This year’s slate of 11 Re­pub­li­can can­di­dates for pres­i­dent seems like an amuse-bouche com­pared to 2020, when there were 27 De­mo­c­ra­tic candidates.

To re­veal one of my most con­trar­ian opin­ions: I’ve never un­der­stood the re­cur­ring cri­tique of Amer­i­can pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics that we have too many can­di­dates. (Sam­ple alarmist think-piece head­line: “Too Much Democ­racy Is Bad For Democ­racy”.) What’s the ish? That’s why it’s called an elec­tion. Be­sides, if you want to carp about the un­in­tended con­se­quences of too much choice, why not point your laser beams at the 17th amend­ment to the US Con­sti­tu­tion? A lot more could be said about that, I as­sure you.

Even more con­fus­ing is the qua­dren­nial hand-wring­ing about so-called “spoiler can­di­dates”, a pe­jo­ra­tion that keeps slouch­ing to­ward nor­mal­ized use, sort of like “friv­o­lous law­suit”. Let’s keep the blame for “spoil­ing” any elec­tion where it be­longs—with the peo­ple who voted.

Largely, how­ever, I think these the­o­ries are pro­moted by po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ists as a means of pro­tect­ing their own hoary nar­ra­tives of pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics. Here’s mine: It’s chaotic. It’s weird. No­body knows any­thing. Thus, eval­u­at­ing the can­di­dates through the de­sign & ty­pog­ra­phy of their cam­paign web­sites is as valid a method as any. If you think oth­er­wise, you’re a ty­po­graphic spoiler.

The web­sites of the 2020 can­di­dates were not mir­a­cles of orig­i­nal­ity. Though even com­pared to that mid­dling stan­dard, the 2024 can­di­dates have con­verged even more force­fully around a small set of ty­pog­ra­phy, color, and nav­i­ga­tion choices.

As for color—though the de­sign­ers of the US flag re­al­ized that red and blue have poor con­trast and thus shouldn’t over­lap each other, pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates con­tinue to strug­gle with this un­avoid­able op­ti­cal reality.

I rec­og­nize that the point of these web­sites is 1) to raise money and 2) … huh? what? Still, I’m mys­ti­fied by the com­plete lack of in­ter­est in dis­till­ing the can­di­date’s pitch to any kind of con­crete ar­gu­ment. In an elec­tion, isn’t the ma­jor ques­tion “Why you and not the other one?” Why can no one an­swer this? The av­er­age Dori­tos ad­ver­tise­ment makes a bet­ter case.

“Well, dif­fer­ent vot­ers have dif­fer­ent pref­er­ences.” Nah, I don’t be­lieve it. I ab­solutely could win in 2028. My slo­gan: “More money for every­one. And na­cho cheesier fla­vor too.”

Un­til then, how­ever, these are your choices.

Biden’s re­elec­tion site is largely a step down from his very good 2020 ef­fort. The fonts have been up­graded to the ex­cel­lent Dec­i­mal and the Caslon-in­spired Frame. Oth­er­wise, how­ever, it’s just weird: the cream-col­ored back­ground, the Mor­tal Kom­bat-in­spired tagline fin­ish the job, the scrib­bles on the page pur­port­ing to be Joe’s hand­writ­ing, and new wavy stripes in the Biden word­mark rem­i­nis­cent of An­drew Yang’s ba­conesque 2020 logo. A quin­tes­sen­tial ex­am­ple of what hap­pens in de­sign projects when a large bud­get is handed over to a large com­mit­tee: by try­ing to be every­thing to every­one, it avoids be­ing any­thing to anyone.

A per­plex­ing en­try for those hop­ing that Williamson’s re­turn to pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics would be even wilder than 2020’s. Williamson’s web­site is de­void of vi­sual in­ter­est, even com­pared to other 2024 can­di­dates—and a ma­jor step down from the arty self-por­trait she re­lied on last time. If you’re Mar­i­anne Williamson, why aren’t you swing­ing for the fences? Act­ing pres­i­den­tial was never go­ing to be your lane. The fonts are Pop­pins (which she used in 2020 too) and Faustina.

The only good thing about Robert Kennedy’s cam­paign is the lac­er­at­ing Curb Your En­thu­si­asm episode that it will even­tu­ally in­spire. The fonts are nice—Freight Sans and Source Serif (which I have rec­om­mended)—and so far haven’t killed anyone.

I doubt that any fu­ture bi­og­ra­phy of Don­ald Trump will note that his 2020 cam­paign man­ager, Brad Parscale, started out as his 2016 web de­signer. Sad! No idea who’s pulling the strings in 2024. Given Trump’s pre­oc­coupa­tion with at-least-ba­sic-ca­ble pro­duc­tion val­ues, the shoddy photo edit­ing and other signs of cor­ner-cut­ting are a sur­prise. (Given Trump’s leg­endary ven­dor-stiff­ing, maybe not.) Ac­cord­ing to the web-page markup, the head­line font is sup­posed to be the Gotham knock­off Montser­rat, but ap­par­ently some­one for­got to up­load it—or walked off the job be­fore they could—so Hel­vetica is be­ing dis­played in­stead. The other font is the Gotham knock­off Me­trop­o­lis. No idea why one Gotham knock­off wouldn’t have suf­ficed. Or one term.

Nikki Ha­ley is cur­rently polling at 4% na­tion­ally, yet her home page de­picts her as one small face in a crowd. All she’s miss­ing is a Where’s Waldo out­fit. I men­tioned the red–blue con­trast prob­lem—Ha­ley’s logo is hope­less be­cause every time it sits atop blue or gray, the “Ha­ley” largely dis­ap­pears. The whole thing just comes across as a cry for help. The fonts are the Google-made Ro­boto and the Russ­ian-made Fu­tura PT.

Vivek Ra­maswamy is the fic­tional pres­i­den­tial can­di­date I would ex­pect to find in a Grand Theft Auto game. Though con­sid­er­ing he did pay off a Wikipedia ed­i­tor, plac­ing his prod­uct into a video game might’ve been money bet­ter spent. To be fair, I rather like his strange logo, which I choose to read as a se­cret homage to that of Van Halen. Thus, a missed op­por­tu­nity to de­ploy the slo­gan (A Dif­fer­ent Kind of) Truth. The dis­play font is the bland but well-made Acumin; text is the even blander Open Sans.

Asa? Wowza. Some can­di­dates want to end Amer­ica’s for­ever wars. Hutchin­son ap­par­ently plans to open a new front against the Eng­lish lan­guage it­self. On the other hand, the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion wanted us to “Be Best”. Per­haps “For Amer­ica’s Best” is the nat­ural next step. The web­site blends the 1970s clas­sic Grouch with pos­si­ble fu­ture clas­sic Glacial In­dif­fer­ence. (Based on those font names, I’m de­tect­ing that Hutchin­son may be the vic­tim of a prank by a web de­signer less loyal than Brad Parscale.) For good mea­sure, there’s also some TNR in the logo. I’m a lit­tle sur­prised that Hutchin­son chose not to align him­self with an­other for­mer Arkansas gov­er­nor, Bill Clin­ton, who as­cended to the pres­i­dency and then de­liv­ered on many Re­pub­li­can leg­isla­tive priorities.

Larry El­der’s site dis­tin­guishes it­self by not be­ing com­pletely in­ept. It’s a low bar this year. Like Joe Biden, the stripes in his logo come across as ba­conesque, or maybe streaks left by a star-shaped sponge on a wind­shield. (Ron De­San­tis shows how to ren­der stripes cor­rectly.) Mostly it’s a prob­lem of scale, how­ever: there’s not enough room in the cor­ner for that kind of de­tail to be leg­i­ble. The bor­ing free fonts are Open Sans and Ro­boto.

Tim Scott ap­par­ently took a break from his va­ca­tion to an­nounce that yeah, what the heck—why not run for pres­i­dent? I haven’t ruled out the pos­si­bil­ity that he took this photo with a selfie stick. As for the logo, the cam­paign team ap­par­ently said “Has any­one in Con­gress named Tim run re­cently? Oh really, De­mo­c­rat Tim Ryan? He’s not us­ing his logo any­more, right?” Scott is us­ing one of the bet­ter fonts seen in a cam­paign this year, called Rift.

I feel a lit­tle bad for Ron De­San­tis. Like Nikki Ha­ley, ac­tu­ally be­ing a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date seems to en­chant him less than cos­play­ing one did. The web­site looks like the de­fault theme that shipped with Word­Press in 2009, with a strange gra­di­ent back­ground that blends deep red and blue to make deep sludge. The logo is pinched from Net­flix (by way of Pete Buttigieg). The good news: the stripes ac­tu­ally look wavy; the bad news: they cast us into an un­canny val­ley where the US only has three states, rep­re­sented by those mi­nus­cule stars. Un­like other can­di­dates, the De­San­tis web­site spec­i­fies no fonts, in­stead re­ly­ing on the sys­tem fonts on each de­vice. This is mys­ti­fy­ing, yet perfect.

Pence’s cap­sule bi­og­ra­phy com­pletely omits every­thing that hap­pened be­tween Jan­u­ary 2017 and Jan­u­ary 2021, in­clu­sive. Ac­cen­tu­ate the pos­i­tive, I guess? Pence’s web­site also omits any men­tion of where he stands on the is­sues. For­tu­nately it does in­clude one of his wed­ding pho­tos. Pence may want to be care­ful with the name-in-box logo, a mo­tif sim­i­lar to that of a can­di­date whose name Pence would pre­fer I not men­tion, but it rhymes with Tronald Dump. Dis­play font is An­to­nia; text is the Russ­ian-made Fu­tura PT.

“Be­cause the Truth Mat­ters”—ac­cord­ing to the man who claims he had noth­ing to do with traf­fic-based ret­ri­bu­tion against the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jer­sey in 2013 that led to fed­eral con­vic­tions for two of his aides (later over­turned on ap­peal). Speak­ing as a New Hamp­shire na­tive, I can also lay some truth on you, bro—you’re not go­ing to make it to the sec­ond pri­mary. Font is Prox­ima Nova.

Bur­gum is a pe­cu­liar can­di­date with a pe­cu­liar web­site. Thou­sands of copies of the mes­sage “Text DOUG to 7017” plod end­lessly across the top, as if once weren’t enough. The rest of the web­site scrolls hor­i­zon­tally when you try to scroll ver­ti­cally, for no good rea­son. Bur­gum at least tries to squeeze the ac­tual US flag into his logo rather than ba­conize it like Larry El­der. I also like that he & his wife picked out color-ap­pro­pri­ate out­fits for the photo shoot. The dis­play font is the play­ful and good-na­tured Bour­ton.

The idea of go­ing jog­ging with a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date is not hugely ap­peal­ing to me. Though Mi­ami mayor Fran­cis Suarez is not the first to try it—see also Wayne Mes­sam, an­other Florid­ian who cam­paigned in 2020. As jour­nal­ists have noted, Suarez doesn’t ac­tu­ally do much all day ex­cept post spicy tweets about cryp­tocur­rency. Which im­me­di­ately makes him a 2024 fron­trun­ner. De­sign­ers for Ron De­San­tis take note—this back­ground gra­di­ent uses lighter, more sat­u­rated col­ors on the edges so the mid­dle doesn’t get sludgy. Con­sid­er­ing this page looks like it took about 25 min­utes to make—in­clud­ing a logo con­cept stolen from Trump—it’s not bad. It re­mains to be seen, how­ever, what ex­actly Suarez is go­ing to help us “get started”, but if it’s any­thing other than “this party”, I will be very dis­ap­pointed. Dis­play font is Montser­rat; text is Verdana.

West seems to be chan­nel­ing the mono­chro­matic stylings of Beto O’Rourke, who lost con­sec­u­tive races for US Sen­ate, US Pres­i­dent, and Texas gov­er­nor. In­ter­est­ing model to fol­low. Still, West is a cool dude and if he gets on a de­bate stage, I will watch. The blah font is Ro­boto.

—Matthew But­t­er­ick

20 June 2023

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