Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Typography for the Biden-Harris Campaign

Jake Lahut, Business Insider:

The Biden campaign is rolling out two new fonts heading into the November election.

“Decimal” and “Mercury” will be tasked with evoking the 2020 presumptive Democratic nominee’s campaign ethos of “the battle for the soul of the nation,” Biden for Presiden Senior Creative Adviser Robyn Kanner told Insider.

The pair of fonts come from Hoefler & Co., a legendary typeface company behind the lettering seen in iconic American brands, such as Rolling Stone, Twitter, Tiffany & Co., the Guggenheim Museum, Condé Nast, and Nike.

There are a few more details on the Hoefler & Co. website.

Jonathan Hoefler:

I can’t remember an election in which so much attention (and speculation) has surrounded the choice of a running mate, nor having such a large field of eminently qualified candidates to choose from. A consequential decision at an unpredictable time, conducted under absolute secrecy, poses an interesting dilemma to the typographer: how do you create a logo without knowing for certain what the words will say? Logos, after all, are meaningfully informed by the shapes of their letters, and a logo designed for an EISENHOWER will hardly work for a TAFT. The solution, naturally, involves the absurd application of brute force: you just design all the logos you can think of, based on whatever public information you can gather. Every credible suggestion spotted in an op-ed was added to the list that we designers maintained, and not once did the campaign even hint at a preference for one name over another.

Last year, when there was a field of many possible Democrats vying for the 2020 nomination, Matthew Butterick reviewed their campaign typography and websites:

Presidential-campaign typography took a big step up in 2008, when Barack Obama adopted the then-new Gotham font for his campaign. (Though for his re-election campaign, he had serifs added.) This led to the rise of Gotham throughout the United States. But especially in political campaigns, where the geometric sans has become typographic shorthand for #winning.

Interestingly, one of Obama’s few bipartisan successes was inducing Republicans to use Gotham too: in 2016, it was chosen by Ted Cruz and Donald Trump (well, the no-cost Gotham knockoff Montserrat).

This is an admittedly silly little thing, but one of the casualties of the Trump administration has been the typography used on U.S. government websites. The Obama administration stuck with Hoefler & Co. beyond its use of Gotham; the White House website, for example, was typeset in Hoefler Text and Whitney. Those well-crafted faces have been replaced with free Google Fonts like Merriweather, Source Sans Pro, and the aforementioned Montserrat.

In the grand scheme of things, this is a silly thing to be writing about. Maybe it’s something you appreciate — cutting out a few hundred bucks a month in web font costs is, perhaps, a symbol of reducing tax expenditures. But it is also evocative of the kind of Overstock-grade Louis XIV furniture that dominates this president’s New York apartment: it is the impression of class, quality, and style, as filtered through the eyes of someone without any of those things.

Anyway, I intended for this post to be a bit of light Friday fare. The Biden-Harris campaign’s choice of Mercury is clean and versatile, but I especially appreciate the choice of Decimal. It has a pleasantly vintage kind of feel to it — Kanner said that it is based on something you would see on a watch. It’s kind of halfway between Gotham and Microgamma, though, and reminds me a little of a Cars or Miles Davis album cover. It’s confident, tastefully assertive, and distinctive.