Logo design must be simple, distinct and memorable.That’s as true for presidential candidates as it is your company.
We asked three top logo designers ahead of Super Tuesday: Which candidates came out ahead in the branding race?
In Part 1 of our, “Presidential Logo Design 2016” series, we touched on typography and the overall good and bad elements of each candidates’ logo design. Here in Part 2, experienced designers examine aspects of color, symbolism and originality.
Antonio Garcia, Co-Founder and Creative Director at Good Night TV, amgarcia.com
Christina Sharp, Designer and Co-Founder of Cinder Design Co., cinderdesign.co
Wilson Revehl, Co-Founder, Vice President and CTO, Go Media, gomedia.com
How much can a presidential candidate realistically communicate in a logo design? As a designer, what kind of elements do you think are important to make those points?
Garcia: A presidential candidate’s logo is no different than any other brand logo. The logo is not the entire identity all by itself. It’s simply an iconic representation of a much broader, holistic communication system. It’s shorthand. It’s the brand at a glance. The essence of the candidate. Most of these examples arelogotypesnot really logomarks. But all the same attributes of a good mark should apply here: Does it scale well? Can it be applied across print, digital, environmental? Is it just as strong in black & white as it is in color? Is it memorable? Does it stand alone without context? Would you be proud to wear it, put it on your bumper, make it your avatar?
Sharp: Apresidential candidate needs to have a mark that is easy to understand while being memorable and leaving a lasting impression. It should stand out and have a clear message. It’s important for there to be an identity system, not just a logo, that carries that the memorable element throughout all platforms it will be seen on.
Revehl: If a picture says a thousand words, we should not underestimate the word count of well-done logo design. I suppose some ground-rules might be, a presidential candidate needs a high-impact typeface to convey leadership, strength and progress. If “TRUMP” was written in Comic Sans, would he still be king of the ring? I feel strongly about the influence of branding. These individuals have an opportunity to say a lot with their choice of typeface, color, demarcation and symbolism. They could also undermine their goals with the wrong design choices.
On the issue of color, which candidates do you feel used it effectively, and why?
Sharp: Jeb stands out to me because the red is bright and makes it distinct that he’s conservative. A lot of identities use very dark blue or the colors are too muted or neutral, so they lose confidence and don’t stand out. Bernie’s colors are friendly and his identity is mostly blue, which supports that he’s a Democrat. Clinton – I’m not a fan of the blue and red in Hillary’s logo, but I’ve seen it used with a light blue-and-white on campaign banners. When it’s used that way, it’s more successful than her standard colors. The arrow being red seems like the wrong choice being that she’s a Democratic candidate; blue would have made more sense.
Garcia: I’d love to see someone take risk with color, but everyone seems to default to red, white and blue. Thankfully, Wikipedia offers 58 varieties of red and 65 varieties of blue, so there are plenty of shades to explore. To that point, Ben Carson’s choice of two blues is a step in the right direction.
Revehl: I mentioned earlier, Bernie Sanders choice of a more subtle blue and red says a lot. You may perceive it as lighthearted, easygoing and optimistic. Contrast that with Donald Trump’s very rich blue and red lockup around the heavy white name, it evokes the opposite emotions. If you’re going for a panicked call-to-arms, you’re headed in his direction. I have to give them both credit, I think they played to their bases perfectly.
What are your thoughts on some of the symbols used – the star in Sanders’ ‘I,’ the arrow in Hillary’s ‘H,’ Cruz’s flame, etc.?
Revehl: Naturally, being one of the founders of Go Media, and having put a forward-pointing arrow across our mark, I like Hillary’s because I recognize that approach. Being the most viable female presidential candidate in history, she had to go with high-impact typeface to convey strength and progress. Sanders’ star is such a generic symbol it’s pretty easy to glaze over. My eyes are drawn toward his wave. I like that it’s maybe a throw-back to his hippy days. Rubio’s use of the country as an ‘I’ is borderline offensive. Kasich’s K-wave is meh – It evokes no emotion.
Sharp: Hillary – I’m personally a fan of the arrow in Hillary’s ‘H.” I get the imagery of breaking through barriers and moving forward. That, along with the confident bold H works really well. Sanders – the star in Sanders’ ‘I’ is a lot more successful than the ‘i’ treatment in Rubio, but Sanders’ has much more character in the typography, so the star over the ‘i’ is unnecessary and the weight seems off. Cruz’s flame is conflicting. I understand the idea of “igniting” something, but it’s a shape we see so much that it feels very unoriginal and not very memorable. Kasich – The “K” flag for Kasich I’ve seen equated to bacon, but looking at the logo doesn’t make me hungry. The weight seems off between the K and the lines, but it’s simple, memorable and it’s politics, so it’s obviously a flag.
Do any of these logos win points for originality?
Garcia: Sadly, no.
Sharp: Not really, most of the logos are similar to things that already exist.
Many have remarked the Obama campaign logo upped the game as far as branding and the role it played in a presidential race. What do you think was effective about his approach, and do any of the current candidates come close?
Sharp:The Obama logo was so successful because it was strong, different and captivating. It symbolized so much through such a small mark. It was simple, recognizable, and memorable. Hillary’s “H” comes close to the same theme, communicating the campaign theme through very little imagery.
Garcia: Scott Thomas’ Designing Obama tells the whole story so well and explores fully what made Obama’s logo so powerful. It was distinctly American without being star-spangled and cliché. The circular design was so easily adapted to special causes and moments in his candidacy and presidency. And there was a dynamic and thoughtful design system that stood behind the logo and powered more than 8 years of design and messaging. None of these marks come close.
Revehl: The Obama branding was extremely well-done. It stayed cohesive and it never deviated. It always honored the brand style guide. It was an excellent example of modern typeface that was matched with a mark that could stand on its own. No one this time around really came close to that.
If you had to make a choice based solely on logo design, who would get your vote, and why?
Garcia: For the record, I’m a Democrat, but if I voted solely on the logos alone, I’d have to go with Kasich for all the reasons above.
Revehl:Bernie would get my nod, with Jeb! taking second. I think it’s because I’m an optimist and always seeking positivity and humor in the world around me. Theirs feel happier.
Who has YOUR logo vote? Offer your feedback in the comments below!
Go Media is a Cleveland based website design, graphic design and creative branding firm. We are also behind WMC Fest, the Arsenal, Mockup Everything and others. We foster creativity throughout Cleveland and the World. We are Weapons of Mass Creation.