As a general rule, I’d recommend everyone in the peanut gallery – especially professional designers – stop and read Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech before criticizing something a campaign does.
But if you still need to share your opinion, here’s how you should evaluate a campaign’s branding.
Understanding the Process
Campaign branding is difficult, but increasingly more and more important as the campaign’s brand is seen in more and more settings. I’ll be the first to point out that, for something as critical as a campaign’s visual identity, candidates and campaigns don’t take it seriously enough.
The campaign branding process falls into one of two modes:
- Nobody thinks about the campaign design and something is slapped together out of necessity.
- The candidate and/or candidate’s spouse is very opinionated about campaign branding and overthinks specific aspects of a logo at the expense of more important, practical considerations. Once the candidate and/or spouse is happy, campaign operatives have lost the will to fight for a good design.
What Makes a “Good” Logo
At its most basic, a campaign logo has the same objectives as any other brand’s logo. Paul Rand, who was an art director known for his corporate logo designs, offered this advice:
“The principal role of a logo is to identify, and simplicity is its means… Its effectiveness depends on distinctiveness, visibility, adaptability, memorability, universality, and timelessness.
- Is it distinctive?
- Is it visible?
- Is it adaptable?
- Is it memorable?
- Is it universal?
- Is it timeless?
- Then, when you have said “yes” to everything above, ask this final question: is it simple?
This is an important consideration for campaign branding that frequently gets overlooked. If you’re going to spend resources on yard signs and 4’x8’s you should make sure they’re legible at 70 mph down the interstate and at a distance of a few hundred feet in the neighborhood.
Is the contrast difference between the colors enough? Are the most important parts – name and office – legible?
Previously, a campaign could get away with a logo that looked good on direct mail, a yard sign, and a TV ad. Now, your logo needs to look good in dozens of locations, including websites, social networks, apps, apparel, HD TV, and bus stands.
I strongly recommend developing a logo that consists of a wordmark that includes an element that can be an icon:
This might be the hardest part to get right with attention. Beto’s logo looked like a packet of Whataburger’s spicy ketchup, Mitt Romney had a toothpaste feel, Jeb had the ironic !, and Hillary’s arrow pointed right. All memorable, but not for the right reasons.
On the other hand, Obama’s O, AOC’s purple and gold, and Raul Grijalva’s moustache are memorable for the right reasons.
A campaign’s visual design is an important decision with consequences that last all the way through election day and beyond, but unfortunately, it doesn’t receive the attention, time, and resources it deserves.