Whether you know the name or not, you’ve seen the font. It was commissioned by GQ in 2000 (they were looking for a new signature font—one that was authoritative, modern and manly, of course) and selected by Barack Obama for his campaign materials in the last election.
It’s a bold, clean, geometric font, inspired by NYC signage created back when graphic designers were scarce and building signage was usually done by the architects and engineers who built the building (which explains the feel of 1940s modernism/American “rugged individualism” the font exudes). Geometric, yes, but Frere-Jones says that by allowing the forms to “escape the grid wherever necessary,” they’ve given the design a more friendly feel than most geometric fonts.
The photo collage above is made up of images collected by Hoefler and Frere-Jones for an extensive study of the lettering on buildings in the Big Apple in preparation for the GQ job. To see more, check out the Gotham photo gallery the two designers put together.
And, of course, the second photo is of Barack Obama on the campaign trail, surrounded by type set in a font we can believe in.
*If you’re at all interested in type, you owe it to yourself to spend some time on their website, Typography.com.