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Is There A Difference Between Liberal And Conservative Typography?

Are liberals sans-serifs and conservatives serifs? It’s not quite that simple anymore.

The fonts are called Bulo and Trola. Both mean “hoax” in Spanish. And they were created by the type foundry Tipografies back in 2013 as one core typeface split into serif (ornamental) and sans serif (streamlined) versions. (Read more on serif vs. sans serif fonts here.)

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But designer Jordi Embodas imagined another purpose, too: He always saw Trola as a bit conservative, and Bulo as liberal. And so he hired the design firm Mucho to take this concept further, and turn each typeface in its own newspaper. Trola, and its old-school strokes tipping the ends of captial As, Ts, and Cs, became a conservative publication–complete with traditional center headlines. Meanwhile, Bulo, with its sleeker letters, became liberal, with a more experimental layout and left and right justified headlines. (Note: The paper with all the blue color is actually the conservative paper, and the red is the liberal paper, which will seem odd to those of us in the U.S., who are used to the exact opposite.)


“Well, serif faces, for chronicles in editorial uses, books, magazines or newspapers, are more used because they’re more comfortable for long readings. And it is more traditional, so to build a ‘conservative’ or right-wing newspaper, I felt it was more appropriate,” Embodas explains. “Sans serifed fonts, for text-bodies, are much more contemporary. A newspaper with a sans serif in the body text are a risky proposition. In fact, almost no books, newspapers, or magazines use a sans-serifed text typeface.”


Embodas’s point becomes a fascinating thought exercise. Are serif typefaces really more conservative? It depends on the lens through which you look.

In terms of old media, serifs bring images of the New York Times or the New Yorker. Neither publication is what you would classify as conservative. (Both have been accused of liberal bias.) So in that sense, it seems like Embodas’s point is a bit of a miss, because meanwhile, you have Fox News, the poster child of the conservative media, with FOX printed in bold, sans serif lettering.


But when you consider political campaigns, Embodas’s point rings more true. Obama has traditionally used a mix of serif and sans serif–but sans serif was used on his most important messaging, including Shepard Fairey’s famous “Hope” poster and signs with “Change”–all while his opponents John McCain and Mitt Romney both used traditional serif fonts. (And obviously, they both lost doing so.)


The 2016 election is shaping up differently. Hillary Clinton is using sans serifs in her early branding, but another democratic candidate, Lincoln Chafee, is using a mix of serif and sans serif. And the Republican candidates are all over the board. Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, and Rand Paul use sans serif branding. And as a result, they really do have a more contemporary feel next to Ted Cruz, who uses a serif like it’s the 1890s all over again, but in doing so, differentiates himself from the other candidates.

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Of course, it still takes more than choosing the right core font to make for a successful brand campaign. Because while Cruz’s logo is differentiated, that washed out grey, coupled with some wacky kerning–let’s just say it’s anything but classic or sophisticated.

See more here.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day

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