When Jeb Bush launched his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination this week, knowledgeable designers weren’t surprised by the typeface used for for the Jeb! Logo — Baskerville. Why Baskerville? Baskerville ranks highly as a typeface of trust. Something every politician is seeking from the public. So how do we know this? Who voted?
In a study via the New York Times in 2012, writer/filmmaker Errol Morris conducted an online test to measure readers belief in a statement presented in 6 different typefaces (see above). Readers thought the exercise related to optimism versus pessimism. The results indicated readers were most likely to agree with the statement set in Baskerville. Of no surprise was the worst results were attributed to Comic Sans. Every designer’s most hated typeface.
So again, why Baskerville. Perhaps it’s classic style harkens back to times of greater trust and respect for authority. But that’s pure speculation on my part. It’s also bereft of the sharp spikes and quirks of the other two serif faces.
The release of this story was very timely for me. Although I was aware of the study, this was a great reminder. I was soon after asked for thoughts on a potential client’s logotype. The typeface is a solid, modern, condensed sans serif. Superficially, it is in tune with the company’s market. The deeper story however is that the brand is heavily marketed on trust. The logotype doesn’t express that. I’ve recommended exploration and testing of alternatives. It will be interesting to see the results if they proceed.
Typefaces have personality and character. Each has a look and feel that may be appropriate for a particular instance. Reputable designers take great care in typeface selection. I typically set proposed concepts in different typefaces to explore which conveys the intended message most appropriately.
How much difference can a typeface have on outcomes? Morris himself pondered that. “Could it swing an election?” A candidate using Baskerville might be hard to trump.
Related: The Hillary Clinton Logo Debacle
*The Modern typeface in the graphic is a variation on the actual one used. I tried to get the real one. Trust me.
**Use of Comic Sans is for illustrative purposes only. It should not be used for any other reason.