Drawing voters in: Campaign logos bring artistic touch to politics

Story highlights

  • Just like artwork, logos are open for interpretation and can mean different things to different people. Still, campaigns generally try to convey messages of strength, optimism, and hope -- all the while capturing some element of the candidate's personality.
  • Along with a candidate's face, logos become the most recognizable visuals for a campaign.

(CNN)Scott Walker released a part of his logo Thursday night, with plans to unveil the full brand, piece by piece, over the next nine days until his expected presidential announcement on July 13.

The black and white image shows what looks to be a stage with the superimposed letters "CA" creeping in from the left. Such a partial glimpse is an uncommon rollout for a campaign logo, designed to build gleeful anticipation for his big kickoff and likely one of the final presidential announcements of the year.
Walker's suspenseful logo launch underscores the power and visual impact that symbols can have in defining a campaign. Along with a candidate's face, logos become the most recognizable visuals for a campaign. They aim to capture the candidate's message and personality in a brand that's versatile enough to fit on a range of paraphernalia and advertising.
    "Ultimately, the logo's job is to build remembrance," said Sky Hartman, a brand designer who created Ron Paul's 2012 logo.
    Hartman and other designers point to President Barack Obama's 2008 logo as a new benchmark for campaign designs. The O-shape horizon broke tradition by being a symbol that can be easily identified without the candidate's name.
    "If you can design a concept that sticks in people's minds, you've been successful," Hartman said.
    A number of decisions go into the creative design process. But a key component of a logo is it's transferability: The typeface, dimension and color must be small enough to fit on a button or big enough to fill up a billboard.
    Hillary Clinton's campaign attempted the symbol approach, choosing a blue letter "H" with an arrow going across. Voluntarily created for the campaign by Michael Bierut, a designer at Pentagram, the logo generated a huge splash on social media, with some criticizing it for looking like the FedEx logo, while others thought the red arrow pointing to the right was a little too Republican.
    Clinton's team, however, has been able to replace the blue filling in the bolded "H" with other colors and images. During the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage last month, the H was filled with a rainbow. When her campaign announced it was going to Iowa, her press releases contain the H filled with a photo of a cornfield.
    Just like artwork, logos are open for interpretation and can mean different things to different people. Still, campaigns generally try to convey messages of strength, optimism, and hope -- all the while capturing some element of the candidate's personality.
    For Jeb Bush, that means adding punctuation. The former Florida governor also created a stir when he unveiled his logo, a recycled version of his gubernatorial brands, with an exclamation point at the end of his first name, underlined by "2016."
    Jimmy Fallon poked fun at the logo when Bush was on "The Tonight Show" last month. "Do I pronounce it JEB!" Fallon said, shouting the candidate's name. "Did Regis Philbin come up with this? Jeb! Jeb is running for President 2016! Jeb!"
    Bush informed Fallon that Jeb stands for his full name, John Ellis Bush.
    "John, exclamation point, probably wouldn't work," the candidate joked. "But Jeb kinda works a little better."
    The punctuation also aided in crafting a logo that could be used in Spanish -- ¡Jeb! -- drawing attention to his close ties to the Latino community.
    The visual strength of a campaign isn't limited to the logo. Campaigns frequently print banner messages that show up on posters, in ads or on backdrops at campaign events -- remember the "We Can't Afford Four More Years" slogan from Romney's campaign.
    "Campaigns are judged by how quickly and creatively they respond to real time events, which can mean changing an event's message at the very last minute," said John Legittino, who oversaw event production for Romney in 2012 and founded Harbinger Outreach, a production agency that specializes in political and media optics.
    The perfect logo or message banner is short, direct and easy to understand, he said. Campaigns also have to consider how the colors will show up in a range of platforms and how logos will look from different camera shots.
    "It may sound good in a meeting at campaign headquarters, but will it look good when it airs on CNN?" he said. "That's the question. It all has to be designed to translate to TV and photos."