Late last year, a slide show in The New York Times, “Reading Tea Leaves and Campaign Logos” took to the blogwaves like wildfire. In it, illustrator Ward Sutton passed mocking judgment (to great effect) on all of the 2008 presidential candidate logos, commenting on anything from the type choice to the relative size of the R in Rudy Giuliani’s logo (“Extra large ‘R’ to remind you just how Republican he is”). But in his zeal to mock equally, he certainly got one critique wrong: Obama ‘08.
Illustration by Ward Sutton for The New York Times.
[Disclosure: I’m not a partisan of Obama, and this post is not an endorsement of his campaign or big smile, just a post commenting on a logo.] From the day this logo was unveiled I received many e-mails asking whodunit and commenting how much they liked it and how different it was from all other Presidential candidate logos. Ever. The logo was designed (jointly or separately, depending of what you read into each firm’s blurb) by Chicago-based Sender LLC and mo/de: “We were looking at the ‘o’ of his name and had the idea of a rising sun and a new day,” explains Sol Sender, “The sun rising over the horizon evoked a new sense of hope.” Sutton at least got the sun rising part right. “Undefined”, on the other hand, might be this logo’s strongest asset and the result of clever designers not someone “too inexperienced”.
I hadn’t visited Obama’s web site in a long time, until last night when a nice designer from Nike e-mailed me pointing out the “ridiculously nice” (as he put it) implementation of the logo under the “People” section of the site. And, indeed, they were ridiculously well done. For each segment of people, the logo changes accordingly, tip-toeing a fine line between cliché and clever, and never crossing to the former’s dark side. The iterations are quickly identifiable and feel genuinely concerned with connecting to the people they are talking to, without pandering. The executions are rather flawless and work perfectly on screen with the detailed gradients and subtle background illustrations. Even the typography is lovingly handled, with each segment changing ever so slightly and unified by the use of Gotham in most of the applications, and using other typefaces as fitting — even the “kids” typography looks finessed, despite the looming pitfalls of faux child-drawn typography. This kind of playful flexibility is typically reserved for the likes of MTV, VH1 or Nickelodeon and the breadth of this kind of brand architecture for global corporations with endless divisions.
A painstaking task, but the flag element of the logo is applied to each state.
Even the holiday edition looks great. Christmas tree ornaments are on sale, to boot.
The effect of design on political ambitions is likely more important than political advisors would think, but certainly less important than the actual policies of the candidate. Nevertheless, it’s encouraging to see design and identity innovation in an otherwise stale category.
Thanks to Darrin Crescenzi for the tip.