Obama ’08 – A Campaign with Graphic Consciousness
I have been disappointed by the lack of imagination and sophistication demonstrated by America’s last few decades of political campaign graphics. Sure, convention and tradition are important thematic elements, and over time, this sector has developed its own visual rhetoric. Bold typography often touts a visual aggressiveness that rivals local television’s most grating used car commercials. These graphics focus on attributes such as strength and patriotism, constantly recycling a well-worn vocabulary of navy and red, flat palettes, flags and hasty, ill-conceived photography. What happened to solid graphic craftsmanship? What happened to using visual materials as a means of communicating your point of difference as a competitor?
Enter Obama ’08. This campaign showed a refreshing sense of graphic consciousness. Thoughtfully crafted visual materials consistently focused on the campaign’s mantra of change while also propelling Obama as a popular culture icon.
The Obama ’08 logo injects a fresh sense of graphic agility by incorporating a circular icon that echoed the “O” in the candidate’s name. A bright accent blue invigorates the expected patriotic palette. The repetition of curves and the addition of subtle gradients give the logo a contemporary air.
The campaign’s web materials extended the logo’s graphic prowess by applying the fresh color palette, designing carefully organized typography, selecting artful photography, including contemporary custom icons and using subtle gradients.
When artists contributed time and talent to create campaign posters and images, the Obama campaign had the foresight to embrace these works. Shepard Fairey’s posters proliferated to become an unofficial icon for the campaign. Such efforts by artists allowed the campaign to tap into the inertia of the craft / DIY movement. They helped Obama to gain momentum as a popular culture icon while also inspiring co-creation and creative grassroots activism among other Obama followers.
This campaign serves as a fantastic case study for the design process. Often, it is tempting to generate design solutions by adhering to conventions and producing the expected. But, a little imagination and innovation can go a long way. Carefully crafted, original design solutions can help you improve communication with your audience – allowing you to communicate your message, not just a message.