Saturday, December 2, 2017

Midwestern Values?

More than nine years ago, my credit union renamed itself "Spire," and created a wholly inappropriate logo (memorialized in blog posts here and here).

Recently, I was doing some online banking and realized they changed their tag line at some point to "Driven by Midwestern Values.." (dot dot — I kid you not, look closely at the graphic):

At first I only noticed the design of the tag line:

  • It's hard to read, because it's set so tightly, especially for an on-screen graphic. This is meant to be a large display typeface, not for use this small. 
  • It's also technically a bad use of the font, because the font has contextual alternate characters that can make it look more like hand-lettering — but the designers didn't used them. Check out the weird "Dr" combination in "Driven," the awkward way the "y" in "by" almost touches the "M" in Midwestern but has clashing shapes to the two curves, and the long tails on the lower-case "n"s at the ends of "Driven" and "Midwestern"; that tail is only supposed to be used when the "n" connects to the next letter. Here's a sample that shows how contextual alternates improve the look of this font, connecting the letters as they would naturally if hand-lettered, and ending with the proper kind of stroke on the final letter:

  • The font itself is Filmotype Honey, originally designed in the 1950s during the brush script craze, pre-Mad Men. It's a weird choice for "Midwestern Values," unless Midwestern values are backwardness and butt-grabbing. (Make America Midwestern Again?)
And that's when I started to think about the meaning of the tag line, secondarily. "Midwestern values" means something different to white people than it does to immigrants, people of color, and Native Americans. At best, Midwestern values are "Minnesota nice," with its double meaning of surface niceness that  excludes newcomers, never letting them get close. At worst, they gave us the 1863 mass execution at Fort Snelling, right? Midwestern values definitely create a vision of hard-working farmers in small towns. They imply historical whiteness.

Does my credit union know this is a dog whistle, or are they just as clueless about this as they are about the religious connotations of their name and logo? It's weird, because I (a white lady) don't get the feeling they are exclusionary when I am at the credit union, and believe they are doing themselves a disservice in their identity and branding.


I was already planning to write this post when I saw a Tweet that said, "DC Metro sued for rejecting Catholic ad urging people to find God this Christmas," accompanied by this image of the poster rejected by the Metro:

I wonder if the Washington, D.C., Catholic group is using the same graphic designers as Spire?

1 comment:

Michael Leddy said...

Yikes, that design is awful. The script reminds me of the nameplate for the Chevy Nova. Straight from the 1970s?