Is Your Font Conservative or Liberal?

 In Observed, Social Media, The Printed Word

Is that font you’re about to use conservative? Is it liberal? What does it tell others about you, your business, your political affiliation? It’s a lot to consider.

True, fonts are not conservative or liberal but people are and bring their proclivities into any dialog. People tend to associate serif fonts with conservative values and candidates. They tend to associate sans serif fonts with liberalism. Conversely, if fonts that are liked by someone who is politically conservative will be viewed as communicating more conservative values and fonts that are liked by those who are more liberal will be viewed as conveying a more liberal aesthetic. This is not an absolute rule, however. Bernie Sanders uses a bold serif font (Jubilat) in his campaign materials and, by exposure, it is now associated with being a more liberal font. The fonts that convey the most conservative aesthetic? Blackletter fonts since those were the earliest styles developed when the movable type printing press was invented (and why newspaper headlines often use that style today.)

If something as neutral as a typeface can convey a political agenda, what of other elements? Is it any wonder that male Democratic candidates wear blue ties and Republicans wear red ones? Because we have divided the country into red states and blue states, those colors have now taken on an outsize role in communicating political affiliation. But because liberal candidates will tend to stray from the typical red, white, and blue themes more than conservatives, other colors tend to be associated with democrats and particularly independents. And which blue or red is chosen also conveys a message. Bernie Sanders uses a relatively light blue which conveys a more gentle, friendly message. But a deep, dark blue would convey a more conservative message. Deep reds with hints of blue tend to read more conservative while bright warm reds tend to read more liberal.

Even shapes tend to be assigned political meaning. Stars tend to be perceived as conservative, particularly those that connect the upper left and right points with a straight line. Stars with softer angles tend to communicate a less conservative message. Flat stripes tend to read as neutral though may now be assigned more of a democratic bent by  Joe Biden’s campaign which uses them liberally. Swashes, too, are relatively neutral though they tend to be used on more democratic campaigns.

What does this all mean? If you’re a Republican candidate must you use a dark red sign with serif font and stars? If you’re a Democrat, do you use only a bright red sign with a sans serif font and swashes? No. No candidate would ever be elected solely on his or her branding. But it does allow the brand of any particular campaign to flex to fit an audience. A more liberal candidate may opt for more conservative branding in a Republican area just as a more conservative candidate may opt for less conservative branding in Democratic areas. Candidates already modify their language when speaking to different audiences, it stands to reason that their visual language should vary too.

In the end, the candidate with the message (verbal and visual) that resonates with voters will win.

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Lee Willett | Carolingian Minuscule