Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Presidential Typeface Debate

The New York Times has printed a fascinating article about about the candidates use of typefaces for their campaigns. Brian Collins, an expert on branding, discusses the importance of what "good design" does for the candidates, and why Obama's design leads the pack. A few of the standout Q&As are below. To read the full interview click here.

Q: What is it about the typeface Gotham that adds personality to the Obama brand?
A: I don’t think that Gotham adds any personality to Senator Obama’s brand. I think it just amplifies the personality that’s already there. In fact, the typeface would work just as well for John McCain or Hillary Clinton, for that matter.

With that said, though, there’s an oxymoronic quality to Gotham, which is why I think it’s become so popular. It has a blunt, geometric simplicity, which usually makes words feel cold and analytical (like Univers), but it also feels warm. It’s substantial yet friendly. Up-to-date yet familiar. That’s a tough hat trick. And Gotham has another quality that makes it succeed: it just looks matter-of-fact. But perhaps any typeface inspired by signs at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City — as Gotham is — will look like that.


Q: Could this have been accomplished with other typeface(s)?
A: Yes. But most of them have been crafted within the last decade or so. Newer fonts don’t carry as much historical visual baggage for candidates looking to the future instead of the past. Among them would be a typeface called Whitney.


Q: Do you think the typographical style actually makes a difference?
A: You bet I do. Style equals accuracy. Put the word “change” in Comic Sans and the idea feels lightweight and silly. Place it in Times Roman and it feels self-important. In Gotham, it feels just right. Inspiring, not threatening. In the end, typography makes a real difference when it delivers words and ideas that are relevant to people. And for many, that seems to be the case here.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

WHITNEY! That is the typeface for BU now that they've just rebranded. http://www.bu.edu/today/node/6079