Designing a logo and visual brand for a campaign is really difficult. That’s why I typically stay out of the peanut gallery and leave things to the men and women actually in the arena. But Pete Buttigieg’s campaign has decided to take a different approach and open up their design process to broader scrutiny.
You can see their entire “Design Toolkit” here and it’s worthy of your time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another campaign spend this much focus on design this early and I wish more candidates would.
The toolkit offers an explicit invitation to Buttigieg’s supporters to adapt, create, and remix the campaign’s visual design:
This is your home base for downloading the graphic assets you need to support our grassroots campaign.
Don’t underestimate the importance of inviting your grassroots supporters in and giving them permission to help you out. Every campaign has superfans eager to do whatever you’ll ask of them.
I’m underwhelmed, though, with the logo itself, mainly because there’s nothing to leverage as an icon. I think that’s ultimately a critical part of campaign branding because of the many different places you need a recognizable icon, including online and offline uses.
As the campaign explains, “[Buttigieg] is uniquely positioned to bridge the divides tearing this country apart,” but the bridge metaphor is so subtle, I wonder if anyone will get it? Or if they do, will they understand what he’s supposed to be bridging?
(Also, nothing says bridging a divide like calling attention to the chasm with the span of a bridge. In order to work, one side has to walk over to the other.)
The color palette the campaign chose is compelling because it breaks out of the standard red, white, and blue that nearly every campaign uses. I do think they went overboard with too many primary and accent colors. It means staff, volunteers, and activists have too many choices, which we know can be overwhelming.
Here’s how Hyperakt describes their color choices:
“our color palette is deeply rooted in Pete’s home town – South Bend, Indiana. Born and raised in South Bend, Mayor Pete has led the rust-belt, midwestern city through a period of renaissance since he took office. The 9 colors in our pallette are an ode to Pete’s hometown and his life there.”
It reads exactly like the kind of design brief you’d read from a Brookly-based agency that dropped in on South Bend for a few days, took some photos, and tried to distill its “essence.” It feels to me like middle America tourism.
I also think there was a missed opportunity to use typefaces that are open source and would be freely available to all staff, volunteers, and supporters, not just those who can pay for them. If you were to purchase all of the fonts Buttigieg’s campaign’s style guide uses, you’d be paying thousands of dollars – hardly a move friendly to the grassroots.
But since campaign branding is so difficult and I think Hyperakt does great work, I’ll end on a positive note. The crowd designed state logo variations for Team Pete are well done, reflect the character or each state, and will make his supporters across the country very happy.