online marketing psychology

November 17, 2010

Creating a brand in politics

Obama was the saviour of The New World. That is the main point the European media made during his election campaign. And despite all the coverage on the content of his campaign, the execution details got lost.

I did not experience the parts that are still getting so much attention two years later. Things like the grassroots movement, people uniting, artists uniting, a new way to collect donations or the use of new media to interact with supporters in a different way.

I also did not witness the role design played in the campaign, that is why I enjoyed coming across the following book:  Designing for Obama by Scott Thomas. He was one of the full-time new media designers on the Obama campaign.

It tells the story of the campaign from a design perspective.

Sol Sender, a designer, was approached by Obama's team to create the logo. After reading Obama's book and absorbing more details he went on to discover what he had to create. Some iterations later, the logo above was born.

Before the author of the book was brought on board, the director of new media had been trying to manage things. There only was the logo and the idea behind it. But this had to be adapted to fit the different parts of the campaign and suit the different media and needs. This meant a lot of work for one man inexperienced with design, and even harder to do this job in a consistent way.

When the campaign got two professional designers on board, the logo and message were transformed into a visual identity. There also was a need to adapt the identity to distinguish but integrate the different parts within the campaign. Initiatives such as Artists for America were different from the official campaign news and the used visuals needed to confirm that.

Creating a consistent image across all these elements was one of the aims in the campaign:
If our designs were all over the map, people would think the same of our message. Our tightly integrated visual strategy strengthened our public image of Obama, and served as a counterweight to the charges of inexperience that other candidates tried to level against him.
The hectic pace of the campaign required good coordination to maintain consistency. Although there were only two people in charge of this job, the movement behind the senator was quick to point out mistakes:
When commenters noticed an inconsistent serif font in our “Veterans for Obama” logo or thought that our use of a rainbow in our Pride logo looked too childish, I could implement changes immediately.
On getting all the other staff members using their fonts: 
To streamline the process, we created a system of elements that used a typographical template to manufacture everything that used type and design. This took the burden of day-to-day redesigning off the shoulders of campaign staffers, and allowed them to concentrate on their individual fields of expertise.
The book offers a nice view on the process of building a brand from the idea to the real execution. Some of the artwork included from the Artist for Obama movement is really amazing.

I just would have liked to more practical of examples of how people were kept inside the brand guidelines, especially with that many different people and organizations involved.

But overall a quick and enjoyable read!

The book is available in a printed version, iPad app or free ebook:

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