Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Not-So-Secret Meaning of Typography

Last Wednesday during lunch, I went to the local town hall to apply for a passport. As I was checking the nameplates outside each office for the correct room I couldn't help but notice a very large tarpelin sign proclaiming that one group of offices was clearly under the auspices of "Cheryl Dinolfo, Monroe County Clerk."

What struck me most about the sign, other than the shear size of it, maybe 12' x 5', was the comparative fonts and type sizes used to communicate each piece of information. The typography (size and font of the type) of the lettering used to trumpet Ms. Dinolfo's involvement, as well as her title, was of a significantly larger point size than that of the other relevant information. In fact, Only the county seal was a hair larger than her name, and the information present on the seal was indecipherable from a distance.

One is about as likely to find visual evidence of this phenomena online as you are to find a real picture of a Sasquatch... eventually, after first googling a myriad of possible word chains with the intent of finding an image online, it became clear that without a photographic recon mission would  proving this the existence of this phenomena would be difficult.

Looking forward to The Amazing Spider-man 2 starring.... Maggie Brooks?!
Fortunately, in my community, this is "elephantitits-of-type" only employed by Ms. Dinolfo. I have also noted on a number of occasions that our Monroe County Executive, Maggie Brooks, also has a penchant for having her name and title presented in juxtaposition to the County Logo on signs in such away that the information to be quickly processed by passersby is her name first. The County's seal taking a subordinate role to all else. Surprisingly, as seen in the photo below, somehow her name was not larger than that of the companies being represented below.

Drivers are hard pressed to figure out just for whom Brooks work for.
Both Dinolfo and Brooks are seasoned local politicos, with even more veteran operatives, so this is most surely not a printing error that was made once and never corrected. As students' of rhetoric, my high school Advanced Language and Composition classes quickly realize the implications and message of this choice on the part of the messenger. Visual rhetoric consists in part of text so obviously visual that its visual nature and power is often invisible. This type size conundrum is also a great example of one of those things that consciously goes unnoticed by some, but is subconsciously meant to "say" or communicate a message.

So, is this intended to suggest that when looking for service such as passport applications that the key piece of information one should look for is Ms. DiNolfo's name and title? The use of a rhetorical question here is intended by yours truly to suggest strongly that you know perfectly well what is being implied, as well as which politician's ego is being stroked by seeing there name (and office) in "lights."

Maybe the meaning is not so secret (or subtle) after all...

The message from a Monroe County banner: I love New York, Maggie Brooks,
and Sports--in no specific order.

Sources: Purdue Online Writing Lab

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