I like Barack Obama, in particularly how his campaign was ‘designed’. Although my perspective is based on something relatively peripheral, it seemed that the big ‘O’ tailored smartly to appeal to a 21st century audience who are tech-savvy and saw value in a good, clearly presented ‘image’. The presence of the campaign also in the digital realm [website, Barack TV, even twittering and Facebook and more] + elegant branding seemed to certainly help make things seem a lot more palatable, distinctive and accessible. Obama’s ‘brand’ unlike the others [McCain etc] was a refreshingly ‘change’ too much of the dreadful and samey U.S. electoral material of years past. Ok, there is nothing special about his catch-phrases but the Obama mark is certainly interesting for a few necessary reason, namely:
- it’s memorable
- it’s a USA brand but not so overt
- it feels new
The Obama brand is significant and recognizable because it’s a ‘true’ logo and not just a typographic response with stars. It’s simplicity is evocative; not just reading as an ‘O’ [obviously] but also lending itself to many ideological conclusion about… new horizons of hope, moving in a new direction, shining brighter etc. The obligatory colouration still gives it a USA connection but through the positioning of careful elements makes for a meaningful symbol of landscape and sun at its direct centre.
The Obama brand also utilises recent trend in logo design towards 3-D form blending, to essentially make it not look flat [a trendy web 2.0 look]. Along with the tasteful use of transparencies and reflections this value is consistent throughout all the official material, e.g. website and banners. Many have noted and commended too the use of the “friendly …[and] confident” typeface, Gotham, which adorns Obama’s rally banners and campaign signage. Gotham is a relatively newish san-serif typeface  designed by Hoefler & Frere-Jones. It is marked as “carry [ing] less emotional baggage” than the older typefaces also those say used by McCain [Optima designed by Hermann Zapf, 1958] and Hilary Clinton [ITC New Baskerville designed by John Quaranda, 1978]. This is entirely fitting with Obama’s image, a reasonable young guy, conservative but down ‘with-it’.
When the ‘O’ brand was handed over and disseminated it was adapted freely by the official Obama team [and consequentially the public] to appeal to each key demographic and grouping. The success and ease in which this was done I think is the mark of a good brand, where with only a few minor changes in treatment and typography were necessary to personlize the form.
The logo was designed by the Chicago-based firm Sender LLC in 2006. Rather than saying anymore, have a look at this clip where Sol Sender [creative director] discusses the evolution and rationale behind the design [8 minutes] – note. this design by far is the best they came up with.
Here are a few other interesting links, mostly directed at the design surrounding Obama and described a lot more articulately than me:
* The ‘O’ in Obama by Steven Heller [NY Times]
* Brand Obama: A Leader in the Image War [Int’l Herald Tribune]
* Expertinent: Why the Obama “Brand” Is Working [Newsweek]
* The Hardest Working Presidential Candidate Logo [Speak Up]
* Democracy, Designers and Obama [Thought for the Week]
* Even Obama’s typeface gets bloggers buzzing [News & Observer]
Obama by Art and Design
Another aspect of the Obama campaign I have particularly enjoyed is the outpouring of support of the man [and wit] by the art and design worlds. Here is a wee visual survey of the stuff I like, with links …
* Tee-shirt: Donuts | Bacon ’08 tee-shirt [via Slash Food]
– Simpson’s style, very cool, very witty. I want one.
[2’x2’x9′ – 1000 feet of steel high tension wire, black enamel and poplar base]
– crazy, beautiful
* Painting by Shawn Barber
– Barber is one of my favourite artist and I really like the way he handled this portrait. It featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, Jan 20, 2009.
– I’m not sure how to read this but its very well done anyway. I like both of their expressions.
-this has generated it’s own documentary of the same name. It follows Ron English and other street artists like Shepard Fairey on their support through art of the Obama’s campaign for the Presidency. Here’s the trailer:
-I’m sure in time there will a movie on the man
-it was bound to happen…
* typeface – Obamabats [download here]
* Information Graphic – Annual Report for Barack Obama by Dopplr
– great visualisation [and idea] using Dopplr travel service. Read more about it here
* Information Graphic – Visualizing Obama’s Speech [link]
[via uses of Many Eyes]
* Information Graphic – Electoral Results by State by Pedro Monteiro [ What Type]
– this graphic shows how the swing states have chosen to vote for the past 100 years.
*toy – Obama Action Figure by Jailbreak Toys
-USA’s real life superhero
– I like this one a lot more than the previous. It’s very adaptable and flexible and comes with lots of options for brutal and nice accessories.
Last and certainly not least: Hope / Progress by Shepard Fairey.
– this is the official unofficial image of the Obama campaign. It has become so ubiquitous and iconic in such a short period of time, penetrating the mass media through the street more than any other Obama image. Shepard Fairey [one of my design idols] is one of the worlds leading street artists who has this strange knack for creating enduring, memorable imagery [previously responsible for the OBEY and Andre the Giant has a Posse campaigns]. I was stoked when I first saw this, instantly recognizing it as his through his distinctive reductive treatment, compositions and colour. I want to get my hands on a large print.
Fairey seems to be getting in a little bit of strife with regards to fair use of the original photographic image [which stinks]. The original was taken by freelance photographer Mannie Garcia who was on assignment for the Associated Press. Fairey is getting accused of copyright infringement which unfortunately dampens the good intent of the image.
+ article: Milton Glaser on Shepard Fairey [Print Magazine]
+ articles: AP alleges copyright infringement of Obama image [AP]
To add insult to injury, Fairey was also recently arrested on the 7th of February on unrelated charges of tagging before attending his own show opening in Boston. [article].
On a brighter note, the image has been entered into the permanent collection of the Smithsonian at the National Portrait Gallery. Well done that man. Odd to see him in a suit. [article | images of ceremony]
↓ Also a thankyou letter from Barack Obama himself, choice ! [link] ↓
↑ a couple of variations on the basic design ↑
If you like the colour scheme used in the image you can d/l the palette here from Colour Lovers [as: .ai. ase. .zip]
red: RGB: 219, 21, 34 / hex: #DB1522
yellow: RGB: 255, 239, 167 / hex: #FFEFA7
grey: RGB: 185, 204, 184 / hex: #B9CCB8
light blue: RGB: 101, 147, 160 / hex: #6593A0
blue: RGB 10, 42, 63 /hex: #0A2A3F
Some Clips and an Article on Shepard Fairey
+ ↑ Shepard Fairey interview with Charlie Rose ↑
+ ↑ Shepard Fairey interview with Boing Boing ↑
+ video on Shepard Fairey adapting design for Man of the Year cover
+ video of Shepard Fairey on Stephen Colbert
+ article: The Power Of Brand-Old Message Art [Washington Post]
Some Further Resources / Collections
+ 30 Reasons – 30 graphic designers present 30 reasons to vote Barack Obama
+ Design for Obama – “Design/ers for Obama is a community for Obama supporters, whether visually inclined or not, to aggregate and rate Obama poster art”
+ Every Moment Now – graphed daily news archive on Obama [also a bloody nice information graphic]
+ Art of Obama – image collection of graphics and graffiti in support of Obama
+ Obama Art Report – daily reporting on the world of Barack Obama [artwork, news, auctions]
+ Manifest Hope DC Gallery Show – that “shined a spotlight on artists who used their voices to amplify and motivate the grassroots movement that carried President-Elect Barack Obama to victory.” [link]
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