Thursday, July 7, 2011

Barack Obama - Designing a Candidacy

During his first run for president, Barack Obama registered an iconic image into the historical catalog of campaign successes. Just as Senator Obama’s “Yes, We Can!” slogan will join “I Like Ike” and “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” in student textbooks, the “O” emblem earned design accolades across the political spectrum. Candidate Obama’s hopeful icon of the rising sun over patriotic waves spoke to voters’ desire for modernity and next-generation solutions. The critical acclaim focused on the logo’s Gotham font, not to mention the pairing with the museum-bound, New Deal-inspired poster of “Hope” by Shepard Fairey.
Source: Obama For America
For the reelection campaign, it is interesting to note that now-President Obama’s logo emphasizes the “2012” much more than the candidate. It seems to convey a sense of “next,” of a sequencing, of an attempt to remind and reenergize the grassroots volunteers who catapulted him to victory in the primary and general elections in 2008, but who could now potentially feel less enthused about a compromising incumbent.

For 2012, the “O” is situated within the year, deemphasizing the prior celebrity candidate and instead putting the weight on the reelection movement. Looking back on President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection, we do not see the same shift in tactics. Even with his modern lettering and colors, which were heralded as decisive and forward-leading compared to John Kerry’s mild-mannered rendering, President Bush’s branding was traditional in its President-Vice President pairing and its flag-waving, “vote for me” iconography.

Here, President Obama opts for a Carolina blue background, skyward and soothing but still nodding to his Democratic “blue state” base. It still stands out as much more contemporary than his former Republican opponent John McCain’s 2008 logo. Senator McCain’s image was a full Federal blue, with no nod to his “red state” Republicans. Its gold star, which nobly conjured Senator McCain’s military heroics, was at the same time jarring along the spectrum of American hues. The effect was steely and militaristic, and it reinforced his “Country First” slogan, but ultimately the message was unclear and starched, restrained and anachronistic.

For President Obama in 2012, he does not even use his name, except in the website address. The campaign takes for granted his name recognition. The “O” has become unmistakable, like the Golden Arches or Nike swoosh.

CNN has recently begun to consider the new designs of each candidate, pointing to the ongoing importance of design messaging. Also, check out Ty Fujimura’s post about the updated Obama design.

Check out our other posts about design and education in the 2012 election.

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