John Caserta
I reflect back on my response to Politico’s request for a design assessment of the 2016 campaign identities. This page contains 514 words and is filed under essays

On Campaign Identities


We gain a lot in hindsight — it’s an opportunity to reflect upon a previous best effort; to understand your own self better. Michael Bierut just wrote an essay reflecting on the Hillary Clinton campaign identity. This prompted me to dig up what I sent Politico in the spring of 2016 as a response to their request for reactions to the Presidential candidates’ logos.

My response emphasized voice: that a logo draw out the essence of a candidate. This seems so incredibly naive as I read it today. Trump is now our president and the GOP runs Congress because of how they marketed themselves to voters. In retrospect, I see how a successful campaign identity is the one that helps the candidate win. What will convince someone to believe the rhetoric of the candidate? A political campaign needs to be just as convincing as any other piece of marketing. There is a promise made, a suggestion. It does not need to be fulfilled.

Clinton’s graphic identity was incredibly contemporary, incredibly well-executed. But it did not result in victory. Would there have been a graphic identity that would have helped Clinton win? Would that have been equally as distasteful as Donald Trump’s? It’s a riddle, but one worth pondering.

Below is the original text that I sent Politico:

So many candidates, so many logos, so many problems. It doesn’t matter what the candidate believes in, there is a greater need to check the logo off the grand list of to-dos when getting a candidacy started. Moreso than bad typography or a lack of finesse, the great disappointment in the presidential candidate’s logo is a lack of voice. Most of them simply belong to a hoohum lineage of campaign logos. It’s borderline mandatory to use red, blue and to drop a star or arrow into the candidate’s name itself.

Successful logos should bring out the personality of the person as much as his/her political ideology. So much of this happens in the typeface alone. Jeb and Bernie appropriately use their first names typeset in informal, approachable serif fonts. The bubbly exclamation point in Jeb Bush’s logo makes him seem goofy, but maybe he is. Trump’s typeface could be more Trump Toweresque. It’s a pretty uninteresting sans-serif font. It’s good to see the website add a shiny gradient. That way we understand that the candidacy follows up from the person himself.

Hillary’s logo uses political colors and a touch of the election ballot arrow. But it is too diagrammatic to offer some sense of the woman. The logo reads as this: “take this blue rectangle on the left and move it to the right of this other rectangle. Then we’ll be done.” Or as one of my female colleagues at The Design Office said, “I want to like it, and I would like to like to like her, but I don’t like either.” And although the Clinton logo is one of the least emotive and least evocative of the person or the ideology, it does give itself an opportunity to take on meaning as the race evolves.

Image at top: Image taken from another Politico story

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Interim Dean of Architecture + Design and formerly Department Head of the Graphic Design Department at Rhode Island School of Design. Founded The Design Office, a workspace for designers, in 2007, and ran it until its closing in 2021. Hear an interview that covers my teaching and design career. Read an overview of my work from The Noun Project. This site is updated regularly and outputs to a book with Bindery. Get in touch via email.