Monday, June 14, 2010

A critique of the John McCain and J.D. Hayworth campaign logos. PART #1

Political campaigns are nothing more than buzzing logos. During an election cycle, every intersection in our city becomes a cluttered apocalypse of huge last names in predictable American colors.

The visual pollution of campaign design is always difficult for me to stomach. This year, Arizona has a few very high profile campaigns underway. One of the biggest is between incumbant Senator John McCain and former Congressman, J.D. Hayworth. Arizona will be asked to cast their votes on Aug 24, 2010.

Considering the gravity of this impending election, I would assume that there would be a noticable contrast in the presentations of THEIR huge last names. However, as I have come to expect, the design is flawed.

As a graphic designer for over twenty years, I felt that I should poke my nose in and and see what improvements and suggestions I could make to the candidates identity problems. There is no promise of a home run here,
but I doubt I could do worse.

First, both logos:

OK, Now... Do YOU think they look good? I don't.

1. Off Center? Why? JUST because they absolutely had to fit a star under the 'W?' Does J.D. really need a star to help us know that he is a politician? Will it reinforce his American status? In graphic design, we have a term called 'spacial tension.' This is found when one element of design is pestering another. A circle near a plane, for example, if it is not far enough away OR barely too close, it looks misplaced. It says, "I should be farting around in this space for a reason, but alas, I don't have one." SO! If the designer felt that the o
nly choice they had was to jam a star into the logotype, then I feel for them. Being trapped in a design trope is frustrating.
Consider the subliminal message here... "A consistent conservative juuuuuuuust right of center." Oh goodie, just what we need? AAAAAAND, is it really wise for any member of the GOP to focus on the letter 'W' at this time?

2. The star. Is there a reason we need a star in every campaign? Well, one good idea then, is to hack the top of the star off and reverse it. Nothing like some odd negative space to enhance the reading experience. Well, it's a chance to add more "red, white, and blue."

3. In design, we have a principal of design that helps us in determining the 'visual hierarchy' of our elements. Dominant, sub-dominant, and subordinate. Does anyone following this election need to be reminded that Mr. Hayworth is running for Senate? Perhaps it's an arguable point, but I think it's nothing more than visual clutter. It pulls the off-center star into even greater...uh, misbalance? I categorize this element as sub-subordinate.

4. The slogan seems whimpy. Given the nature of this election, go for it. How about something really jugular like:
"Fighting for more than survival"
"Unseating a candidate who has been around longer than AIDS"
"McCain is so old, he knew Captain Crunch when he was a Seaman"
Perhaps I push, but it should have more social whallop. I mean, if McCain is so ready to be pruned from Congress, why mince words... unless he's NOT really that bad
. I can't tell from the message (presented by the logo), so I assume McCain is still a safe bet.

One thing I notice on the Hayworth signs, is that they look REALLY off center on the roads. It's one thing to have a logo on your screen, and another to be printed on a flat substrate and trimmed in a way that Adobe Illustrator's artboard didn't ask for.

Overall, one HUGE! plus to the logo is the really strong sans serif typeface used. It's nice to see all sans serif for a change. I just think the star and horrible mutation of that poor 'W' is a huge distraction.

Now onto McCain:

1. When I first saw this flaggy-banner-thing, I was shocked. Phoenix based OVO did the re-brand of this identity, and they do great work.

However, consider this...

The new flag shape says to me: "McCain, a long streak to the left with a sudden turn to the right!' Don't think I have a valid point on the "Left Streak" thesis? Consider that images all have two ways to communicate with us. Conscious and sub-conscious. How does the campaign know that people don't pick up on this subliminally? I guess we find out in August.
...and for God's sake, don't forget the stars. Hayworth has one? HAH! We'll have THREE!!!!

2. The logo type is nice. It is very much a typographic embodiment of John McCain. How?
  • a. It learned through horrible error that OPTIMA is only a notch above Cartoon Sans for bad type. So hats off for leaving optima back at the Viet Nam Memorial wall.
  • b. I learned my lesson, so I went for something bolder. However, here in this Eurostyle font, we have my time honored serif traditions married to an almost sans serif modernism.
As OVO was most certainly far more mature that the Hayworth designer, we have the key to message making, and that is simplicity. No reminders that McCain is a senator. If you don't know that already, then go back to the universal remote with the big buttons and cast your vote for William Hung... spare us your poor polluting of the political process.

BUT! I think McCain should try to capitalize on his alleged high-ground. If he has nothing to fear, then slam the opponent. Aside from that thing he did in 2008 to apply for a new job, McCain tells us he fights really hard. Let Hayworth have it across the lips. If Hayworth is milktoast, then let me know it!
"McCain, not Able"
"Senate is not something to do after talk radio"
"Less changes of profession for over 20 years"

In Part #2, I will offer my own two rebrand Ideas. It's going to be hard to not be distilled by the Hayworth star-chunks or the McCain leftie streak, but I will try. And, you are more than free to tear me a new one as well. Critique always help us be better at what we do.... I hope.

Does the logo diminish the message? Many would say no. Many would point to decades of bad design as ancillary to the outcome... I was not a big fan of Obama's branding either, and that was supposed to be otherworldly.

And to make sure that I take care of one thing. This is a flat out critique. Not an expository on my political views. I will be voting in August, and one of these men WILL receive my vote. Both of these men are honorable and I respect them. so, put down your mouse...