With a plethora of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in 2020, it can be hard to stand out above the din. One of the ways candidates can differentiate themselves is through clever visual branding. Brand logos have always played an important role in politics and, when done well, have the power to instantly and visually represent a candidate.
Designs reflect how the candidate wants to be perceived in the public eye. But, does being different always work? Well, that depends. Many factors converge into determining the success or failure of a candidate. Graphic design in branding is one that should not be overlooked. Here, we’ll focus on three presidential hopefuls who chose to take a bit of a different approach to brand logos:
Pete Buttigieg has many labels – Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Millennial. Gay. Veteran. One thing is for sure – he is proud of his Indiana roots. People refer to him as “Mayor Pete,” and this moniker is infused throughout his brand.
Buttigieg’s campaign team put together a branding kit that could rival any design-focused business. On his campaign website, supporters can choose from any number of images, colors and designs. His main logo mimics the design of the Jefferson Blvd. Bridge, a concrete arch spanning the St. Joseph River in South Bend. He sees the bridge as “a beacon of South Bend’s renaissance.” Using humor in the designs, he has a logo sounding out the pronunciation of his last name “BOOT EDGE EDGE”, as many people find it difficult to pronounce. He even has a downloadable image of his husband, Chasten.
Inspired by the 1972 campaign of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, Harris decided to use colors and fonts that vaguely resembled Chisolm’s campaign design buttons during her campaign. A bold choice? Maybe. But, subtle messaging can still have a powerful effect on an audience and paying tribute to a pioneering black woman in politics seems like a savvy choice for Harris.
Her brand logo has definitely garnered polarized opinions, and that was exactly the idea. The colors are distinct from the overused red, white and blue, and they invoke a moment in history to which Harris is no doubt drawing parallels.
Perhaps the most recognizable and well-known of all the Democratic candidates, Joe Biden has made some logo choices that aren’t sitting well with both designer and the general public alike. Many have criticized the logo’s design choices, though. The most egregious design element is the ‘e’ in Joe, characterized as a red flag. A red flag indeed! Somehow, it is simultaneously an eyesore and yet many don’t notice it at all, rendering the logo to read as “JO” instead of “JOE.”
Will these choices hurt Biden in the long-run? It’s hard to say. He is currently polling as the frontrunner among the Democratic candidates, and perhaps the logo gaffe will be long overlooked come nomination time.
We would be remiss not to mention the Donald Trump MAGA brand. The red baseball cap has been forever changed, now more likely to be associated with his “Make America Great Again” campaign than with actual baseball teams like the Washington Nationals or Boston Red Sox. Even now, over two years into his presidency, people still wear these caps as a show of support.
Come nomination time, will their logos be enough to help them stand out from the crowd? Will their design choices make them memorable as candidates? We shall see. Voters should ultimately choose a candidate based on their policies, records and personalities. But, like it or not, graphic design does play a role, even if it’s subliminal in nature. It may be silent, but branding and design can strongly influence the way in which we perceive a candidate.
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