even though their results may look like that billboard– AT BEST. But thanks, Hemant, for thinking of us and being generous enough to throw us artists some cash when you’ve taken over the largest stash in recorded history… ;)

    Also, the billboard would have been better served had it simply read: “Please don’t indoctrinate. Teach me to think for myself.” This way it covers religion, without singling it out. See, it’s not perceived as persecution if it is just inferred. ;)

    • starskeptic

      Your last point didn’t even occur to me but you’re exactly right – much more effective.

    • Baal

       In an ideal world, we would leave billboards to the graphic artists and all houses would be designed and situated on a parcel of land by an architect.  Design is seriously under appreciated and under compensated.

  • RayM

    This
    aversion to Comic Sans has always puzzled me. It strikes me as
    equivalent to making a choice between several different products
    based solely on the (perceived) attractiveness of their packaging,
    regardless of the actual utility of the product itself.

    I wish I could have used it to write this comment!

    • Moosebites

      Typographers hate it mainly because of its awful kerning (spacing between letters).

      Graphic Designers hate it due to its over-, and often inappropriate, usage. I’ve seen it in business logos, danger/warning signs, ANZAC Day notices, wine tasting menus, job ads, MSDSs…

      Others dislike it simply due to its connection to Microsoft.

      I reckon this would be one of the few appropriate uses I’ve seen, but the kerning still irks me.

      • drakvl

         I am neither a typographer nor a graphic designer. I don’t actively hate Comic Sans — every font is a tool, and every tool has its usefulness — but the idea of a default of any sort just seems to me to promote creative laziness.

        • Reginald Selkirk

           “Every tool is a weapon – if you hold it right.” – Ani DiFranco

  • http://www.facebook.com/fieldsb Brian Fields

    A chalk font works fine – If the background is black or dark green and the font is white, at least.  Then it looks like chalk.

    Otherwise, it looks stupid.

  • http://profiles.google.com/brotheratombombofmoderation Steve Caldwell
    • Willy Occam

       Holy shit… that is too damn funny!  Still wiping the tears off my face….

    • pRinzler

      Yeah.

    • Sarah

      Best thing I have read in a while!

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      That was great! Thanks for sharing it!

    • jose

      Oh my God. Comic sans grew up to be an obnoxious teenager brat who thinks he’s tough and cool?

      Seems fitting somehow.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ellenbeth EllenBeth Wachs

    Try reading the comments in that article. Dissing Comic Sans is SO yesterday. Get over it.  Besides, it works for this billboard.

  • C Peterson

    Seriously? There’s nothing wrong with Comic Sans- it’s a perfectly well designed font, and not particularly inappropriate for this billboard. Is the ad a work of art? Most would say not. But its design aspects aren’t really all that bad, they’re just not very good. The word I’d use is “mediocre”, which covers the vast majority of billboard advertising. To single this one out- apparently because of some bizarre dislike for a single font- is nuts.

    • Stev84

      I don’t share the visceral dislike of the font, and it does have its uses, but it’s true that the kerning is shit

      • C Peterson

        Oh yeah, this billboard isn’t going to win any design awards. But with all the truly awful design present in today’s advertising, often from organizations with serious marketing budgets, they picked this particular sign to exemplify a font they don’t like? It’s hard for me to believe they weren’t objecting to the message more than the font.

    • Marco Conti

      I am militantly against the use of Comis Sans in any business environment, but the presence of a baby on the billboard sort of justifies its use here. I mean, there are places where comic sans is appropriate  maybe not the best choice: there are other fonts that could do a better job 99% of the time, but for your average non-professional designer CS is easy, approachable, cross-browser/OS/platform and a break from the usual arial.

      Just don;t use it for your business website or for your PHD dissertation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Serge-Fjetland/100002295319241 Serge Fjetland

    i agree that that yellow is horrible, and the picture of the baby is bad, but at least this is one case where Comic Sans makes sense.. after all its supposed to be the handwriting of a child!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=638289862 Kevin Jackson

    I hate Comic Sans but it is entirely appropriate when you are making it look as if it is a baby talking. Context is everything.

  • SeekerLancer

    Because the font used totally invalidates the message. Give me a break.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/EODM45N2R75PI57HLZQIF5C3XA Mark

    Are we really discussing the fucking font ??  Jesus h christomatic, listen tyo the message – not the font !

    Unbelievable.

  • Keulan

    I’ve never understood all the hate for Comic Sans and Papyrus fonts. I don’t have any problems with them.

  • Tom Flynn

    Actually this struck me as one of the rare justifiable uses of Comic Sans (or, gasp, a Comic Sans clone), as it’s being used to present a statement in the voice of a baby.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.c.pickard Matthew C Pickard

    Vag Rounded or Helvetica Rounded would have been good choices if they were looking for something more youthful.

  • Lmwanderer

    Regardless of your opinion of the font, the billboard is a deliberate riff on the pro-life billboards that abound on the highways just outside of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. The design, font, use of the baby are all there.

    LM Wanderer

  • Randy

    There is a difference between Comic Sans, a poorly-designed font that isn’t even good for what it claims to be good at, and Chalkboard, which is not a comic font, and does indeed look like what a precise teacher might write on a chalkboard… except that chalk is not really in much use any more (at least not in my area) having been replaced by whiteboard markers and computer projection screens.

    Minnesota & American Atheists might have done a better job with that billboard, but they can’t be accused of picking one of the worst fonts known to the Western world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tuibguy Mike Haubrich

    I just want to confirm that this billboard was a direct counter to a series of pro-life ads that have been running in Minnesota for at least 20 years, and they are this color and in chalkboard font.  It was an ironic use of bad design and fontage, and guess what?  It got attention, and made the point intended.


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