Designing Obama: Could A Font Have Won An Election?

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The Power of Brand Design on the 2008 Election [Updated in 2020]

Obama-logo-2008-could a font have won the election

Back in 2008. we were feeling good. We felt good about the direction of the country. We felt good about the vision of the President. And we always feel great about the powerful impact that design has had on this election. We wondered…Could a font have won the election?

Bringing change to the country through branding

What Steve Jobs brought to Apple — a passion for design that changed computers forever — Team Obama brought to political marketing. Design was no longer just for bumper stickers and yard signs to be quickly discarded once the campaign season ended. 

Obama was no ordinary candidate. His campaign was different, and his brand had to send that message.

The logo design created a brand identity.

It was about starting a movement. It was about creating a brand that is as singular as the President himself.

Learn more about Network9’s brand strategy work

Consistency with Obama’s message

The Obama logo — a blue “O” rising over a striped field of red and white, evoking an American sunrise — was the candidate’s own Nike swoosh. Without using a single word, the logo became a symbol for a new day in politics. It is consistent with the message of change he brings.

Read more about Sol Sender, Obama Logo creator

The O logo helped a Senator from Illinois achieve the seamless brand identity that most global businesses strive for. Today, it can be found everywhere from bakeries to the annual pumpkin contest. Yes We Carve!

obama logo on cookies     obama logo on a pumpkin     Obama-Logo-on Pie

The logo’s creator, Sol Sender, recently released some versions from their brainstorms that didn’t see the light of day, but all had merit.

Many of these are wonderful. They each have a distinct idea and character. Tough choice! but in the end, the circle logo became iconic and there were many riffs done on with it by the always creative public. Food seemed to lend itself nicely to the circular design.

Obama 2008 Hope Logo option not chosen Obama 08 Logo design Could A Font Have Won An Election Obama 08 Logo Obama Logo design 2008 Campaign Could A Font Have Won An Election Obama 08 Logo Idea 2008 Obama Logo Could A Font Have Won An Election Obama Exclamation Point 08 Logo 2008 Obama logo design Big O Obama Logo 08

Obama Uses Gotham: Modern, Clean, Bold Font

The cornerstone of President Obama’s visual identity was the font Gotham. Campaigns usually use a hodgepodge of typefaces, which are often at the whim of whoever presses “Print” at Kinko’s. Not so here.

The Obama campaign insisted on uniformity and design discipline. Gotham worked not just because it looked good, but because it was applied with the consistency of a brand. It stuck — Gotham became instantly recognizable as the Obama font. We think this font could have won the election!

“Gotham is a sleek, purposefully not fancy, very straightforward, plainspoken font, but done with a great deal of elegance and taste–and drawn from very American sources”
~ Designer Michael Bierut

Hillary’s Old School Font: New Baskerville

Hillary-Clinton-2008-Logo  Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign sign 2008

For those who think fonts don’t matter, ask Hillary Clinton, whose stiff and predictable design scheme confirmed some voters’ wariness that she was simply a product of the establishment.

She later admitted her font, New Baskerville, had the “look of someone who pulls their pants up too high.”

Or John McCain, who chose Optima, a font from the 1950s used on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.

Mccain-Campaign-Logo-2008

The font was chosen to evoke associations with McCain’s military service, but it proved to be a ho-hum design that was quickly forgotten.

Read more about how Trump out-branded Hillary in the 2016 election

Could A Font Have Won An Election Hillary Clinton logoChange is good: the 2012 Obama Logo gets an update

Sensing that he needed a change to re-energize his brand, Obama updated his look for the 2012 campaign. The designers of Gotham tweeted this in April: “Gotham with serifs? OK, but only because you asked, & you’re the President of The United States.” Works for us!

Obama-Biden logo 2012-fCould a font have won an election!

See our logo design work here

Romney: Waffling on His Brand

For his official campaign font, Romney commissioned the same design house, Hoefler and Frere-Jones, that designed Gotham for the President. They created a new version of Trajan Bold and a pleasant, if not revolutionary design.

Could A Font Have Won An Election Romney logo

Governor Romney’s campaign also tried their hand at a logo. Romney’s triple Rs were meant to show people and patriotism but would have worked with better execution. Instead, it ended up looking more like a dollop of toothpaste.

Trajan, Hoefler told The Wall Street Journal, expresses the “conservative promise” of Mitt Romney’s campaign and is “pleasing, without being too edgy.” The design reflected the man: traditional, conservative, and a candidate with old school sensibilities.

Instead of sticking with Trajan the way Obama stuck with Gotham, the Romney campaign also employed Kepler, Whitney and Mercury, which may have undermined brand recognition.

Romney did not have a comprehensive design strategy, and in the end he fell short as both a candidate and a brand.

President Obama probably won the election with his charm and vision, but the font didn’t hurt! We think he won the design race too.

By using smart and consistent design, Obama became America’s first candidate to market himself like a high-end consumer brand. Like the President himself, the design strategy leaned forward.

Could A Font Have Won An Election-Vote for Change Logo

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