Romney: no we kern’t

Romney fails typography 101.

It’s not exactly a killer accusation, but Mitt Romney can’t get typography right.

The campaign logo:

Grey on grey, the slogan dissolving in the mist. Real sinew-stiffening stuff. On to Iowa! Maybe.

Do you like me think there’s also something wrong with the lettering? The EY looks squashed, like a child’s lettering running out of page.

This is not standard. Here’s the stock Times New Roman:

It’s better already, with no work.

Trying to reproduce the effect, I played around with standard serif fonts in a word processor. I failed. All the dozens of fonts available on my computer made the capital E as wide as the other letters. Somebody in the campaign put a lot of effort into getting this wrong.

That could be Romney’s alternate motto.

PS: For comparison, the Roman Emperor Trajan’s inscription on his column.

A touch of the running-out-of place problem on the right, but TRAIANO is spot on and the AVG is nicely kerned.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

29 thoughts on “Romney: no we kern’t”

  1. All of your complaints are valid but the most illconcieved part is the “R”. Rule #1 in type design is Thou Shalt Not Get Too Clever For Your Own Good or in other words Keep It Simple Stupid!
    That flag drapery in roughly the shape of most of a letter “R” barely reads as an “R” and doesn’t connect with the rest of the word. It might work if they run the red white and blue stripes horizontally through the letters but no doubt somebody would insist on making them wavey (’cause it would be so clever) and kill whatever hope of legibility was there.
    Even if you can get the thing to hang togeather colorwise it breaks another cardinal rule by mixing serif and sanserif faces, never a good idea.

  2. >>Somebody in the campaign put a lot of effort into getting this wrong.

    No, it’s all to easy to do. But it does have to be intentional.

  3. The thing that immediately struck me was that the “R” flag-thingy awfully close to Obama’s O flag-thingy turned sideways.

    The slogan is dissolving in the mist to symbolize Mitten’s campaign dissolving in the acid bath that is a GOP primary season.

  4. Now that I think about it, a better slogan would be “Believe six impossible things before breakfast.” But if they use that, they’d better credit Rev. Dodgson, eh?

  5. Regarding the “E,” it’s clearly a graphic designer trying to be cute by joining the two letters. In order to do that, he/she had to remove the top-right serif of the E so it would blend with the Y, but then the bottom-right serif of the E clashed with the bottom serif of the Y, so they had to shorten the bottom leg of the E to give some space.

    You’re right, it was a lot of work to end up with something that looks wrong.

  6. “When philosophy paints its grey on grey, then has a shape of life grown old.” Likewise a political candidate.

    But I appreciate the campaign’s problem: what color is a chameleon?

  7. I think you’ve mischaracterized the use of an unusual EY ligature as a kerning problem. The aesthetic arguments above can be retooled as anti-unusual-ligature arguments. However, it’s possible that, given the font choice, the ligature is actually the right call. The kerning between the M and the N, which looks fine in general, still leaves the serifs knocking together awkwardly. It could be that the current typesetting would actually be improved by incorporated a second unusual ligature between the M and the N. Looking at the enormous serif on the Y, it’s possible that the EY ligature was absolutely necessary. Of course, when two unusual ligatures are needed to spell a six-letter word of Anglo-Saxon origin, some might wonder about the choice of font…

  8. Wimberley: Grey on grey, the slogan dissolving in the mist.

    Form follows function.
    That is if you enjoy this paragraph from Reich as much as I did:

    Mitt is reputed to say whatever an audience wants to hear, but that’s not quite right. In reality he says nothing, but does it in such way audiences believe they’ve heard what they want to hear. He is the chameleon candidate. To call Mitt Romney an empty suit is an insult to suits.

    Robert Reich (The Unbearable Lightness of Being Mitt)
    http://robertreich.org/post/5371106916

  9. Given how much trouble he has with kerns Romney better hope he doesn’t run into any gallowglasses.

  10. “some might wonder about the choice of font…”

    Don’t worry, if it polls badly, Romney will change it. And then deny that he ever supported serifs.

  11. MobiusKlein FTW!

    “The gray letters are an anagram of money.”

    A while back Mitt was Gov. Romney (R-MA). Now he wants to be President Romney (R-Money).

  12. Apropos of kerns and gallowglasses, the Celtic Galwegians at the Battle of the Standard in 1138, fought naked and shaven-headed: “men agile, unclothed, remarkable for much baldness”. Contemporary English monks naturally documented the atrocities committed by these expendable savages.
    The etymologies of the two senses of kern are quite different: Celtic and Teutonic.

    Anderson: “Romney will change [the font]. And then deny that he ever supported serifs.” Was the angel Moroni one of the serifim or the sansserifim?

  13. And MobiusKlein wins with a knockout. If his campaign ever takes off, I expect everyone opposing him, not to mention every comedian, to point this out repeatedly.

  14. As someone whose interest normally would stop that the idiocy of the most uncompelling gray-on-gray combined with the weak red-white-blue “R”, this post and discussion is really surprisingly interesting. Who would have thought that kerning and “Serifs” would be interesting to anyone other than a techie printer or advertising publisher?

    That said, I’d like to congratulate Anderson for what seems to me the best comment in the bunch. It has been my conclusion that conservatives do not consider the “meaning” of a word important. Instead they ask how the word polls and use it when it will attract a few more votes. They are ignoring meaning because it often interferes with their goal – gaining political power.

    Liberals, being all wrapped up in meaning and scientific analysis totally miss this. Conservatives have determined what the use of a word or term will get them and go for the ultimate goal. They ignore meaning. The result is what we liberals call a lot of lies and the conservatives (without saying so) consider a highly effective use of words when manipulating the masses. Digby’s “Two Tribes” use language very differently.

  15. James, the connection between Kerns and galloglasses escapes me. But then my closest recognition to the Battle of Standard is a devoted reading of Ellis Peter’s superb brother Cadfael books (which I will recommend to any anglophile mystery reader who has a Celtic bent and wants to see a little history about the period of King Stephen’s reign.)

    What did I miss?

  16. I “get” the oh-so-clever three people in profile, and three different Americans at that. It just doesn’t go with the rest of the logo — it’s totally separate from the typography. Even the letterspacing in the tagline s/u/c/k/s/ is inconsistent in suboptimal ways.

    Accentuating the money anagram in Romney’s name by isolating the R is…informative. I’m left wondering whether it’s the work of a subversive design team or one that’s really that oblivious. Given the look of the rest of the logo, oblivious seems the way to bet.

  17. Rick B: “James, the connection between Kerns and galloglasses escapes me.”
    Don’t blam eme, it was Robert Waldmann’s joke.
    Dixit Wikipedia:
    “A Kern was a Gaelic soldier, specifically a light infantryman in Ireland during the Middle Ages….. Kerns notably accompanied bands of the mercenary Gallóglaigh as their light infantry forces, where the Gallowglass filled the need for heavy infantry.”

  18. I totally missed the “three people in profile” bit — although I have to wonder if it’s intentional since they aren’t actually *faces* or seen from the side.

    I was mostly preoccupied by the fact that everyone who sees this is going to read it “OMNEY” at first glance, since the letter R has absolutely nothing in common with the rest of the word. Logo cleverness that causes people to read a name wrong is a big no-no. Didn’t they do any user testing?

  19. It’s just bad. Typography is an applied art, and as such is defined by heuristics; within limits, different approaches yield different effects. But this is just bad, and whoever did this is an incompetent — the typography alone makes it look like Romney’s running for emperor of some hokey Disneyland ride based on the Hellenistic period. And what’s up with the bottom contour of the “R”? And the “R”‘s contour would be better for pantyhose packaging — not least because the “R” is playing footsy with the “B”.

    The colors are off (that blue? please.), and the gradient would suit a poster done at Kinko’s for a high-school production of “Steambath.” And love — LOVE — the glare on the “R”. If it weren’t there, I’d think to myself (as would everyone else, of course), “You know, that ‘R’ needs some…glare!”

  20. Would-be commenter daveh has emailed me this hack implementing MobiusKlein’s suggestion. I’m not sure the anagram catches the essence of Romney – is he any more a tool of Wall Street than Chuck Schumer or Mitch McConnell? Perhaps the new slogan is more on target. The hack is certainly elegant. Thanks.

  21. Awesome rework of the graphics. Not quite true that R-Money doesn’t believe in anything. Worshipping Mammon is still worship. And it takes a lot of commitment to slash and burn all the companies it took to make R-Money’s pile. I think a more accurate slogan would be “Believes in Winning”. Mitt also apparently recognizes that getting elected president entails some sort of gesture toward “values”, “principles” or “beliefs”. So the logo duly includes something noncommittal along those lines.

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