Maybe one underrated strength of the Obama campaign is its design cohesion. Michael Bieruit analyzes Obama's branding campaign and comes away impressed, especially with his consistent typeface use.
And one of the things that came up in the conversation is, if you think about it, the challenge for someone named Barack Hussein Obama is that he's such an unprecedented figure in American politics--so much so that everything he's trying to do is, in a way, trying to make him look smoother and more normal. Someone said, "Well, why shouldn't he have revolutionary looking graphics--graphics that make him look like grassroots, like an outsider? Things drawn by hand, things that look forceful and avant-garde." But I think he's using design in a way to make him look as normal, as comfortable, as inevitable as a brand can look in American life. Those are really deliberate, interesting choices. Whether or not a sans serif font like Gotham looks more "American" than a Swiss font like Helvetica, that's in our imaginations to a certain degree. I think it's much more incontrovertible that he's actually using the seamlessness of this branding to convey a candidacy that's not a dangerous, revolutionary, risk-everything proposition--but as something that is well-managed and has everything under control.
2008 is clearly a year of unusual thinking in political circles, because none of these familiar approaches can explain the utterly confounding typographic dress chosen by Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Hillary's snooze of a serif might have come off a heart-healthy cereal box, or a mildly embarrassing over-the-counter ointment; if you're feeling generous you might associate it with a Board of Ed circular, or an obscure academic journal. But Senator McCain's typeface is positively mystifying: after three decades signifying a very down-market notion of luxe, this particular sans serif has settled into being the font of choice for the hygiene aisle. One of McCain's campaign themes is "Making Tough Choices:" is this the one you would have made?