Ben Hersh, at Backchannel, discusses the ability of different fonts to make cultural and political statements.
The US is not so different from the rest of the world when it comes to tribalism and conflicted identity. This has crystalized in last few months, and weâ€™ve seen typography play a substantial role.
Hillary Clinton ran for president with a slick logo befitting a Fortune 100 company. It had detractors, but I think weâ€™ll remember it fondly as a symbol of what could have beenâ€Šâ€”â€Šclarity, professionalism, and restraint.
Donald Trump countered with a garish baseball cap that looked like it had been designed in a Google Doc by the man himself. This proved to be an effective way of selling Trumpâ€™s unique brand.
Iâ€™m not interested in whether Clinton or Trump had good logos. Iâ€™m interested in the different values they reveal. Clintonâ€™s typography embodies the spirit of modernism and enlightenment values. It was designed to appeal to smart, progressive people who like visual puns. They appreciate the serendipity of an arrow that completes a lettermark while also symbolizing progress. In other words, coastal elites who like â€œdesign.â€
Trumpâ€™s typography speaks with a more primal, and seemingly earnest voice. â€œMake America Great Againâ€ symbolizes â€œMake America Great Again.â€ It tells everyone what team youâ€™re on, and what you believe in. Period. It speaks to a distrust of â€œcleanâ€ corporate aesthetics and snobs who think theyâ€™re better than Times New Roman on a baseball cap. Its mere existence is a political statement.
The two typographies are mutually intelligible at first glance, but a lot gets lost in translation. We live in a divided country, split on typographic lines as cleanly as the Serbs and the Croats.