Hillary’s running mate: Obama’s fonts?

The General Election has begun in full. In the two weeks since Hillary Clinton accepted the title of presumptive nominee of the Democratic party, her campaign has debuted a new tagline at their rallies: Stronger Together.

Hillary Clinton at a rally. June 14, 2016 — Pittsburgh, PA by Michael Davidson for Hillary for America. From Flickr.

This new campaign slogan has been used exclusively by the campaign in rally materials, specifically lectern placards and site signage. It notably hasn’t been used digitally or for fundraising in the way that “I’m With Her,” the primary’s slogan, became broadly disseminated.

In addition to the new messaging, the Stronger Together rally materials feature a new visual look, distinct from the brand design the campaign has employed since Clinton’s announcement.

And this matters: modern campaign advocacy requires a synergistic approach to rhetoric and design, with both working concurrently to advance the campaign’s message. The branding, like the rhetoric, must be consistent and immediately recognizable, promote a call to action, and reflect the candidate’s persona. A pivot to the general election is the perfect opportunity for new design language.

As the campaign rolls out a new message with a new look, the departure from the thus far extensive use of Sharp Sans 1, typeset in sentence case, contrasts with the authoritative uppercase typesetting of Stronger Together, set in a slab-serif that is familiar, yet difficult to identify.

Lubalin Graph, above. Hillary for America’s “Stronger Together” lockup, below.

It looks remarkably similar to the staunch Lubalin Graph, which would be a very trendy choice, but significant details differ in the ‘S’, ‘G’, and most obviously in the ‘R’.

It bears similarity to other popular slab-serifs, too: Archer, Rockwell, and Neutraface Slab (Display Titling), but all fall short.

If not these, then what is it? It just might be Gotham Serif

Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign became famous for its use of Gotham, the Hoefler & Co. typeface that was originally drawn for GQ. When it became commercially available, Obama for America became one of the first major brands to make extensive use of the typeface. It’s now one of the most popular.

During the President’s re-election in 2012, Hoefler & Co. made a customized cut of Gotham with serifs for the campaign (I’m calling it Gotham Serif; I don’t believe there’s a canonical name.)

From Hoefler & Co., the only “specimen” of Gotham Serif.

To my knowledge, Gotham Serif was only used by the campaign for the “Obama/Biden” lockup, and the 2012 logo. I have been unable to find one example from 2012 featuring more than this, so it’s entirely possible no full cut was made — but there’s defintely a strong relationship between Obama’s designers and one of the leading type design firms in the U.S.

In 2012, BarackObama.com, the President’s campaign website became the first site to use Hoefler’s cloud.typography service. (For what it’s worth, the Romney campaign also deployed Hoefler typefaces. Good design should be bipartisan.)

A third term for Obama’s graphic style

But, Gotham itself, and Gotham Serif as we know it, bears strong resemblence to “Stronger Together.”

Gotham, above. Hillary for America’s “Stronger Together” lockup, below.

The underlying structure of both typefaces are familial. Looking at the common letter between the Obama/Biden Gotham Serif lockup and the Stronger Together lockup, ‘E’, definitely suggests that if this is Gotham Serif, it’s likely a heavier weight.

A comparison of the Gotham Serif ‘E’, left, and “Stronger Together” ‘E’, right.

It’s not a perfect match, no. I’ve reached out to Hoefler & Co. to see if they might be able to confirm.

(I’m @GeoffYost on Twitter. Tweet if you think you know what typeface it might be.)

But, with much of his policy positions, his email list, his supporters, his former staff, and his endorsement, the connections between Hillary for America and Obama for America are many. Even if it’s not the same typeface, its visual style comes from Obama world. With modern campaign advocacy featuring a synergistic approach to design and messaging, the Clinton campaign subtly nodding to the Obama mantle through type design wouldn’t just make for good visuals: it’s a great story, too.


Quick Update — July 5, 2016

I’ve been traveling for work and it’s been fun to see how this story has traveled around the Internet. So many designers and politicos have offered their feedback — and many are great typeface spotters. But, only one has correctly spotted the actual ‘Stronger Together’ typeface, and I was wrong: it’s not Gotham Serif.

Christopher Bergmann noted on Twitter that this is Sharp Unity Slab, a custom typeface for the Clinton campaign by Lucas Sharp, the designer who customized (his own) Sharp Sans for the campaign (they call it ‘Unity’).

Lucas Sharp’s ‘Sharp Unit Slab Extrabold,’ the real typeface behind ‘Stronger Together.’ From Behance.

‘Stronger Together’ remains the only time I’ve seen Hillary for America use the slab-serif. There’s a rockin’ stencil version I’ve yet to see in the wild, too. And while it is a different typeface all-together from the Obama campaign trail, the effects of Gotham, a branded candidacy, and the visual power of type are still very much a part of Hillary’s playbook. Thanks, Obama.


Another Hillary Clinton rally, June 22, 2016 — Raleigh, NC, by Michael Davidson for Hillary for America. From Flickr.

This whole piece got started on Twitter.

One of the key areas of my research in college was this notion of synergistic design and messaging in campaign advocacy. There’s little academic research on the subject, or there wasn’t when I started my research 5 years ago, but if you’re interested and you ever want to read my critical perspective or collaborate, I’m happy to chat.

I’m a designer at Annex in Charleston, S.C., a digital branding studio crafting experiences for arts and cultural organizations.