In one of the final papers I wrote during my undergraduate career, I attempted to expand on my thesis by playing both scholar and designer. I wanted to take what I had researched and learned from my academic work on the design of political candidate logos and use my Photoshop skills to create my own political candidate logo designs. I used Hillary Clinton’s 2016 logo as an archetype, in part because I identified so many conflicting messages in her logo and I wanted to see how to re-shape those messages using color and shape.
In Hillary’s current logo, many different interpretations can be read. Red is a sign for the Republican Party and because the arrow is pointing forward (or to the right), it could be a message about her willingness to work with the Republican Party to move the country forward. More likely, the color merely references the American flag and the U.S. and thus the arrow is a message about Hillary’s ability to move the country forward. The blue rectangles could represent her Democratic base of voters, or they could be a pause sign – further emphasizing that she will “un-pause” or move us forward. There are many, many more interpretations of her logo, but the first one mentioned here (that the arrow is a message of her working with the GOP) is problematic for her campaign. With that in mind, I created my own version of her logo, which I think avoids that misinterpretation.
In my version, I conserved the rightward pointing arrow as a sign of movement forward, but I placed the arrow in both red and blue, making it a message about moving both Democrats and Republicans forward (or rather, moving the entire country forward). The white center stroke is curved, much like representations of bridges are often curved, establishing a message of Hillary’s ability to bridge the two sides of the politically split country. The curved white line could also be a reference to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign logo, which incorporated a similar shape to represent the horizon and signify the idea of hope. In addition, shadows or dark filters can signify malevolence or wickedness, but because the white stroke goes through the dark filter of the arrow and white connotes goodness, the logo sets Hillary up as the source of light coming through the dark to unite the nation. Any political candidate would want to be positioned as the savior, but overall, this logo may appear too similar to Pepsi’s logo and branding, and Hillary would not want to associate herself so closely with a commercial brand.
A logo may seem like a small, insignificant visual, but it’s a visual that holds a lot of meaning. It’s the job of the logo designer to take a campaign’s messages and embed those messages in a logo using color, shape, typography, and imagery. It’s not an easy job – as we saw with all the backlash to Hillary’s and Jeb’s logos at the start of the presidential race last year. As voters, we should think more carefully about what candidates are trying to tell us via their logos. As designers, we should be aware of all the ways those voters can interpret logos and incorporate that into our designs.