In the Age of Authenticity, What Role Does Design Play in Presidential Campaign Branding? Two successful campaigns that redefined candidates' aesthetics.
In the Age of Authenticity…
Original article by Jess Zafarris — Oct. 16, 2020
Adweek interviewed Landscape Founder & Exec. Creative Director Adam Weiss alongside other global branding experts including design world icon, educator, and author Debbie Millman as well as Robyn Kanner, senior creative advisor for the Biden campaign.
Landscape is endorsing Joe Biden and it has nothing to do with his branding.
Political design systems can act as tools to multiply and expedite the dissemination of messaging and build affinity (if not trust or credibility). People love sports because everyone loves to win and the scores and rules are clear. In politics today the opposite is true, there appears to be very few rules, and so something like a Bernie shirt or MAGA hat offer a semblance of clarity, the opportunity to bet on something simple — like ‘Hope’ during Obama’s era.
I think the ‘hope’ this year would be that voters recognize the need to dig a bit deeper and not only find a slogan they can understand, but find out what is true. Who will act honorably in a time when our nation faces horrific obstacles and great suffering?
The candidates in recent elections have been very clear embodiments of their own brands. Their individual stories and signals, very distinct.
- The First Black President
- The First Potential Woman President
- A Political Outsider Business Person
- A Step Towards Reason During Time of Unrest
Everyone reading these words has a distinct, unique image leap to mind. While each candidate’s design systems can help to address their potential shortcomings or reinforce their strengths, likely, audiences are not splitting mediocre typographic hairs — they are trying to understand the game.
This year we’re asking questions like: Who would you leave alone in a room with your children? Who will put their candidacy before my health? Is the life of an unborn child more valuable than the lives of seniors being killed by COVID-19? What does it mean to hold life and duty sacred? Do I care if this person is a racist?
- A geometric modern sans makes Hillary seem warmer and more modern / relatable.
- A MAGA hat may feel typographically under-designed but delivers strong messaging and graphic appeal (through color) to a base that grapples with their identity in relation to a changing national population. A wearable political identity is a good idea.
- Biden’s branding feels expected though modern, perhaps to feel younger, while not signaling any additional risk to voters that might finally give up on Trump and have grown weary of the tumult.
- Obama’s core branding perhaps acted to invite American’s to see themselves arriving at a new destination, clearly on the horizon, under a romantic, O-shaped sky.
- Shepard Fairey’s imagery for Obama was perhaps the most distinct in its visual language of all of the above. In the context of the first Black candidate, this imagery leaned into signaling a radical change, and the energy associated with that narrative. An authentic expression, and like the MAGA hat, something to be displayed, signaling an attitude, and the opportunity to be aligned with the bigger, simple story, in this case ‘hope’.
- Who they physically are
- What they have done / we presume they will do
- What they know
At a moment when truth is often intentionally obfuscated through fake news and propaganda created exponentially, the best design system is perhaps a set of policies that offer true value to the most broad group, simply.
A diverse community, each member, checking the facts for the other — comparing notes, uncovering truths, sharing perspectives, championing good ideas, and helping us get to the bottom of it all (or perhaps, out from under the mess).
Sounds a little like democracy.
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