Font Matters: Understanding Typeface Selection by Political Campaigns

Katherine Haenschen, Daniel J. Tamul, Jessica R. Collier


Typeface use by political campaigns is itself a form of political communication intended to convey meaning. Through interviews with graphic design practitioners and a content analysis of 908 candidate logos used in the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections, we demonstrate that typeface selection expresses information about candidates. Interviews explore the processes by which designers choose typefaces to convey personality traits while adhering to standards of legibility and consistency. A content analysis affirms the qualitative findings, demonstrating that partisanship, competitiveness, sex, and incumbency all predict variance in typeface family selection, with significant differences more common in first names. Republicans are likelier to use serif typefaces than sans serifs relative to Democrats, particularly as race competitiveness increases. Female candidates are likelier to use script or handwriting, and males are likelier to use slab serifs. Together, our findings offer empirical evidence of contemporary practices in political typography and graphic design activities.


Graphic design, typography, political consultants, political branding

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