Friday, September 11, 2015

The GOP Candidates Fly Their Colors

To be sure America, we have a cavalcade of presidential wannabes for the 2016 election. And because the GOP field is much thicker than the Dems, I will review GOP branding first.

This collection does not include EVERY candidate. Merely those front- and pseudo-front-runners, by today's poll, who have branding that could be found.

Only the Trumpster, Mr. Sideshow, the bullying narcissist with a bad comb-over and man makeup, would believe that in politics as in business that: His name IS his brand. Not only that, but he is so decidedly conservative GOP (red) that he appears to be the only candidate (thus far) who has no blue in his brand. And although his exclamation mark is much smaller than Jeb!, its incongruous application at the end of the slogan seems apt for the bloviating Donald. Mr. Trump, you sir, are no graphic designer. “You’re fired!”

Grade: F

The muddled mess that was Carson’s brand was an all-caps line in gold and blue with a “trying to be clever,” interpreted “A” that was made up of flag pieces and the head of an eagle or is it an eagle using signal flags? Whatever it is, the devil is in the details. And as this element became too precious, the “A” began to disappear, leading the tag to read: CARSON MERICA, and everyone wondering: “What the heck is that?”

Carson’s tagline: HEAL+INSPIRE+REVIVE is absurdly funny in that two of the words seem to reference his medical abilities directly. Why not: “AMERICA: THERE’S A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE” or “CPR FOR AMERICA” ?

Enough consternation was created surrounding the brand this summer that damage control was called and a new handle was created. And that’s when the whole thing went ka-blooey. An Akron, Ohio marketing company called Eleventy (really) was engaged to retool and what they came up with was EPICALLY bad.

They went out of their way to use a slightly different Extra Bold Sans, (I mean, they had to be paid for something right?) claiming on their website that the Carson team wanted “cleaner” “updated color palette” and “candidate’s entire name.”

They satisfied all of those requirements but went decidedly overboard with the use of 4 different colors in their simple, rectangular text layout. This creates no hierarchy and a good deal of visual confusion, as the eye doesn’t know where to look. At first I thought this was some sly, “inclusive,” visual device, as if to say, “Carson represents all of America: black, brown, red, yellow and white,” except their “strategic use of color” was black, brown, red and blue. So what is it for?

Aside from Eleventy broadly publicizing their involvement on their own website, the story gained traction when professional graphic designer Sagi Haviv of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv was quoted in a Politico piece, later picked up by as praising it as “one of the best” candidate logos saying it was, “…a sophisticated, well-executed, purely typographical mark…” praising its bold san serif and justified layout and color treatment.

The sophistication is lost on me. It would win on readability grounds Mr. Haviv, if it were not for the “optical confusion” of its 4 colors.

Well, either Mr. Haviv consulted or someone else stepped in, because if you go on Carson’s site now you will find a new color palette reduced (at least) to three colors and now it reads quieter, though the palette usage still does not sing to me. It particularly does not work well on a black background because of how the red pops.

Grade: B

Jeb! Has been mocked for it ridiculous use of the exclamatory button. Jeb Bush doesn’t think he needs a last name, but most recognize it’s strategic absence as a way to deflect the poor post-presidential opinion of his brother George.

To begin with the man is not even using his first name. He is technically running on an acronym: J-E-B standing for John Ellis Bush. It's all very entertaining, but not very helpful to his campaign.

Grade: D

I like the color and font that was chosen for his name, but I do not like the 2016 positioned above the name. That compliment not withstanding, I am utterly confused as to the intended message of Ted Cruz’s patriotic icon. Does Ted Cruz cry for America and this is what one of his tears looks like under the microscope? Is this icon stolen from a “Save Water America” campaign? Or is it an icon borrowed from the American Propane Company? Or is it the image of the flames that would emerge from Ted Cruz were he on fire?

Grade: F

The religious conservative tries to capture the heartland with this Bank of America clone. The 4 emerging stars look like something out of Candy Crush, cartoony and silly. His slogan, “FROM HOPE TO HIGHER GROUND,” seems to be referencing Obama’s HOPE theme as though it was laying the groundwork for Mike to rescue us from the approaching biblical flood. HIGHER GROUND indeed!

Grade: C-

The Walker campaign had some brand coverage from general GOP suppliers to start. But when his “official campaign logo” was later released it caused a bit of a kerfuffle over what was viewed as illegal reference of an existing design owned by the Atlanta-based America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses company. 

It does seem like it was co-opted there and slightly lengthened on the stripes to the right. But upon closer inspection, a discerning eye can see that the stripe spacing was made less equal (white to red) as the white spaces narrowed and also the vertical white space was centered to the layout creating a more symmetrical design. 

Given those details it seems clear that there was an actual designer involved and that he/she was very deliberate in altering the design away from the ABC&E reference, giving less leeway for anyone asserting charges of plagiarism or copyright infringement. But given that ABC&E’s logo bears no ®, that threat would seem unmountable. Besides, the whole American flag and red white and blue vernacular is always up for grabs in this shit show of patriotic hubris. Though the subtext: “FOR AMERICA” seems a bit overkill.

The clean symmetry and balance of the Walker flag and it’s tweaking to match the thickness of the san serif caps of his name, coupled with its clever replacement of the E, which the three red stripes succinctly imitate, make it one of the more well-thought out logo solutions in the bunch.

Grade: A-

Carly keeps it simple and decides, like Jeb and Hillary, that perhaps just the first name is enough. It’s friendly, approachable and perhaps easier to remember. Though Jeb and Hillary are trying to shed their family-baggage surnames, while Carly is maybe trying to shed the ethnicity of her Italian heritage or worries that people will remember it from her disastrous HP tenure.

Her presentation is in a dainty, lighter weight, all caps san serif that serves her well for clarity, but may read “feminine.” And she buries a red, communist star in the “A” of her name.

It is interesting to note that her subtext is a humble and hopeful “FOR PRESIDENT,” like Santorum, Pataki and Jindal, and not the simply arrogant affirmative: “PRESIDENT,” like Perry and Graham.

Grade: B

Here we see a bold all caps italic font that is clearly progressive, or what I mean is: it leans forward. The problem is, in the full name version, the 2016 is in a different font and more italicized than the name, making for a disjointed mess. He has also taken to using a first name only version, an unusual and I think singular approach, that is confusing for any graphic designer, because it makes us think of design idol Paul Rand, who designed the contemporary IBM, ABC and Westinghouse logos (among other things). Paul Rand/Rand Paul? Or they would think it the global policy think tank, RAND Corporation.
More exasperating is the flame, vaguely mimicking the Statue of Liberty’s torch. This may be more successful than Cruz’s teardrop effort, but still not quite working right.

In the shorter RAND version, the designer discovered that the negative space between A and N created a narrow inverted triangle, which gave him/her the handle for the torch. But in the RAND PAUL version the torch element is shifted right, off the triangle, losing the effect.

Grade: B-

I keep waiting for someone to riff him with a “Marco?” “Polo!” joke. Let us hope he stays away from beaches and pools during his campaign. Exceedingly ballsy move to have the candidate’s name appear in lowercase letters. The U.S. map as a dot on the “i” validates the choice of lowercase in an odd way, though it is a bit ill-advised for two reasons. First, from a distance one cannot be sure what the “blob” actually is. I supposed the viewer is subtly rewarded and tickled when he gets closer and sees the map. “Oh, I get it now. How clever.” And second, this only represents the “lower 48,” where are Alaska and Hawaii?

The slogan: A NEW AMERICAN CENTURY is confusingly presented in all caps Futura, AKA Renner sans for designer Paul Renner, is an art deco/Bauhaus era font from 1927. Maybe he meant OLD AMERICAN CENTURY? Furthermore Mr. Rubio, a “century” typically begins with a significant round number. So if you were running for prez in the year 3000, maybe this would make some sense.

Rubio’s simple bumper sticker logo utilizes all caps in black, with a red star separating his two names, similar to the old WAL*MART logo. The only problem here is it may be mistaken for a line of clothing at MACY*S, or worse: according to WIKI, “The five-pointed red star has often served since about 1917 as a symbol of communism.”

Grade: C+

A breath of fresh air, “Pataki” is presented in a clean, clear, lighter weight vertical san serif and humbly tagged: “For President.” Apparently no year required, perhaps saving it for reuse. What is confusing is the presentation of the flag and what it might mean. Is there some subtext here? At least he does not have Walker’s troubles. It is minimalistic at best. Is it a bar chart showing Dems (blue) ½ stripe terribly behind Reps two full red stripes? Incongruous.

Grade: C+

BOBBY JINDAL FOR PRESIDENT, presents a clean, modern all caps message beneath a jaunty red, white, and blue J. The J is barely flag-like but manages to deliver all the raw elements and create some dynamic, faux-dimension. One must only wonder as to the decision or rationale of 3 stars, and what looks to be 5 stripes. This entire package seemed to be executed cleanly, with no questionable content.

It was the additional marketing that bit Bobby in the ass. The campaign designed what they thought was a benign “call to action” with the copy: TANNED. RESTED. READY. JINDAL2016, –leaving the public to wonder about the oblique reference to his ethnic complexion.

Further negative reaction emerged in June 2015, when the Nixon Foundation tweeted a 1988 marketing scheme for Richard Nixon bearing almost the exact same copy.

Grade: C / (D)

Mr. Graham would most likely fail in capturing the Republican nomination based on the fact that in schoolyard parlance, “He has a girl’s name!” Would Ford have been a successful politician if he had run on his birth name: Leslie King? That was a double whammy, a girls name and the word KING. President King? Nope, would never work. It also doesn’t help Graham that he is not well liked by either party.

He abandons LINDSEY and just goes with GRAHAM PRESIDENT, as if he wants to enjoy the sound of it. The converging narrow triangles, with the abbreviated 16 is vague, resembling the look of a mailbox sign.

Grade: D

PERRY PRESIDENT– notice only two words (he couldn’t think of a the third), alliterative, succinct and affirmative, not “for” President. Perry dumbs it down for sure and with a design wholly reminiscent of a baseball team logo. Maybe he meant: “Perry for the Pirates.” Except the cap “P” which is oddly misshaped, and mostly obscured by the zoom-up star, is barely recognizable as a “P.” The fuzzy mess is topped off with a star straight out of central casting, albeit clip art stock.

Grade: F

Unfortunately the simplicity of CHRISTIE2016, while graphically solid and readable, comes off as looking like a Class President poster for a senior girl named CHRISTIE. His tagline, TELLING IT LIKE IT IS, does little to deflect from his brusque, bullying, Jersey manner.

Grade: C

A masculine, all caps approach here. The iconography that is the bald eagle confused me. Maybe because it makes me think that this is a man running for Secretary of the Interior.

Grade: C-