Lessons on Logo Design, Courtesy of Our Presidential Candidates

One would think that, if running for the highest elected office in the country, you'd have access to the best creative talent who could produce an outstanding logo for you. A logo that could help you win the presidency, instead of produce a lot of side chatter and snickering about the logo itself. Well, unfortunately for the country (but fortunately for us designers who love this kind of thing!) that's not the case with the 2016 US presidential logos. Let's see what we can learn about good design by examining what lessons learned from the two major presidential candidates.

Logo (Credit: Trump-Pence 2016)

Logo (Credit: Trump-Pence 2016)

Lesson One: Look carefully for any unintended double meanings that your logo may be conveying.

Often times, a poorly designed logo can have unintended images conveyed and this can be disastrous to your brand. Ask others what they see - they may see, for example, someone--eh, hem--penetrating another someone. While this might not be something you see, as long as just one other person sees this, you need to scratch the idea. In addition to the flawed penetration imagery, one might also see the P as a toilet with the T well, you know. Turn it upside down. Turn is sideways. Squint and look at it. Think of all the different things this image could convey to the great many number of people who will see it. If there are any that are unsavory, change the design. It's not worth it.

Logo (Credit: Clinton 2016)

Logo (Credit: Clinton 2016)

Hillary Clinton's logo has a similar problem, though not quite as unsavory. Many (myself included) have questioned why her team decided on a red arrow that points right. Red: the traditional color of the Republican party. Right: the traditional way we describe Republican politics. Did no one in her camp think about this before it was released? Seems crazy to me that this was missed. Her logo looks to me like she is excited to move the country to the right rather than the left. 

Lesson Two: Carefully consider what words to include and limit the use of extraneous punctuation.

These things should be short and sweet. Punctuation -- such as an exclamation point -- are nearly always not needed, and in fact detract from the seriousness or professionalism of your brand. Exclamation points should be saved for brands such as those promoting children's activities or theme parks. Lighthearted, fun activities. Something that makes the consumer want to say "Whoooo!" I have never worked with a client who's brand called for an exclamation point, and I CERTAINLY would never have suggested it for a presidential nominee.  

While Trump overuses punctuation (and perhaps is too wordy as well), Clinton's logo has no punctuation -- in fact it has no words at all. I could argue both ways for whether or not this was a good decision. On the one hand, it seems the designers wanted to make a bold statement with just the one simple letter and no accompanying text. On the other hand, I think a short tagline (five words or less) can be very impactful for those who read it -- especially when they see it over and over again. It seems that Clinton has had a hard time choosing a tagline, and by some accounts she has had eight at this point. While I'm clearly not a fan of "Make America great again!" (for many, many reasons), I do wish that Clinton had a strong tagline to support both her logo and her brand. And I certainly hope that when one finally sticks, it lacks an exclamation point. 

Lesson Three: Be creative.

The lack of true creativity is startling in both of these logos. They are flat, look hastily designed, and honestly, just look rather amateur.

While I appreciate that presidential candidates feel that they must stick to the red and blue palette, I do wish they had just a touch more flexibility with it.

There is very little expansive thinking in either of these logos -- Trump with his interpretation of the flag, and Clinton with simply an H and an arrow. These seem like first round ideas to me. Were the two camps so eager to get their logos out that they didn't have time for several rounds of depth and creativity? It appears that way to me. 

Good logo design should inspire, should make the viewer pause to think about something larger than what the logo is conveying. The logo should make you *feel* something. It should be memorable for it's creativity, not for it's unintended (or even worse, laughable) imagery. 

To see what a great presidential logo can look like, let's look at Barak Obama's 2008 logo. 

Logo (Credit: Obama 2008)

Logo (Credit: Obama 2008)

This is a well designed logo, folks. This designer heeded all three of the tips from this blog post beautifully! To recap:

1. The logo has no unintended double meaning. I do not see anything offensive or off message here. What I see in the design are all positive connotations: the American flag, a Midwestern field, a horizon. This imagery makes me think of possibilities, of the future, of hope and change -- all of which are spot on with Obama's 2008 message of "Yes we can." (Which, by the way, didn't have an exclamation point on it.) Really good use of imagery to create the intended thought and feeling here.

2. The words are simple and to the point -- no tagline, no punctuation. Although I don't think the logo would have suffered from adding the three word tagline, I also appreciate it's simplicity by adding just "Obama 08." Furthermore, the O of the top design mimics the O in Obama, the 0 in 08, and even the two circles within the number 8, drawing the elements together. Beautiful. 

3. This logo is creative. Yes, it is blue and red, but the designer used gradients to convey a sense of depth and movement. And the tones of the red and blue are unique -- they are not the tired same shades that Trump and Clinton have presented to us. The turquoise is refreshing and lends some lightness to the logo. The logo also makes great use of white space within the main O image. The O represents his name and also possibilities, in the form of an American landscape. Many prominent designers have noted that this is one of the best designed logos in American politics and I couldn't agree more. 

Isn't it great that these candidates are already teaching us so much! If you already have a logo, use this checklist to see how it stands up. Is your logo lacking? We can help. Our list of clients does not include major politicians, but...perhaps that is not such a bad thing after all.