The election season is exhausting for candidates. But for graphic design professionals, it’s an opportunity to help craft successful and powerful brand identities. Experts know what works: they use proven design criteria that’s backed by careful marketing strategies. The graphic design for your print marketing campaign materials should be the foundation of your campaign strategy. Ultimately, it’s your constituents’ recognition of your brand and what you stand for, that will have the greatest impact at the polls.
Crafting Your Brand Identity
Since your brand identity will be the touchstone of your entire campaign, it’s important to invest considerable thought in its graphic design. What do the experts say is the most important part of your brand identity? A distinctive and recognizable logo. If you’re designing the campaign logo yourself, the two key design factors for a political logo are:
- Recognizability: Your logo must be attractive, legible from different distances, and it must project the appropriate message.
- Ease of reproduction: Don’t make the details too intricate, because the logo will need to look consistent and attractive on a variety of media and on campaign materials of different sizes. It should also be able to be clearly reproduced through print, digital formats, embroidery, silk-screening, and possibly even 3D printing.
Both of these points are crucial to delivering your message effectively. In order to achieve recognizability, your logo should be consistently and attractively printed on all of your campaign materials.
Designing A Logo
An effective logo will help you stand out from all of the political noise of other candidates, and will send the right message to your constituents. You don’t have to be a professional graphic designer to craft a distinctive logo. By following good principles of design, and by analyzing what works (and what doesn’t work) for other candidates, you can develop a logo and a brand identity that speaks to your voters. The J. Paul Getty Museum art curators have distilled complex design concepts into these seven simple elements that you should keep in mind when crafting your logo and any other print marketing materials:
- Balance: Make an even distribution of all the visual components, including letters, colors, space, and even texture.
- Emphasis: Whatever you want to be the focal point should be the part that stands out the most.
- Movement: From the focal point, the human eye will naturally take a certain path through the design.
- Pattern: There should be a repetition of elements that is pleasing.
- Proportion: All of the elements in the design should relate to each other with appropriate size.
- Rhythm: The repetition of elements should create an organized and pleasing whole.
- Variety: Use different elements and colors to catch the viewer’s attention.
In the end, the entire design should look and feel harmonious, with all the different pieces working together. Think about how each of these elements in your logo design will work towards making your name and brand recognizable, and how those elements will interact on your different campaign marketing materials. This is easiest if you already know what campaign materials you’ll be using, and what the logo will be going on.
Each year, the most popular and effective political campaign materials are yard signs and print products, like direct-mail pieces, brochures, bumper stickers, and door hangers. Now more than ever, digital graphics are an important part of campaign marketing. You’ll need social media graphics and banners for Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.
Real Logos That Work
It’s easy to think about design principles and theories, but when it comes to actually creating an effective logo, you’ll need to get some concrete and practical ideas. Take notes on what other candidates are doing, and be honest. What grabs your attention? What message do you get?
With the current political debates and presidential campaigning dominating the news cycle, there are many opportunities for this kind of practical research, and there are some important logo-design tips to be gleaned:
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What works: The initial capital “H” and the patriotic colors make the logo eye-catching. It’s simple, balanced, easy to reproduce, and legible. It’s a reminder that the old rule “less is more” really does work. With two diagonal lines, it’s balanced, but with variety. It also suggests a message of “breaking barriers,” where the arrow pokes through.
What doesn’t work: The red arrow tends to get visually lost in the blue background, and there’s not much contrast between those two colors, which causes an issue for digital reproduction. While the logo suggests a message, it doesn’t actually tell us anything concrete about Clinton or her message. All we have is an arrow pointing to the right, which confusingly suggests a shift to the political right.
What works: Since Trump has so effectively created his own brand, the logo doesn’t need to do a lot of heavy lifting. It just needs to be clear. The typeface is modern, emphatic, heavy, and in all uppercase letters, sending an authoritative message.
What doesn’t work: The logo is not exciting, and it doesn’t adhere to any of the good design criteria that we discussed above. It doesn’t have any movement, variety, or even a focal point. It’s dull.
What works: The typeface is approachable, legible, reproducible, and easily recognizable. The symbolic exclamation point adds to the overall approachability and zeal.
What doesn’t work: There isn’t much movement, and there’s almost no pattern or variety. The exclamation point feels forced, and its proportions aren’t in line with the rest of the letters. Some design experts find this “hokey.” If the logo had been in italics, it might’ve made it more dynamic.
What works: The logo references the American flag, which strikes the right note. Some experts like the use of color, particularly the lighter blue. The subtle star that dots the “i” in “Bernie” creates variety, and the wave of the flag adds pattern and rhythm. Our criteria says that this logo is balanced with good proportions and movement.
What doesn’t: There’s no real message or identity in this design, and no indication of who Sanders is. When looking at this, ask yourself if you’d be moved to share it, buy merchandise with this logo on it, or even click on it. Chances are, you wouldn’t. Not everyone is from Vermont.
Your brand identity is a vitally important piece of your political campaign. To develop that brand identity, you’ll need to create a meaningful logo that can be faithfully reproduced on all of your campaign marketing materials. By following these design principles, and by learning from the practical and real lessons of large-scale campaigns, you can craft a winning logo that stands out and sends the right message.