The Language of Typography

by The Campaign Workshop

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Political Typography: What Does Your Logo Really Say?

The advertising world is well-versed in using and exploiting the visual language of typography to convey messages that go beyond the overt, verbal language on the page Cal Swan, author of Language and Typography, says, “These two distinct areas often come together in practice as there is clearly a very strong relationship between the conception of the words as a message and their transmission in visible form.” Nowhere is this more important than in political messaging.

There have been numerous critical analyses of political logos, their visual meanings and how those meanings either enhanced or detracted from the core values and messages of the candidate. In recent elections, and particularly with President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, we saw the visual message and language collide in a very effective and strong way, bringing political logo design on par with the best of advertising logo/brand design. Obama’s strong use of typography, color and visual elements to communicate a youthful, forward-thinking, progressive, simple American message was highly effective and immediately identifiable.

Effective use of typography and the visual language it creates is a relatively easy way to get more bang for your buck when creating your campaign identity — logo, mail, and web all work together to reinforce that language and communicate your message on a deeper level. The team working to create and design your communication materials is your guide to this process; they have the background and experience to see the power your visual identity can communicate.

Before you start the process of working with the team to create your campaign identity, spend a little time looking at other logos, from politics or from the world of business, finding a few that speak to you.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why does this logo appeal to me?
  • What does this logo say to me, what message is it communicating that resonates with me?

Once you have some examples and have thought a little about visual language, answer the following questions about your campaign:

  1. In short phrases, list three core values you want to communicate with your campaign.
  2. Narrowing it down even further, list three WORDS to describe the visual message you want your logo to communicate about your campaign.

Once you have this information, share it with key members of your campaign team and the political advertising team working with you to create your logo, mail and website. Make sure that everyone responsible for executing your message on printed or web-based materials is clear about your vision and that everyone is on the same page about the visual messages you want to communicate. Continuity reinforces messages, in any material, giving them far more power than they would have otherwise.

For more interesting analysis of political logos, check out these online resources: