4 November, 2008
Voting Irregularities Already!
The donkey is universally recognized as the symbol of Democratic Party of the United States. Except inside voting booths in New York State, where affiliation with the Democratic party is marked by a five-pointed star. Midwestern voters indicate the Democratic ticket with a rooster, except in Missouri, where the symbol has traditionally been the Statue of Liberty — coincidentally also the symbol of the Libertarian party, which appealed to use the symbol when they joined the ballot in 1976. They’ve settled for using the Liberty Bell instead, though some Missouri Libertarians also use the symbol of the mule. Not the Democratic mule, mind you, the Missouri mule. The mule is the state animal of Missouri.
Those who suspect that Republican iconography will show the same mastery of political organization as the rest of that party are correct: Republican candidates are always signified by an elephant, except inside voting booths in Indiana, New York, and West Virginia, where an eagle is used instead. And in these states, as well as the 47 others, the eagle is also the national symbol of the United States itself.
The Chicago typefoundry of Barnhart Brothers & Spindler showed these “Election Typecuts” in their Catalog 25-A, published around 1930, and 78 years later I think my district is still using this same art. Cheerily Barnhart Brothers accompanied their samples with this legend:
When changes in the political situation — the birth of new parties, revision of election laws, or other causes call for new emblems or characters other than shown above, our facilities enable us to produce the material promptly at moderate cost.
I’m ready. You? —JH
15 October, 2008
Typeface: Gotham Extra Narrow Bold
This summer, the Obama campaign asked me to design a typographic poster for the Artists for Obama series. It’s now available sold out at the Obama for America website, in a numbered edition of 5,000. —JH
21 February, 2008
A journalist recently asked what it is about Gotham that we think suits the Obama campaign. We'll defer to designers John Slabyk and Scott Thomas to make that call — they selected the font for Obama for America, we merely provided it — but one thing we can say as type designers is that Gotham isn't pretending to be anything it's not, which makes it an unusual and refreshing choice for a campaign. Political typefaces have a way of being chosen because they underscore (or imagine) some specific aspect of a candidate, working hard to convey "traditional values" or "strength and vigilance," or any number of graspable populist notions. The only thing Gotham works hard at is being Gotham.
2008 is clearly a year of unusual thinking in political circles, because none of these familiar approaches can explain the utterly confounding typographic dress chosen by Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Hillary's snooze of a serif might have come off a heart-healthy cereal box, or a mildly embarrassing over-the-counter ointment; if you're feeling generous you might associate it with a Board of Ed circular, or an obscure academic journal. But Senator McCain's typeface is positively mystifying: after three decades signifying a very down-market notion of luxe, this particular sans serif has settled into being the font of choice for the hygiene aisle. One of McCain's campaign themes is "Making Tough Choices:" is this the one you would have made? — H&FJ
21 February, 2008
Typeface: Gotham Medium
Veteran campaigners know that the best way to gain someone's vote is to be photographed holding their baby. It seems that the same goes for fonts: it's hard to take a non-partisan stance when one of the candidates looks so good standing in front of your typeface. Helvetica director Gary Hustwit shared this image with us, along with a hopeful observation about both the candidate and the typeface behind him:
"I think it’s interesting that the design of Gotham was influenced by early Modernism, another movement that was about change and social idealism. And I like that the design aesthetic that may help move Obama into the White House was inspired by the humble NY Port Authority Bus Terminal sign."
A Font We Can Believe In, from the Helvetica Film Blog. —JH