The Jan. 6 committee is using Trump's White House font against him
Before Merriweather was the typeface of the Jan. 6 committee, it was Trump's White House website font
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The font used to paper over a former president’s plot to overturn an election is now being used by the committee investigating his schemes.
Designed by Eben Sorkin and released by Google in 2010, Merriweather was designed to be read easily online, “a workhorse text typeface for the web,” Sorkin wrote in a 2011 blog post. It’s meant to evoke the feeling of old book type, he said.
Merriweather has been used by the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, according to Fonts In Use, and beginning in 2017, it was used on then-President Donald Trump’s whitehouse.gov website, replacing former President Obama’s Hoefler Text and Whitney.
Montserrat and Akzidenz Grotesk Bold Extended were the typefaces of the Trump campaign, used for his digital assets and campaign logo, respectively. Merriweather was the typeface of the administration. Sure, try to ignore the tweets, but when the headline was written in Merriweather, Trump’s words came with the power of the state, like when Merriweather was used in “Remarks by President Trump on the Election,” on Nov. 5, 2020.
Speaking from the White House briefing room the day after the election, Trump sowed doubt about the results. “If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” Trump said, the text of his remarks written in Source Sans.
Following the attack on the Capitol, Trump’s White House would use Merriweather to condemn the violence without mentioning the man who sent the mob.
“Remarks by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany” on Jan. 7, 2021 called the violence appalling and antithetical to the American way in a message made on behalf of “the entire White House.”
On Jan. 10, Merriweather was used in a “Proclamation on Honoring United States Capitol Police Officers” signed by Trump, even as he continued to push the lie that put the officers in danger in the first place.
When the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol first formed nearly a year ago, it used Merriweather in its logo, repurposing Trump’s former White House font for its investigation.
Unlike normal House committees, select committees are by their nature pop up, but they still invest in visual branding. The committee on the modernization of Congress has a mark showing the Capitol dome as a computer chip, while the committee on the climate crisis shows the dome in front of Ed Hawkins’s climate change art “Climate Stripes” (2020).
The Jan. 6 committee didn’t try to go abstract with its mark, though, just an image depicting the scene of the crime. Merriweather is used for the date in all caps, with the rest of the committee’s name spelled out in Fira Sans. The digital director for chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) did not respond to emails asking why the committee picked Merriweather.
The Jan. 6 committee uses Merriweather in graphics for pull quotes and to caption the words of some of the more than 1,000 witnesses they interviewed on tape during its hearing.
Merriweather was used to write out the scribbled, handwritten notes from Trump’s then-acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue during conversation with the former president.
“…just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen,” Trump told Donoghue, according to his notes.
It was used for chat logs showing Trump — code name “Mogul” — wanted to walk to the Capitol, but “They are begging him to reconsider” and had to return to the White House after Capitol Police reported multiple breaches in their anti-scaling fence.
It was used to label text messages from Trump allies to administration officials asking Trump to call off the mob and stop his “stolen election talk.”
It was used to show an email from Trump lawyer John Eastman requesting a pardon after the plot to overturn the election failed.
And as if the Great Seals of states including Arizona and Michigan weren’t enough, Merriweather helpfully separated real from fake when the committee showed how fake electors made false certifications claiming Trump won and submitted them to the National Archives.
The hearings themselves have focused largely on the words of Republicans, like former Attorney General Bill Barr, Ivanka Trump, and Cassidy Hutchinson, the former aide to then-chief of staff Mark Meadows who testified that she heard Trump say he wanted his armed supporters to be able to enter his Jan. 6 rally security perimeter with their weapons and then march to the Capitol.
These hearings aren’t based on the words of Democrats or Never Trumpers, it’s the words of members of Trump’s own administration.
When Trump tweeted criticism of then-Vice President Mike Pence for not following along with his efforts to overturn the election, a tweet that fueled a surge in the attack, Hutchinson said she took it personally.
“As a staffer that worked to always represent the administration to the best of my ability and to showcase the good things that he had done for the country, I remember feeling frustrated, disappointed,” she said. “Really, it felt personal.”
The use of Merriweather is subtle, and not a detail most viewers would notice or care about. Still, it gives the typographic impression of Trump’s own words and the words of his allies being used against him, and of an administration speaking out about what really happened. The White House knew Trump didn’t win the election, and about the potential for violence on Jan. 6, and Trump went ahead with his plan anyway.
“We were watching the Capitol Building get defaced over a lie,” Hutchinson said.
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