The Color (and Fonts) of Politics

Guest Post By Rob Kubasko

Color is always one of the first challenges any campaign faces. Why? Because one of the first “choices” every campaign needs to make is the design and selection of their logo. It’s their identity to the world and the very beginning of how they will be seen to the world and, even more precisely, their potential voters. Now the importance of the quality and thought going into the actual design is a topic for another day. (Make that several days.) But for this post, we’ll concentrate on color and fonts.

There’s no doubt that the venerable red, white and blue are the most popular colors for campaigns and for good reason. Not only do they have obvious patriotic significance, but they also offer excellent contrast for maximum visibility and legibility. Plus, they have hundreds of great variations that give any campaign the ability to go after the right tone they want to project.

But as anyone as seen, almost ANY color combination CAN work for politics. Green, orange, yellow and even purple can be used effectively and elegantly. Color can communicate many things. Blues and reds have come to represent party affiliation like never before. Green, for a while at least, kept representing the ecologically minded candidate while yellows and oranges usually represent creative thinkers and non-incumbants. I’s rare to see black or gray used well because their successful use ends up being so dependent on the design. When it comes to color, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Though you will want to keep it to inside the Pantone (the industry standard for consistent color – learn more at http://www.pantone.com) box so you’ll maintain a cohesive look to all your imagery.

This brings us to fonts. Here’s a crash course in typography 101. Most fonts fall into one of either two categories: serif fonts that have small extensions at the ends of each open line that creates each letter (like Times Roman, Georgia and New York) and sans serif fonts that end cleanly at the end of each line (like Helvetica, Aria and Verdana). So, the first thing you need to decide is which font to use. Combining both styles of font can be done, but it requires a keen sense of design to make the final composition not look like a mess in the end.

Fonts say a lot of things. Serif fonts are more traditional. Words that come to mind when we see type set in serif fonts are established, respected, and trustworthy. Sans serif fonts are usually seen as more modern. Words that comes to mind when we see type set in sans serif fonts are contemporary, fresh and new. Today, there are thousands of fonts to choose from with new ones introduced by various font vendors and designers all the time. A great resource to find and examine fonts is http://www.myfonts.com.

So what’s the magic combination of colors that work best? It’s really up to your environment, the design and the skill set of the designer cresting your identity. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some easy tips that will help you:

– Find a good contrast of colors for your logo. A darker blue and white or yellow and black for example.

– White letters over a dark color are more legible at a glance for the vast majority of people. It’s why highway signs are white on green. They’re designed for immediate readability. (Speed limit signs on the other hand, or dark over white so that while they’re still legible, stand out less then the directional/exit signs.

– Never use light colors (yellow, powder blue, etc,) over white for text. It’s illegible.

– Never use red text on a blue background or blue text over red. Red and blue create an optical illusion of blurriness when they are next together in intricate shapes (like letters). Plus, they are not contrasting enough to be easily visible.

– Keep the candidates full name in the same font. Some people try to focus on the last name in one font and the first name and office in another. Try to avoid this. The key is to convey the name of the candidate in the most visible and easy way as possible and mixing fonts within a name hinder this.

– Also make sure the office you are seeking is not less than 50% of the size of the largest font (most likely the last name of the candidate) in the design. Ideally, you should not use more than two sizes of text in a logo and certainly not more than two fonts.

– A good use for a second font in a logo is the office being sought or the URL of the candidate’s web site.

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