Thursday, April 3, 2008

Interesting Type Tidbits

As always, at work, purusing the Times, interesting q&a on Obama's branding using type. Some highlights, below.

Also note the Shepard Fairey (of Andre the Giant "OBEY" fame) designed campaign poster.

April 2, 2008, 10:49 pm

To the Letter Born

Many designers have waxed admiringly about Barack Obama’s sophisticated typographical design scheme, particularly the consistent use in much of his graphic material of the typeface Gotham, designed by Tobias Frere-Jones. So I called Brian Collins, an expert on branding, to get his thoughts on what this “good design” means for the candidate.

Steven Heller: As a branding expert, can you tell me what it is about the typographical scheme of Senator Obama’s campaign that is unlike his challengers’?

Brian Collins: ... From the bold “change” signs to their engaging Website to their recognizable lapel pins, they’ve used a single-minded visual strategy to deliver their campaign’s message with greater consistency and, as a result, greater collective impact. The use of typography is the linchpin to the program. Type is language made visible. Senator Obama has been noted for his eloquence, so it’s not surprising that someone so rhetorically gifted would understand how strong typography is and how it helps bring his words — and his campaign’s message — to life.
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. ...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 are 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.
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.

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