Friday, October 10, 2008


I don’t generally talk about politics publicly. I have pretty specific views and I want people to feel free to tell me their views before I open fire on them. No, no, just kidding. I think everyone is entitled to their political views and I am interested in differing opinions, but I tend to keep mine to myself. Like Luanne from King of the Hill once said, “If I tell you who I voted for it won’t come true.” So I don’t. But there is one thing in the current campaign for President that has really caught my attention and I want to talk about it. It’s um…logo design.

You heard me. Logo design. You’d think what with the millions of dollars they spend on all this political stuff, logo design would be pretty important, right? I mean, it’s the very branding of an idea and an ideal as well. It’s gonna show up on every thing you get from a candidate, on every ad, every sign, every tee shirt. It needs to have impact and it needs to make a very specific statement. At least, that’s how I would see it if I had to design one.

It’s kind of surprising me though. I talked to several people about it while I was writing this and they looked at me like I was perhaps a slightly wee tiny bit crazy. Me, I swear I see this design everywhere and I know I see it on a daily basis, but when I mentioned it to other people, they didn’t really get what I was talking about. Does no one else see what I see?

Clearly, someone else has thought about this as well because since the first time I saw the Obama logo, I have been marveling at it. It is a lovely little design that makes quite a significant statement and no matter your political views, I think you probably have noticed it and probably thought about it without realizing that you are even thinking about it. In short, I think it’s good design. I might go so far as to say that I think it’s excellent design.

Let me refresh your memory, or, if you have been living under a rock for the past year or so…here:

I remember seeing this logo on a bumper sticker at least a year ago and commenting to my husband, “Man that is an intriguing, thoughtful design.” And he said “Hunh? What design?” and I ignored him. But that’s neither here nor there. The first thing that struck me was the use of the red, white and LIGHT blue color scheme. It’s the light blue that’s important here, isn’t it? It’s a way of showing hey, we’re American, we’re united but um…we’re a little different too. We’re brighter. Cheerier. Light blue is a HOPEFUL color, isn’t it? Dark blue can be mysterious or serious or even depressing, but light blue is the sky, endless and boundless and natural. Even the red is a slightly brighter red than we typically see used in the language of politics. This red is a little more candy red.

And then there’s the shape. Most obviously there is an O for Obama. But the “O” here is used as an opening, a doorway. We are invited to look through it. In the case of this particular campaign, I think it is intended that we see the O as a type of window to a future. Perhaps the opposing party would point out that there is nothing beyond the O and that this perceived future is blank. If I were a spin doctor, I think I’d say “Not blank. It is yet to be written by the PEOPLE. The future can be what we want it to be.”

And for my part, I like circles. I am willing to bet if you took a survey most people would choose a circle over a square. Even though, in this case, the circle is an initial, I think it may be a very calculated choice. Looking back at previous presidential races, I don’t find a lot of logos that incorporate the intital of the candidate. There are a few notable exceptions, Hubert Hortario Humphrey, which, c’mon, that’s too good too pass up. HHH. And…W. However, it would appear that the W. was adopted for his second campaign. Hmm…something else I am just now noticing is that most presidential candidates tend to use stars in their logo…no stars here (although the Mr. McCain uses one, something I think I will address on another day). But back to circles. Typically, the circle in design invokes certain ideas. The circle is never ending, it is also enclosing, like a hug perhaps. It is universal symbol for unity and wholeness. Aaaaaaand…it’s the first letter in the name Obama. Go figure. But THEY (the designers) DIDN’T HAVE TO USE IT. Personally, I think it’s very clever of them that they did.

Finally there are red stripes, a design element familiar to Americans. But in the case of the Obama logo the stripes appear to be in motion, moving off away into something new, but NOT into the O, alongside the O. Hmmm….very interesting. And you’ll notice that the stripes carry off the logo but do not rise up…there is only the gentlest of curves. No hill to be climbed, just a little bump to get over. And in the center, where the stripes meet the openness of the O there’s a little lens flare. A bit of a shine perhaps. A brightness. A glow.

The design is simple and elegant and even better, well, better for the campaign’s designers, it lends itself to adaptation. Change the red stripes to a rainbow and voila! You get something new and significant. Veterans have added stars, Asian American and Pacific Islanders have added a lotus style pattern, and check out the Republicans for Obama button!

I gotta say, this, to me, is an excellent logo. It says a lot with out really saying anything at all. And I bet if you asked the designer “What was your intention here?” he/she’d say, “What do YOU see in it.” Or maybe I’m just crazy, but I suspect not. Not in this case anyway.


sassypriscilla said...

Awesome commentary on things I hadn't noticed. It is a brilliant logo now that you mention it.

Jodi said...

Nope. Didn't see it. But then again, I have little to no design sense and don't think about things like this. I guess I should have paid more attention as I've loved Obama since the '04 DNC.

Joanne said...

I like how it seems to be rolling fields with a blue sky... indicating prosperity. :)

madretz said...

Awesome perspective! I'm so glad you shared it. I like it. I want one of those buttons.