That Obama iPhone application

October 8th, 2008  |  Tags: , , , ,  |  Leave a comment

Last week Sen. Obama’s campaign released an iPhone application designed, as far as I can tell, to help people more efficiently annoy the living crap out of their friends. The reaction from weblogs I read and twitter users that I follow was overwhelmingly positive, and given the pedigrees of the programmers involved, I have no reason to believe that the application is not well-designed and effective at what it does. However, I find myself almost completely creeped out by the whole thing. Honestly, random people who insist that I make a public confession of faith in their preferred candidate have had no trouble finding and pestering me even before I could be an “Insufficient zeal” item on a smoothly-animated, multi-touch enabled bullet list.

The first non-positive comment on this application I encountered in my feed reader came from Wolf Rentzsch, who noted that the use cases for the application seem to reduce one’s friends to “resources to exploit to further [one’s] political ideology.” Rentzsch compares Obama’s proselytes to “religious crazies,” which I think is unfair. I’ve had far better conversations with the kempt and friendly members of various cults who come to my door than I have ever had with the clipboard-addled, talking-point-infected scumbags who want me to vote for someone or to sign something without reading it.

I was curious, so I installed the Official Obama ’08 iPhone and iPod Touch Application, but it made my phone go haywire: repeatedly calling everyone in my contacts list who isn’t a U.S. citizen or is recently deceased; applying some bizarre Shepard Fairey halftone effect to all of my photos in the Camera Roll; replacing Marker Felt in the Notes application with what I am pretty sure is an unlicensed version of Gotham; etc. I had to remove it.

The experience got me thinking, though: while there are clearly a lot of useless iPhone applications, there aren’t that many that are actively socially hostile like this. I wonder what other applications might fit in this model?


(Click the image for a larger version.)

Fools’ names and fools’ faces

April 15th, 2008  |  Tags: , , , ,  |  2 Comments

I generally try to avoid paying attention in even-numbered years unless I have a ready supply of antiemetics, but I’m always happy to read about the competing goals of different typeface choices. Perhaps the most delightful thing that I read during my hiatus from posting here was this snarky riff on the typographic choices of presidential campaigns — and the questionable design goals each seem to aim for — from the always entertaining and quotable Hoefler & Frere-Jones Blog. (Note to typeface designers with weblogs: “mocking national politicians,” “type nerdery,” and “snarky riffs” become so much more powerful when combined, just like Voltron.)

Immediately preceding that post was a cute piece reflecting Hoefler’s delight that Barack Obama’s campaign is using H&FJ Gotham for some of their signage. As Gary Hustwit points out, Gotham’s aesthetic recalls Modernism and its attendant idealism — themes that resonate with Obama’s progressive base. (I suspect it is also resonates with voters who love flawless and absurdly expensive digital fonts with restrictive licenses.)

To my eye, Gotham is the finest typeface choice from any of these campaigns, both for its quality and for its rhetorical compatibility with the candidate. However, I note that Obama’s main wordmark does not use H&FJ faces. Rather, the ubiquitous Obama yard signs and bumper stickers employ two classic Eric Gill faces: Perpetua and Gill Sans. I am not sure if there is a similarly felicitous design goal behind this design choice. If I had to guess, though, I’d assume that this choice increases the campaign’s appeal among dog lovers.

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