Candidate logo design this cycle has mirrored the position the two major parties find themselves in. On the left, there’s been a splintering of the aesthetic, with progressive candidates favoring new designs, colors and fonts. On the right, candidates have gravitated to the aesthetic of the Trump campaign’s logo: solid blue with stars incorporated.
This analysis comes from the Center for American Politics and Design (CAPD) which, starting in 2018, has worked to compile the logo of every state legislative, gubernatorial, congressional, and presidential candidates’ with a 10-percent chance of winning (and a website). The Center, which is a collective of design professionals, is set to unveil its 2020 archive — minus Louisiana because of its primary date — in the coming weeks.
Susan Merriam, a designer, and CAPD co-founder said design on the right appeared to be influenced by candidates needing the support of Trump voters to win their primaries. “You see their logos that look just like the Trump campaign — a box with stars on the top,” she said. “On their websites, it’s sort of a competition [between] who can have the best picture with Trump, or elements that showcase that visually.”
If Joe Biden does become the next president, Democratic design professionals will be faced with the choice of whether they want to align their candidate with the leader of their party. The Biden logo is basic and functional, according to Merriam: “It wasn’t trying to push an envelope in any direction.”
Meanwhile, some progressive Democrats are breaking out of the traditional design box — and having a wider influence than just in American campaigns. She noted that New Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) logo design, which is tilted upwards, has been embraced by candidates running in France. Others have started to use purple in place of blue.
With 2020 drawing in more candidates who haven’t sought public office previously, Merriam noted that they’ve seen more designs representing the candidate’s non-traditional background. “I think you see more candidates that are embracing non-lawyer experience and that comes across in different ways if it’s a teacher or medical professional. You get some logos with heartbeats with stethoscopes. We have a slight increase on that.”
Overall, the challenges with designing for campaigns is something every practitioner, regardless of their specialization, is familiar with.
“You get a very short deadline so there are limitations,” said Merriam. “A lot of political design still has very far to go.” For instance, of the 843 logos from House candidates the CAPD cataloged, 553 were some variation of blue. “Sometimes there are nuances in it. Democrats might be more apt to use a purply navy. Those are harder to study — at what point does teal end and royal blue begin?"
She said the hallmark of a good design is one that’s easily transferable across platforms and applications. To ensure that it’s effective, candidates should have a group of 10-20 people look at it before it gets printed. “You never know what someone else may see."