Before last week, few people outside New York (and possibly some people inside New York) had never heard of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who, last week, won the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th congressional district, defeating the incumbent, Democratic Caucus Chair Joseph Crowley, who had run unopposed in a primary since 2004. A political activist since college and now at a young 28 years old, Ocasio-Cortez, would be the youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives if she wins the general election against Republican nominee Anthony Pappas in November. Among the many things that made her win special — woman, Latino heritage, no previously held office position — she took no corporate or lobbyist money for her campaign and she had, as Co.Design recently reported, a very strong campaign identity designed by New York-based Tandem.
In crafting the visual look and feel of the campaign, Tandem’s team looked to revolutionary grassroots movements of the past, and specifically to the movements led by labor and civil rights activists like Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez-direct, refreshing visuals often made by hand and conveying a sense of cultural urgency. It was serendipitous that the defining photograph of Ocasio-Cortez, which was photographed by Jesse Korman and supplied by her volunteer team, carried “the same feeling of hope, the upward gaze to the future, to the vision of positive change,” says Arenas. “That gaze, in turn, informed the logo and typography to be set at a forward-leaning angle.”
At its most basic presentation, as seen above, the logo was better than the average political campaign logo but still worked with some of the classic features like stars and uplifting, optimistic angles. The use of an angular, condensed sans serif begins to make the logo stand out but it’s the opening exclamation point — used in Spanish like ¡this! — that puts Ocasio-Cortez’s heritage front and center proudly and does’t succumb to the fear of people wondering what the hell is wrong with this upside down exclamation point. The speech bubble device is certainly not original and to me, more than its metaphorical implications, its effectiveness comes in highlighting and framing the otherwise long name of the candidate in an easily memorizable and recognizable shorthand, like, you know, Obama.
Enlarged, all-caps text-set bilingually in English and Spanish, in equal weighting-frames Ocasio-Cortez’s countenance with similarly angular effect, and her name, proudly flouted with inverted exclamation marks and stars, is emphatically, unapologetically multicultural. It’s an outward display of Ocasio-Cortez’s roots as a third-generation, working-class Bronxite with Puerto Rican heritage.
The campaign then turned to the candidate herself for what will undoubtedly become one of the most iconic political campaign identities ever. The photograph, by Jesse Korman, shows Ocasio-Cortez with a strong, confident, optimistic gaze looking off camera — in a direction that the logo and typography were angled after — and styled pretty much perfectly, from choice of dress to hairstyle. It manages to be modest, honest, and assertive. The photograph works wonderfully with the typography, the color palette, and pretty much any layout you throw at it, from vehicle wrap to button.
I would cautiously deem Ocasio-Cortez’s posters as this generation’s We Can Do It poster, in terms of a single visual powerfully driven by a woman’s portrait. But we will let history decide that, not a dude that blogs about logos.
The applications are all fairly straightforward, carrying the logo or some version of it in different colors. In its angle and boldness, though, it finds a consistent strong presence that makes the swag easily identifiable in the streets.
Overall, this is a remarkably well done campaign that works the outsider status of the candidate with an effective revolutionary-esque aesthetic that speaks — and it proved it so — to a new constituency of voters that is ready to shake the establishment.
Thanks to Alex Davis for the tip.