The 2016 US Presidential campaign announcement season appears to be near completion, and I’m already exhausted. There are 22 people running for president, which means there are also 22 corresponding logos in the running. With each distinct candidate comes a symbol of their campaign brand, and therefore a resounding and visceral social media explosion. With each campaign announcement and logo reveal, the internet entered an open season for logo critiques and the it-looks-like-fill-in-the-blank game.
As someone inside the brand design agency world, these initial reactions did not come as a shock. There’s a lot of pressure placed on a new brand symbol when it is released into the wild alone. There’s even more pressure in the political arena ever since 2008 (You can say it, “Thanks, Obama”).
Since the “Obama O,” the race has been on to emulate its success. Our country has seen an absolute onslaught of forced patriotic letterforms as campaign logos: Stripes for an “H” crossbar, an eagle flying through the center of an “O,” even the contiguous United States as the dot of an “i” (I’m looking at you, Marco Rubio). Most are pure crimes against typography. What most people fail to understand is it wasn’t President Obama’s logo that was a game changer, as much as it was his entire design system. This includes everything from color palette and typography to tone of voice and photography. Everything was flexible and harmonious, helping to deliver his platform strategy in a dynamic way. The bright “Change” and “Fired Up! Ready To Go!” were something the electorate could feel, and therefore buy into, easier than just an “O” symbol.
The use of a flexible, coherent design system, like that of President Obama’s campaigns, is what makes any brand a strong one. Entering the 2016 presidential race, both Republican candidate Jeb Bush and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had the challenge of fighting the stigmas of being linked to presidencies of the past. Jeb is the son and brother of two former US Presidents; Hillary is married to a former US President. Both of the family names are polarizing. To counter, both Jeb and Hillary have built energetic campaigns focused on a bright future for the American people. From that positioning comes a corresponding design strategy infused with humanity: Bright color palettes, photography of diverse, smiling faces, dynamic graphics and friendly “we’re in this together” style of messaging. It’s more than the common red-white-and-blue, stars-and-stripes, “vote for me” messaging. You’ll also notice there are few times both Jeb or Hillary’s last names appear in any campaign material. This was likely done with purpose, as any attempt at trying to come off overly presidential—including using their iconic last names—would tie them back into the past Bush and Clinton terms. Their brands come off as optimistic, kinetic, approachable and, most importantly, distinctly unique to each candidate.
Jeb’s campaign design incorporates a strong use of photography, painting him as an approachable leader you can trust. No suits and ties here, as he looks like the guy next door. The use of hand-drawn red marker lines throughout shows a staunch perspective while infusing a touch of humanity into the system. Hillary’s campaign is unique in that it utilizes a full spectrum of flat color with forward-moving angles. Both Jeb and Hillary use bold, geometric typography to display their messaging in a humble tone. Both of these campaigns stand out from the patriotic sea of sameness.
The strength of any brand always lies beyond the logo. While being a VERY important piece of the puzzle, it’s still just one piece. The logo simply can’t carry the weight of everything you want to convey about your brand. That’s why it’s so important to make sure there’s a full arsenal of assets ready to bring a brand strategy to life. It will be exciting to see how each campaign’s assets continue to come to life as election season heats up. There will much to talk about, so stay tuned for my next blog post!
Meredith Post is a Senior Designer at LPK and a proud (and loud) Green Bay Packers owner. She brings extraordinary creative ideas and a steadfast promise to bettering her work and clients every day. You can mostly find her spreading the good word of Kanye West or sharpening her opinion as a political junkie. You won’t find a selfie of Meredith, but if you’d like to chat, follow her at @meredithwhitney or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.