June 7, 2008

The Type-Off Goes National

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Graphic design has always eeked its way into presidential campaigns. Many remember the famous analysis of the Bush/Cheney and Kerry/Edwards logos which analyzed everything from the choice of fonts (obnoxiously bolded sans serif vs. light highbrow serif) to the placement of the flags (firmly anchored vs. flying off the page). All this seemed to confirm Bush’s brawny, strength-obsessed politics, versus the perception of Kerry as an elite weakling.
The New York Times recently ran a blog post where some famous graphic designers share their thoughts on the McCain font of choice: Optima. You can check it out here.[img_assist|nid=30569|title=Bush/Kerry Logos|desc=The George Bush and John Kerry logos from the 2004 general election.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The Sun’s design geeks have waged our own TypeOff a while ago, and while the conversation was much more diffuse, the theme was basically equivalent: subtleties of the page can easily alter peoples perceptions or perhaps reveal the designer’s values. As the protracted election battle continues, perhaps we’ll see more of this graphic analysis. Its definitely more relevant to the election than half the stuff CNN airs.
[img_assist|nid=30570|title=McCain/Obama logos|desc=John McCain and Barack Obama’s 2008 primary logos.|link=node|align=right|width=|height=0]Looking at the McCain vs. Obama logos can tell us a lot based on just some obvious facts. First, I can’t help but notice that for the second time in a row, the republican chose a sans serif font, while the democrat chose a serif one (Hillary’s was serif as well). I’m personally a serif fan… so you might be able to guess who I’m voting for.
Barack Obama likes to project the image that he is revolutionary, and his campaign logo certainly achieves this image. It’s biggest component is a massive, soft-glow O, loosely modeled off the stars and stripes. The words, dominant for most logos, take a back seat to the imagery: as if the phenomenon is bigger than the man himself. It confirms perceptions of Obama the campaign has worked hard to project.
McCain’s logo is standard for presidential campaigns, but Optima is far lighter than Bush’s font and the shape of characters is far more nuanced. Perhaps his foreign policy would be similar?

What are your thoughts on the candidates and their campaigns’ design choices?