Outcome 2012 Presidential Election Predictable By Typography?
Now that the dust has settled and the United States of America have elected their new… errr… old president, I thought I’d have a look at the campaign logos to see if the type tells us anything that we should have known. 20/20 hindsight, ya know? Since Shepard Fairey and the Obama camp embraced Gotham for the 2008 election, typography has paid a unprecedented role in American politics and daily life. Before the historic election of Barack Obama most people couldn’t care less what typeface the electoral campaigns were using. Since 2008 however I even overheard two suits discussing typography on Union Square Park in San Francisco a couple of years ago. And as I pointed out in the December 2009 episode of ScreenFonts the iconic “Hope” and “Change” posters by Fairey also spawned a new trend in film posters, with Gotham replacing the classic Trajan as typeface of choice for epic, inspirational movies. This made me realise that the outcome of the 2012 presidential election could easily have been predicted, simply by looking at the typography both main presidential candidates were using.
The logo of the Mitt Romney / Paul Ryan campaign was a tell-tale sign that it was not going to end well for the Republican candidate and his running mate. Like I explain in my presentation Two Decades of Trajan in Movie Posters, three years ago FontFeed reader Owen Gjertsen Troy confirmed my suspicion that Trajan had lost its status as Oscar material. Basically it had been relegated to the standard, the inconspicuous default typeface for movie posters. As such it is now commonly found on collaterals for the lower end of the range in film posters: horror and gore, straight-to-DVD movies, low-budget pseudo-inspirational films, and other B-movie fare. These are certainly not connotations you want to make when you’re trying to win a presidential race. By using Trajan so prominently Romney / Ryan sent out the wrong message to film-savvy voters: “We are passé, we are sub-prime, and we will rip out your guts and eat your brains.” Sort of.
Furthermore the Republican presidential hopeful had incurred the wrath of the Font Gods because his communication team had used an unlicensed font. Typographically speaking he was dead in the water. Read all about this unsavoury incident in What Fonts Say About the Presidential Campaigns on The Content Strategist. However my take on this is – if you are giving away your fonts entirely for free and don’t even require a micro-payment, people may deduce that your work is worth nothing. Then a situation like this is not entirely unlikely to happen. Just my .99 cents.
To be fair one could argue that the game was rigged by the newly re-elected President Obama. By the way – the next time I hear a reporter on NPR say “Mister Obama” again I am taking a friggin’ plane to punch the disrespectful bastich in the nose. Barack Obama was elected and earned the title for the rest of his life, just like all the other presidents before him. By insisting on calling him “Mister Obama” said reporters disrespect the office and the American people. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with him or not, Barack Obama is the President. Deal with it and get on with your pathetic life.
But back to typographically rigging the election. How could the Dynamic Democratic Duo have influenced the outcome of the election? Simply by using Gotham. But that’s the thing – only because it was originally used in the 2008 electoral campaign for Barack Obama / Joe Biden did Gotham earn its new position as typographical embodiment of epicness, of rising above one-self and achieving what was previously thought impossible. See how this story perfectly refers back to itself, and the serpent eats its own tail? Obama rode the typographic wave of success he himself created. Now that is cunning.
Yet there was some controversy about the logo for the slogan “Betting on America”. Nothing wrong with the script spelling “Betting on”: it is the all-American MvB display face MvB Mascot™, inspired by vintage script varsity lettering found in sports logos. From the description by MvB:
Naive and uneven yet jaunty and legible, such casual scripts, with their requisite underline swooshes, were standard equipment for baseball teams from one-horse towns to the major leagues. To bring this aesthetic to the digital arena, Mark van Bronkhorst began with a vintage iron-on alphabet, redesigning the flocked, overlapping letters to behave as a script typeface, expanding the character set to support all Latin-based languages. Despite its professional skill set, MVB Mascot™ retains the unvarnished spirit of its inspiration.
The other typeface is of somewhat more dubious descent, and it starts with its name. Revolution Gothic is a redesigned and extended version of PAG Revolucion, originally released by the Prop-A-Ganda type foundry in 2008. To add insult to injury the design is inspired by retro propaganda posters and wall paintings in communist (gasp!) Cuba from the 60s to the 80s. To make the typeface more versatile and usable for contemporary design needs, design details and spacing were modified, a lowercase was added, and the family was expanded to five weights with matching obliques.
I however am persuaded that we must look past the controversial name and inspiration source. I assume this typeface was chosen because it is very reminiscent of the New Deal, and the associated promotional work program posters, some of which were put together by the Works Progress Administration. This makes it an equally all-American, and above all positive and hopeful typeface that is perfectly in line with the original message from the Obama campaign.
To conclude – give me a call in four years, show me the campaign logos and I’ll tell you who’ll be the next president of the USA. Then we can finally dispense with that tedious business of voting and so on. ; )
The FontFeed is a daily dispatch of recommended fonts, typography techniques, and inspirational examples of digital type at work in the real world. Eat up.
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