Thursday, February 28, 2008
Putting the "O" in momentum.
What are the elements of the Obama brand?
To start, he has this way of writing Obama in upper and lowercase in a serif font and juxtaposing it with that "O" symbol he has--the blue ring with red and white stripes disappearing into it, making the white form inside the blue look like what I suppose is meant to be a rising sun.
That's his "logo," right?
Right. A lot of times when he's at a podium what you'll see is, centered right beneath him, at the very top of the blue field that usually says something like "Change You Can Believe In," it'll be just that little symbol, functioning in the same way the Nike swoosh does. People look at that and know what it means, even though it's just an "O" with some stripes in it. . . .
How else is Obama's design different than what has come before--or what rival campaigns are doing?
He's the first candidate, actually, who's had a coherent, top-to-bottom, 360-degree system at work. Whereas, I think it's more more common for politicians to have a bumper-sticker symbol that they just stick on everything and hope that that will carry the day.
The thing that sort of flabbergasts me as a professional graphic designer is that, somewhere along the way, they decided that all their graphics would basically be done in the same typeface, which is this typeface called Gotham. [See "Change We Can Believe In" sign, above] If you look at one of his rallies, every single non-handmade sign is in that font. Every single one of them. And they're all perfectly spaced and perfectly arranged. Trust me. I've done graphics for events --and I know what it takes to have rally after rally without someone saying, "Oh, we ran out of signs, let's do a batch in Arial." It just doesn't seem to happen. There's an absolute level of control that I have trouble achieving with my corporate clients.
Then if you go to the Web site, it's all reflected there too--all the same elements showing up in this clean, smooth, elegant way. It all ties together really, really beautifully as a system.
Is Obama's stuff on the level with the best commercial brand design?
I think it's just as good or better. I have sophisticated clients who pay me and other people well to try to keep them on the straight and narrow, and they have trouble getting everything set in the same typeface. And he seems to be able to do it in Cleveland and Cincinnati and Houston and San Antonio. Every time you look, all those signs are perfect. Graphic designers like me don't understand how it's happening. It's unprecedented and inconceivable to us. The people in the know are flabbergasted.
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