State of the (Political) Logo
In any political campaign, everything a candidate says or does is under a microscope and blasted out over every media outlet available. But what’s interesting is that even the most trivial details, anything from a misunderstood sentence at a press conference to the design of a candidate’s logo, can sway voter opinion. So when the world snickered at the seemingly NSFW Trump/Pence logo, we anxiously awaited to see how the Clinton camp would follow up – and in terms of brand design, we weren’t let down.
But before we break down the Clinton/Kaine logo, let’s think about a logos primary purpose, and why political logos have changed.
Logos serve as branding elements that convey the voice, tone and values of a brand, political or otherwise. In the general consumer world, logos visually represent a brand and its values in a way that is uniquely memorable to its audience. On the other hand, the traditional rationale for political logos appears to contradict what a well-crafted brand logo should be all about. It seems as though the traditional approach to a political campaign logo is ‘first do no harm’ — the exact OPPOSITE of the normal goal of a logo. Also, when a brand logo is developed, the audience that it’s trying to appeal to weighs heavily in the design. The audience for a political mark is everyone of voting age — every gender, minority group, special interest, geographic and socioeconomic subset of America — so it has to have broad appeal. Mass appeal in design generally leads to a safer design that’s less distinctive and easily forgettable.
Historically, election logos have been treated as an afterthought. Not to say that they were all poorly designed, they just didn’t have the same goal of differentiation that product or brand marks have. Because of this, political logos often follow basic and solid design principles, including color usage (red, blue or both), balance and appropriate typography. This allows the logo to support the campaign and its stance and not distract attention away from the candidate.
This all changed with the successful mark of the Obama campaign in 2008.
This success forced candidates to up their logo game, or at least try to. Some recent attempts: If your candidate lacks excitement, put an exclamation point at the end:
If you have equity in a logo already at the top of your buildings, use it:
If you want to appeal to a younger audience, go with all lowercase with no space in your name:
So now, let’s take a look the Clinton/Kaine mark.
In terms of form, the red and blue arrow “H” logo released by Clinton for her run in the primary elections attempts to create a unique mark for her campaign and convey the idea of forward progress. The arrow “H” has been maintained from her previous logo — a smart move that keeps her brand consistent from the primaries into the general election. Although the logo maintains a level of consistency, it has also evolved for the better.
From a color design perspective, the original colors of red and blue were not the best execution, as those colors placed next to each other are uncomfortable for a viewer’s eyes. The evolution from red and blue to the navy “H” and light blue arrow comes a level of sophistication that was not present in the original version. It is cleaner and isn’t a strain on the eyes.
So, whether you like the candidate or not, Hillary’s mark does a great job of differentiating her campaign, and does so in a memorable way – both crucial qualities in logo design.