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THE DESIGN OF POLITICS

This has been one hell of an election year, and I, for one, am glad it’s almost over.

Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about politics, but as a recovering designer, I can’t seem to shake this nagging question that's been rolling around in my head—How important is design in politics?           

Until recently, not a lot of thought was put into a candidate’s campaign identity. If you look back at the last 100 years or so, you’ll notice that they’ve pretty much all looked the same. For the most part, campaigns have used a combination of red, white and blue along with some abstract stripe, flag or nationalist reference. Palatino anyone? Not very memorable, that's for sure, let alone differentiating.

It is obvious that design is playing a much bigger role in this political season, and certain candidates are doing a much better job with visual consistency across all of their touch points. In 2008, the Obama campaign raised the bar on the importance of looking and acting like a real brand. It has become the gold standard for which all campaign identities have been judged. And man do we love to judge. “Why is the arrow facing right?” “Red? Why red? That’s the color of the Republican Party!” “Is that T really penetrating the counter of the P?!?” “Doesn't anyone use a grid anymore?” “Was that done in Mac Paint?” “I could have done a better job in 5 minutes!”

Are we just being distracted from what is truly important?

Yes, it is our job as creatives to pay attention to the details and provide thoughtful and well-executed solutions. Great design is meant to attract the audience, inspire confidence, persuade and ultimately influence someone’s decision making. Design is only one part of a larger ecosystem of a how a brand is perceived. It’s as important, if not more so, than how a brand’s promise and core set of values influence their behavior. Without a strong, well-crafted message rooted in strategy and insight, a logo is just a meaningless symbol, even if it was created by < insert famous designer name here >.

So if we strip away the aesthetics of this election, what do we have left? Are we emotionally connected to their message? Do their actions support that message? Do their values reflect yours? When all of those elements are in alignment, in combination with amazing design, a brand can truly be an agent for change.

If Hillary does end up winning this election, will it be in spite of her logo being universally mocked when it debuted last year? Or will it be because her brand was the most consistently executed? If Sol Sender had created Trump’s campaign identity would that have influenced your vote? Probably not. But if his message was one that inspired you and connected you to his vision for the country, it might.  At the end of the day orange lipstick on a pig is, unfortunately, still just a pig.

Jeff Bartel is a Principal at Nemo Design, a brand and design agency in Portland, Oregon. He’s worked on projects for Nike, Converse and MasterCraft. He has bowled a 300, collects anything Star Wars and will be dropping off his voting ballot on Tuesday.  

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