By the end of the summer, the 2012 presidential election will take center stage in American news reports and in our nation’s classrooms. The blanketing television and online coverage of the election will fuel a natural interest among our students. It will offer a prime venue to reinforce lessons of civics, separation of powers, and the Electoral College, as well as spark discussions of voter concerns and political platforms.
Historically, voters select a president based on two metrics: qualities of leadership and positions on issues. If the 2008 election hinged on “change,” the 2012 campaign is shaping up to be about “competency.” Aside from scrutinizing the parties’ issue platforms, voters will be looking for the appropriate qualities of leadership, character, and decision-making in their candidates.
During a year of campaigning, candidates have dozens of avenues to communicate their individual characters. The average person, however, tunes in only sporadically, and students lend an even more scattershot focus. Candidates, therefore, need to maximize the information flow into busy Americans’ attention spans.
The logo and slogan of a candidate’s campaign can encapsulate the most important gist of his or her character and message. A logo lingers in citizens’ memories long after a television ad or a six o’clock news clip has faded. In 2008, The Boston Globe and other analysts poured over fonts and layouts to decode each candidate’s subtext.
Interestingly, an election logo is often one of the first decisions made by a campaign team, before the heated months of issue-wrangling and before a candidate’s key message may be crystallized. Ideally, nothing in a process as important as a presidential election is left to chance. We assume, therefore, that icons and typographies are the results of careful crafting and targeted messaging by campaign staffs.
As teachers, we recognize the importance of elections in charting our nation’s political course. We also see campaign logos as an extension of our media literacy curriculum. Symbols and imagery help convey a potential president’s platform and leadership style. The insignia establishes a brand, in the same way a corporation’s logo assigns a visual tie-in to its business products.
To help make sense of the 2012 election, we’ll be running a series of posts to evaluate the branding and messaging of our country’s presidential aspirants.
As a necessary disclaimer, please also note that we will not be endorsing any of these candidates. We will not evaluate their issue platforms or their chances of winning the presidency. We will, however, link to their campaign web sites as a courtesy, since we will be borrowing their logos.