Evaluating the candidates' bumper stickers
January 27, 2008 08:16 AM
I've already said I can't imagine putting a Huckabee sticker on the back of my car. That's mostly because it's such a hill-jack name, backed up by a hill-jack personality. Graphic designers have a problem with the aesthetics, too:
Huckabee has the most inexplicable selection of typography and graphics, from the six floating stars to the white stripe seemingly stolen from the Coca-Cola logo. The overall effect is clutter. The main typeface, used to set the candidate's name, is very tightly spaced, or tightly tracked, as typographers like to say. Some letters, like kab, are actually touching each other. Then "Mike" is tucked in between the H and k as if "we almost forgot to tell you his first name." Setting FAITH. FAMILY. FREEDOM. in such a thin weak sans serif feels as if it was added as a committee compromise or an afterthought. The type is too light, too small, and does not have a real voice.
They're right. It definitely has an "I've never done this before" kind of look to it. Kind of like he stopped by a Minuteman Printing on the way home one afternoon and said, "Shirley, what can you come up with?"
At the opposite end of the extreme: John McCain. I have my problems with him on the issues, but his campaign graphics are fantastic. Mrs. NBS and I actually discussed this a few weeks ago, and when you have people actually discussing how much they like the bumper stickers for someone they're not going to vote for, it means the designers hit a home run. Here's what the experts say:
McCain uses type that is a perfect compromise between a sans and a serif, what type geeks call a "flared sans." Not quite sans and not quite serif, sort of in between, moderate, not too far in either direction. The strokes have contrast between the thick and thin, creating the feeling that the ends are going to have cute little serifs, but they just flare out a little, not forming actual serifs but wanting to. The military star centered and shadowed is a not-so-subtle touch. And McCain just says "President," as if to say he's already been elected. Everything about this logo says you can buy a car from this man. From the perfectly centered star to the perfectly spaced type, the entire design looks like a high-end real estate company. McCain has done something no other candidate has done, he uses all blue, no red - not even a dash.
And the blue he uses is almost a black. With the white star, it looks very, very crisp. Lean. Trim. Fit. Very "I'm more than Harrison Ford in Air Force One could ever even dream of being."
On the Democrat side, the graphic designers say the winner is Obama. I'm actually not wild about his design. Doesn't it look...too liberal? John Edwards got the (supposed) working class mantra right with his simplistic "my shift ends at 1:00 a.m. and I'm pissed" look. And Hillary's graphic? Exactly like bumper stickers always look. Boring. What's she running for, state rep.?