Print Politics

NYT Offers Design Critique of Primary Candidate Logos

Not exactly insightful, but an interesting perspective nonetheless…

Today (with the help of the Digging machine), I came across a fun cartoon on NYTimes.com, assessing the logo designs of various Presidential Primary candidates. Of course, we've seen, and have been doing, quite a bit of this type of analysis around here, but there's nothing like a fresh perspective to generate new ideas.

In the political cartoon, Obama's logo is positioned as being overly busy, likely the work of an inexperienced designer. This assessment is very different from that offered by other designers that have weighed in on the subject and found the design to be fresh and informed.

The cartoon also travels back to the '04 election season to draw a parallel between the bold, indomitable designs from the Bush – Cheney campaign, and the similar style being used right now by the Clinton camp. The writer praises both Bush and Clinton designers for creating a print design style that spoke/speaks to the inevitability of the candidate's win.

Hmm…

As I continued to read the cartoon, it became obvious that the writer was more interested in showing how the logos reflect their candidates, rather than examining the intent behind each piece of political print design, and the success of its subsequent execution.

Impressions from the design community on Digg express suspicion that the 'critique' is motivated more by the NYT interest in promoting their favorite candidates, rather than by the desire to say anything insightful about the connection between design and the success of a campaign.

Although my first reaction was to shoot down the cartoonist as a soulless hack, I'm forced to admit that there's a certain wisdom behind his approach. After all, maybe a logo, however well-designed, is nothing more than a series of brand impressions. If we see Obama as an inexperienced try-hard, we'll see the same flaws in his logo. Conversely, if we think Obama is great, his logo seems imbued with all the promise of his campaign.

This tendency towards subconscious design critique might not apply to the searingly critical eye of a professional designer, but to the average voter? It's a chicken-or-egg style question. Do your impressions create the brand, or does the logo design inform your impressions? Obviously, it's a cyclical process, but where does it truly begin, and how can the process be controlled, from an advertising design perspective?

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