What Does A Presidential Brand Look Like? | Bruce Turkel

Cribbing from Barack Obama’s success in the polling place in 2008 and 2012, it seems virtually every candidate in the 2016 election wants to develop a presidential brand and has released a campaign logo. Leaving our varied and ardent opinions of the candidates behind, I thought it would be interesting to review the logos with a politically (but not graphically) dispassionate eye.

Disclaimer: I’m very eager to hear what you think about the candidate’s logos but have no interest in turning this blog into a debate over the relative advantages of the candidates themselves or their respective issues (there are PLENTY of places online where you can discuss that until you’re blue (or red) in the face). Please keep your comments to your opinion of the logos themselves and how you think they accurately or incorrectly portray the candidates. I will remove any posts that are blatantly partisan or offensive.

Because there are more of them in the race this year, let’s start with the Republicans:

Jeb Bush

Despite my best efforts I can’t find a campaign website or new logo for Jeb. My guess is that when we finally see where his presidential logo is going it will represent the simple acronym “Jeb” in an attempt to separate the candidate from his father and brother, but that’s only a projection. As of now there’s nothing to discuss.

Jeb Bush’s Grade: Incomplete

Presidential BrandsTed Cruz is lucky enough to have a name that is short, easy to spell, impossible to mispronounce, and solidly American with a just touch of international immigrant exotic. Odd then that his logo mark (the teardrop, not the text) would be so busy, complicated, and difficult to understand.

While the red, white, and blue flag in his presidential brand —complete with star and stripes—is hard to miss, what does Cruz’s logo shape represent? A flame? A drop of water? A tear? All kidding aside, I find it strange that a candidate who does not believe in global warming nor sea level change would include these allusions in his logo mark.

Ted Cruz’s Grade: C-

Presidential Brand

Like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio has a name that is short, easy to pronounce, and suggests his immigrant roots without screaming them – a great asset that should not offend xenophobes who might otherwise balk at Rubio’s Cuban roots. On the other hand, a name as exotic as Barack Hussein Obama didn’t hurt his presidential brand nor keep our current president out of the White House so maybe the name doesn’t matter that much.

What does matter is the little splotch that has replaced the dot over the “i” in Rubio’s last name. When it’s large enough, the red mark will be easily identifiable as a red Republican continental U.S. (wonder how Hawaii and Alaska feel about being left out?) but when it’s shrunken down for business cards and campaign buttons it will look like a red wine stain.

Marco Rubio’s Grade: B

Presidential Brand

Dr. Rand Paul has focused on his first name and removed his last name altogether. Maybe he did this to distance himself from his famous father Ron or maybe to associate his presidential brand with the Rand Corporation, the nonprofit global policy think tank originally created by Douglas Aircraft Company (a perfect association for this oddly hawkish Libertarian).

Have you noticed that the negative space between the “A” and the “N” serves as the handle for the torch? How about the horizontal white line working as the bowl of the torch? What do you think of the poorly rendered flame itself? While the mark is strong and distinctive (like the candidate?) Paul’s logo looks like a rough first sketch of what could eventually become a good logo. This is particularly ironic because Rand Paul’s name backwards (Paul Rand) is the name of one of the greatest logo designers in history with designs for Westinghouse, IBM, ABC, and UPS in his oeuvre. Paul Rand truly put the “Rand” in “Brand.”

Rand Paul’s Grade: C (with room for improvement)

Now the Democrats. (Excuse me, Democrat)

Presidential Brand

As the most well known candidate in the race, and currently the only Democrat, Hillary Clinton could take a hint from Madonna, Cher, and Beyoncé and simply promote herself with one name. But for her logo she’s gone a step further and followed President Obama’s practice of just using a single initial.

While I did promise to be politically agnostic in this column, I did not promise to be designer agnostic. Michael Bierut, the creator of Hillary’s logo is one of my favorite designers, a friend, and a great guy. Lucky for me I love the mark Bierut created.

Clinton’s logo is powerful, simple, memorable, and moving and sets the stage for a cohesive presidential brand. Her arrow points to the future and suggests the progressive administration the candidate promises. The logo’s simplicity makes the mark transparent and understandable, issues that Clinton herself has had problems with. Finally, its components – the arrow and the strong vertical lines – will give the campaign’s graphic designers easy elements to use in her websites, bumper stickers, brochures, and other marketing materials. This is what good graphic design looks like and more than anyone could ask from such a simple logo.

Clinton’s Grade: A+

Having started to create the look and feel of the presidential brands, it will be fascinating to watch where the candidates go from here. Stay tuned for a masterclass in the dos and don’ts of brand building. In the meantime, please let me know what you think.

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