Tuesday, October 28, 2008


So I wrote a whole post on what I thought about Barak Obama’s campaign logo and in the interest of being even-handed, I need to say something about John McCain’s logo. Here’s the thing…he doesn’t really have much of one, does he? And to me, that’s kind of a problem. See, this is a visual world. Sadly, a lot of people either can’t or don’t read. And that’s their choice or their burden I guess, but when it comes to selling something, you really gotta stand out. You have to be visual. We all know this, don’t we? We’ve seen the studies that kids recognize the McDonald’s Golden Arches logo before they recognize their own names in writing. Sales and marketing matter, especially when we are talking about politics.

Now, I don’t want to say that McCain has NO logo, he does, it’s a star…so I guess what I am saying is “not much of a logo”. On the other hand, it’s a very traditional symbol for presidential elections. And I think some effort has been made to select a specific type of star. In fact, I have looked high and low (ok, not high and low, I have looked around a BIT) for the meaning of that type of star and I still have not found it, but I have seen it referred to as a “naval star” so I am thinking that it was chosen to remind us of Senator McCain’s military career. More recently I have seen it referred to as a “maverick star” which is actually the name of a type of geranium so I think it’s a bit of a misnomer there.

Anyway, we have a…let’s call it a beveled star. It’s a very traditional image, it has military connections and, if you are thinking sneaky, it’s become very popular with a younger generation for use as a tattoo. So maybe that was the philosophy? Nah, doubt it. The star is either white or yellow on a field of either black or blue and there are embellishments on either side in a matching color. That’s not a very good description is it? Well like I said, it’s not much of a logo.

If I were a designer for the campaign I’d be a little annoyed. There’s not really a lot one can do with this. But, on the flip side, it is very traditional, very timeless and very…political looking. There are some attempts to adapt the image but I am not sure how good they are. In one case the blue or black background was replaced with green and the star was replaced with a shamrock. Really? I get that he is a “MC”, I was once a MC too, but we’re not talking Kennedy here, are we? Is the Irish American population really behind him? Hmmm…looks like there is. And that he actively courted them. Annnnyway, that has nothing really to do with the design elements. I just wanted to mention that the adaptations of his very traditional logo were, for me, at best questionable. I feel like they diluted the design unlike Obama design being enhanced by the adaptation, but that is because the Obama design still remains center. If you replace the star in the McCain logo with anything, you have effectively changed the entire logo. So, in this case, I think it’s safe to say that the simplicity of the logo is just as much it’s downfall. And the changing of color, from black and white to blue and yellow, also dilutes the image. It is, in other words, not an effective branding.

A little more searching reveals yet more color changes. “Women for McCain” adds fancy pink text on a white background (tsk, what a stereotype!), while “Sportsmen for McCain” is green and yellow. And while I agree that foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of…whatever, I don’t think this is working.

I tried to be impartial here. And to be fair, I am honestly only talking about design, not the actual campaigns, but I think these designs tell a lot about the candidates. One is fresh, well thought out and adaptable. The other is very traditional, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but when it is changed, even in the slightest, it ceases to be representative or useful.

So here’s my point. Design is important, even when you don’t realize it.


madretz said...

Really enjoyed reading both posts.

donovan's mamma said...


click on THAT. mccain doesn't have artists for mccain. no he doesn't. no way hozay. i have that one. go barack obama.

*sigh* on the east coast with no little n.c. stopover. waah. love you love the writing. you're awesome dude.

Anonymous said...

i pay attention to design a lot and sometimes can't believe the crap that's out there - that no one gives much thought to it before putting out their message sometimes. i like your analysis and am basing my vote for president solely on their logo designs.