Politics aside, Obama’s campaign logo is beyond a doubt THE logo of 2008. Simple, elegant and to the point. It helped get a bloke elected too, so there’s that..
When I first saw the iconoclastic Obama ‘O’ logo, I wasn’t terribly impressed (granted, one of my main problems – the accompanying typography – was later changed.) From a visual point of view, and as a stand alone design, I still think the logo is on the better end of ‘okay’ and while I’m still not terribly excited about the brand (nor any of the other primary election campaign logos for that matter,) have got to give it props for capturing a nation’s imagination, and being at the vanguard of a political movement, certainly a barometer of a logos success if there ever was one. But as we’ve been tub-thumping on this website for years now, it’s not just about the logo. It’s about how the logo works as part of a brand (the spark plug branding that we use quite a lot.) In that sense, the Obama logo shone throughout the presidential campaign. The mark, designed by Chicago design firm Sender LLC , was been turned into a series of themed logos on Obama’s website (a first rate effort), each appealing to a particular voting segment, be it Americans Living Abroad, Kids, Latinos, what have you. Media site Gawker opined that Obama pulled ahead in logo wars, while Speak Up called it The Hardest Working Presidential Candidate Logo and offered a full dissection on how the logo has turned into a powerhouse brand. Hyperempowerd stated quite simply that Obama gets campaign logo right.
Well, you get the idea.
Got to give in to popular opinion on this one so hats off to Sender and Co. And to Obama, natch, for apparently following the advice of the creative minds working on his marketing. There’s also some speculation that the Obama logo played a significant part in the campaign’s efforts to connect with young voters, and there’s no question that this demographic played a great part in getting Obama elected. That’s a claim that no other logo, regardless of how clever,cutting edge or visually exciting can make. Accordingly, if a logo has a part in deciding the President of The United States and the leader of the frikkin’ Free World, I have no choice but to name it the best logo of 2008 (even though the logo was designed early 2007, its influence was felt most in 2008.)
The Obama logo – behind the scenes.
There was a video about the logo floating about, but it keeps getting nuked by YouTube, so I gave up trying to link to it. Luckily, I had written down some jot notes. Here they are in bullet form.
☞ Sender wanted to create something ‘really new’ but held back because of some early criticism of Obama’s lack of experience.
☞ Designers wanted to keep red. white and blue but viewed the political design landscape as ‘gray.’ Other candidate designs (this was introduced during the primary election) were all typographic treatments (you can see them here). Hope and Change was an integral part of the design approach since day one.
☞ As this was the firm’s first political logo, the new logo had to ‘mean something.’
☞ Sender’s logo design process usually involves 2-5 preliminary concepts, but with the Obama campaign logo there was ‘a lot of excitement’ and ’15 to 16 options’ created (though, according to an interview Sender gave to the New York Times, only ‘seven or eight’ were actually presented to the Obama campaign for evaluation.)
☞ While the logo was designed by Sender, it was adapted by the campaign’s internal design agency – New Media for Obama for America – using the celebrated logo treatments on Obama’s website.
☞ The design was developed for social media such as iPhone apps.
☞ The logo became ‘viral’ – none of which were ‘allowed’ (under licensing and copyright) but it wasn’t policed. Unofficial applications of the logo were everywhere – websites featuring how-to’s on pumpkin carving and cupcake recipes were among the favorites.
☞ Someone printed T-shirts – Pirates for Obama – using an upside version of the logo which looks like, well, a pirate.
For (a little) more on the design of Obama’s campaign logo, see Sol Sender’s interview in the online edition of The New York Times.