All The Rage

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Obama team's surprise pick: Times New Roman font

November 13, 2008 |  3:59 pm

Goodbye, Gotham, hello, Times New Roman! The latest addition to President-elect Barack Obama's transition team should certainly be a familiar (type)face to Washington insiders. Attentive visitors to the official transition website for the Obama administration might notice that the dominant font is a more staid and traditional Times New Roman (which has been around since the Times of London first used it in 1932), rather than Gotham, the much-lauded breath of fresh air of a font the junior senator from Illinois employed so effectively for much of his campaign.Rage_font22_2

We first reported on the topic of candidates' fonts and typefaces -- and what that might say about them -- earlier in the election cycle, noting that the whole world seemed to be atwitter over Gotham, a font commissioned just a few years ago by GQ magazine, and inspired by the signage of the Port Authority Bus Terminal.  But, in all honesty, we would have missed the shift to Times New Roman if Monotype Imaging (the company that, as the Monotype Corp., designed the original Times New Roman typeface) hadn't brought it to our attention. (We've actually been sidetracked trying to determine if the red, striped necktie Obama wore for his election-night victory speech is actually a Gryffindor House necktie from the "Harry Potter" franchise as one of our readers has suggested -- apparently daughter Malia is a Potter fan.)

"The typefaces used in the body of the Change.gov site are Times New Roman for the text copy and Times New Roman Bold for the running heads," said Monotype's Director of Words & Letters Allan Haley in a follow-up e-mail. " The site masthead, or logo, banners and tab names are set in a style of type that is called 'transitional.' These are designs that are half-way between a warm, humanist 'old style' and an elegant, constructed 'modern' or 'neoclassical.' " Haley said it was difficult to determine exactly which transitional typeface was used because of the relatively small size.

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So does this signal the candidate of change has suddenly morphed into just another Washington insider, kicking the brash upstart Gotham to the curb and bear-hugging stodgy, staid old Times New Roman like a lobbyist with back pockets full of Benjamins? We'll leave that to the pundits of printing and followers of fonts to make that call, but we will point out that since 2004, Times New Roman has been the official font of all written U.S. State Department documents, and Obama is no longer just a candidate, he's an elected U.S. government official (note the ".gov" part of the "change.gov" domain name ...).
But that doesn't mean we should be less vigilant; if the invitations to the inaugural ball end up being printed in Comic Sans, it's time to start worrying.

-- Adam Tschorn

Home page of candidate Sen. Barack Obama's website in Gotham typeface (top) and President-elect Barack Obama's transition website (bottom) in Times New Roman.

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