Election 2016: The Design Decisions of Trump, Hillary, Bernie and More

February 8, 2016

As the primary season kicks off in New Hampshire, SVA Close Up took a look at what a few faculty members at the College have been saying about the visual identities of the 2016 campaigns, which may subtly shift the race over time.


According to Steven Heller, co-chair of SVA’s MFA Design program, “Candidates gain followers with rhetoric but graphics tie voter to cause. No one votes for a logo but trying something unconventional just might be the difference between winning and losing support.” Heller wrote his own analysis of the modern campaign logo in a recent piece “The State of the Modern Political Logo,” which was published by Wired online at the end of 2015.

MPS Branding Chair Debbie Millman was interviewed in an early story from USA Today about Hillary Clinton’s much discussed logo and Heller looked at the Clinton logo in a piece on The Atlantic‘s website. Here’s one of his observations: “Hillary’s ‘H’ is not Obama’s ‘O.’ Her arrow is not as subtle, for instance,  as the arrow hidden in the negative space embedded in the FedEx logo. Rather, it’s heavy-handed, which is perhaps the point. The ‘H’ implies power. Just using the name ‘Hillary’ is friendly, but much too informal for a presidential candidate. Hillary’s ‘H’ bridges the gap with its heft.”

BFA Design faculty member and partner at the firm, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, Sagi Haviv has commented in a number of media outlets throughout the campaign season and reviewed all of the 2016 Campaign Logos for NBC News. Here’s his take on Bernie Sanders logo:

Here’s his take on Marco Rubio’s “Proportion Problem”:

You can watch all of Haviv’s commentaries here.

We also asked for any design pet peeves from the election cycle thus far and Molly Heintz, co-chair of the MA Design Research, Writing and Criticism program, suggested the overused exclamation point!

“Compared to Obama’s confident but cool ‘Yes we can [period]’ slogan, Trump’s ‘Make America great again [exclamation point!]’ is hyperbolic and hysterical—an accurate representation of the candidate. On the other hand, Jeb Bush’s unfortunate use of punctuation in his logo (Jeb!) only serves to underscore his sideline status and evoke campy TV and film (the E! channel, Airplane!, ¡Three Amigos!).”

And Steven Heller would like to see an end to “cheap Trump campaign buttons.”

“Trump may not have a stellar design sense in his business dealings, but his campaign staff has gone to new lows when it comes to designing its buttons. Granted many of them are not authorized, but enough with the overused political cliches combined with default computer typefaces that adds to the poor impression of this all-too-lengthy campaign cycle.”

Now, let the votes be counted.

Illustration by current BFA Animation student Jake Kaplan.

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