There’s been a lot of pushback about Hillary Clinton’s new logo, the focal point of her US presidential campaign that kicked off on Sunday.
Before judging Team Hillary’s campaign logo, let’s take a step back and look at it in context. For a start, the full competitive set of logos in the 2016 US election campaign isn’t out yet, as Christie, Chafee, Bush and O’Malley have not formally announced.
The other logos currently competing with Hillary are those of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, both of which use a similar visual rhetoric in a flame. Marco Rubio, who formally announces at 6pm EST today, has already put a star in the center of his name.
As BC reader Thomas Newman points out, Rubio’s logo above recalls Walmart’s old logo:
— Thomas Newman (@ThomasNewman) April 13, 2015
Update: Here’s Rubio’s official campaign logo, which perches a red map of America above the “i” in Rubio and bears his slogan, “A New American Century,” in its lock-up version. (Once again, there was an inevitable Twitter explosion in response.)
As Milton Glaser (the designer famed for the iconic I ♥ NY logo) commented to Business Insider last week in response to the Rand campaign logo, “Are we talking about Rand the candidate or Rand the corporation?…no uniqueness, no memorability, no real purpose.”
The benchmark for campaign design has been set by the Obama team in 2008, lead by design director Scott Thomas. As outlined in the book Designing Obama, this was truly the first time a presidential candidate used design and art to create his campaign.
The campaign was beautifully designed, with headlines set in Gotham by Hoefler and Frere Jones, and iconic ‘Hope’ posters created by “Obey Giant” artist Shepard Fairey.
It’s interesting to see that Rand’s team is trying to start a grassroots movement among designers in the line of Obama’s campaign: the team released the logo on Twitter and encouraged designers to change as they see fit.
— Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) April 7, 2015
Paul is also extending his flaming logo to come back at Hillary with the slogan and hashtag “Liberty Not Hillary”:
While some may consider Rand’s logo a bit of a yawn, the “Stand with Rand” element is visually strong.
The outline of Rand takes on almost Mad Men style proportions. It portrays Rand in outline, as underdog, or as hero. A link with the ‘Hope’ poster is easily made.
— Toby Harnden (@tobyharnden) April 6, 2015
With all this in mind, it’s interesting to look at Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign logo. Initial reactions on social media were mixed. Some liked the bold simplicity, while others associated it with the FedEx logo or with a shift or “swipe to the right.”
The famous IBM logo designer Paul Rand said this about good logo design: “The subject matter of a logo need not match the subject matter of the business it represents. The only mandate in logo design is that they be distinctive, memorable and clear.” In other words, as long as the logo stands out and it’s simple, clear and memorable, it will do its job.
In terms of simplicity, Hillary Clinton’s campaign logo—designed by Michael Bierut of Pentagram—certainly stand out. It follows the logic of Obama’s O and chooses an H, choosing her first initial as her last initial is, of course, tied to a former president in Bill Clinton. Where Obama’s “O” was round and fluent, however, Clinton’s “H” is a sturdy shape; it stands strong and is grounded.
It’s hard to dislike Hillary’s visual branding from that perspective. While still patriotic with its red, white and blue, there is an absence of traditional American symbols as flags and eagles or heavy subjects such as freedom and its attendant liberty torch flames, while still being bold and graphic.
Just like her launch campaign video that features “everyday people” who are moving forward with their lives, Clinton presents herself as a champion of those people who’s moving forward to her next chapter (and the road back to the White House, she hopes) and intends to bring everyday American moving forward with her.
The rest of the design emphasizes friendliness, while all type is set in Unity, a custom font and a friendly bold and quirky sentence-case typeface. Could the Sharp Sans do for Clinton what Gotham did for Obama?
At this point, the campaigns are missing a punch. Obama’s successful campaign was about hope, but it’s unclear so far what Hillary and Rand Paul stand for, except what they can’t stand (each other). One thing they do share—glimpses at a sense of humor (whether you find it funny or not), including Paul’s wacky webstore and Clinton’s 404 page.
Still, “Hillary for America” or “Stand with Rand” are rather generic punchlines, except when they’re throwing punches at each other (at least, Paul is so far). Time will tell how the campaigns will evolve and what messages—visual and verbal—will be portrayed.
—Matt van Leeuwen is Design Principal at Interbrand New York. Follow him on Twitter: @matthijs