The 2008 US presidential race captured attention like no other political event in recent memory. In the simplest of terms, the race pitted a War Hero against a Cosmopolitan Intellectual and each candidate presented a very different image to the public. Designers, in particular, took notice of the visual communication strategies used by the campaigns.
On the one hand, the McCain-Palin campaign portrayed a more traditional personal brand – one of strength and patriotism, using bold text and the classic icon of a star as a central them of their graphic identity. In contrast, Obama-Biden sought to emphasize the future with a more ethereal color scheme and a sense of forward-looking dimension within the official logo. Watching the campaign, I found myself wondering how and whether good design and a strong brand identity truly impact voters’ decisions.
Good design is inherently attractive.
A candidate wielding a well-crafted graphic identity should conceivably be able to use visual cues to direct our attention to the key points of his or her campaign message. The greatest challenge to politicians lies in communicating with an increasingly consumerist public that is constantly bombarded with advertising and attention-grabbing headline news. It is in this arena that thoughtful design can make the greatest impact, enabling politicians to distill complex issues into easily understood graphics and succinct messaging.
The exceptional quality of the Obama campaign’s graphic identity illustrated this point. The themes of Hope and Change, and an optimistic focus on the future were clearly expressed in the official logo and all of its grassroots derivatives. The Obama brand was, and is, a strong one that inspired supporters to connect to campaign messages in a very personal way.
What does this tell us about brand communication?
When establishing a brand identity, it is important to understand that visual imagery communicates to an audience in a way that words cannot. Color, form, typography…each of these graphic elements elicits a response from your audience that allows individuals to connect with your brand. If you communicate the basic strengths of who you are, the public will discover how you fit into their lives.
Consumers, like voters, respond favorably when provided the opportunity to evaluate options and make an informed decision. In order to be a responsible steward of your brand, you must be confident in what it stands for and consistent in expressing it in all of its forms. Trust the work you put into establishing your brand and put your best self forward.
- Video describing the Obama logo design process -at VSA Partners, Inc.
- Obama Logo Options that didn’t make the cut – at LogoDesignLove
- Designers on McCain campaign font selection – The New York Times