The brand design that Hillary Clinton has used in the current presidential campaign was announced in April of last year to a fair bit of criticism. The logo (by Michael Bierut of Pentagram), in particular was deemed too right wing, too corporate and altogether too abstract to appeal to the huge target audience in the main campaign.

 

As always, time is a much better judge of these things than snap perceptions. The first time I saw the ‘H’ logo, for instance, I felt distinctly underwhelmed. It seemed too close to the Obama ‘O’ for a start – and it felt a little clunky, that arrow (Change! Dynamism! Reach!) in particular seemed a bit obvious, as if it would go anyway to help us forget that Clinton is essentially the incumbent candidate here. It was in keeping with the way the campaign messages now routinely referred to ‘Hillary’ as if by omitting the surname we’d forget about the sizable back-story.

 

A year of action however and I’m a total convert. I think the design and branding of the Clinton campaign has set a new high watermark for quality, and it fares even better in comparison with the current competition, which lacks cohesion and often appears amateurish*. You’d be right to say that a good or bad brand shouldn’t indicate the competence of a politician, but you’d be saying it into a force ten hurricane wind of political branding. Rightly or wrongly, it matters. Having an inadequate visual identity will let a political brand down just as surely as it would a product on a supermarket shelf.

 

The main reason the ‘H’ logo works so well, the thing that makes us think that so much thought has gone into it, is its flexibility.

 

A logo was, traditionally, static. Not least because having a flexible logo in the past was so expensive. On social media and on an email signature however (to give just two examples of the endless formats they will be used on), logos can be changed easily and inexpensively. Previously, apart from maybe getting sized up or down occasionally, once a logo had been chosen it sat pretty and did its job. And political logos are at the staid end of the spectrum. Think of the ‘08 Clinton logo for reference. Pick a classic serif font, get your party’s colours in there (bonus points for flag inclusion, points deducted for reminding anybody of a toothpaste brand) and the job is done: you can go ahead and print the bumper stickers. The 2016 Clinton logo however, with it’s flexible identity is bang up to date.

 

The logo acts as a framework on which other elements can be introduced, all the while keeping the point of reference front and centre. It allows for significant change, helping to create dialogs and relationships, depending on the context and situation where it is used (Pride event? Iowa?), all the while maintaining a structural integrity.

 

This logo system isn’t just cosmetic. It means the logo has been used more and in a wider variety of places because it is flexible and so able to incorporate ideas, issues and people beyond the candidate herself.

 

*I don’t want to get into Trump design bashing, but it’s worth pointing out just how bad some of the work representing him is. His infamous hat is a highlight. I think it’s Times New Roman but the low stitch count (probably due to a poor digitisation process before embroidery) makes it hard to be sure. Not sure how you could mess up getting Times New Roman on a cap, but there it is.

 

By Oliver Brown