The Big O, Branding and Product Design

Graphic Designer Examines the Obama Brand

By Published on .

(Via Politico)

Graphic designer Michael Bierut is extremely impressed with the way the Barack Obama brand has been built. So he says to Newsweek's Andrew Romano in a piece for the mag's Stumper blog. Romano sought out Bieruit after deciding that "Obama is the first presidential candidate to be marketed like a high-end consumer brand." That was news to his readers over the age of 30 or anyone who remembers Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America." But Romano is right. Obama is being marketed like a high-end consumer product -- the sort that makes journalists and indie kids and hipsters and influencers swoon with delight. And then everyone else wants a piece of the action. Bierut, for his part, is impressed with how tight the effort is, noting that:

He's the first candidate, actually, who's had a coherent, top-to-bottom, 360-degree system at work. Whereas, I think it's more more common for politicians to have a bumper-sticker symbol that they just stick on everything and hope that that will carry the day.

The thing that sort of flabbergasts me as a professional graphic designer is that, somewhere along the way, they decided that all their graphics would basically be done in the same typeface, which is this typeface called Gotham. If you look at one of his rallies, every single non-handmade sign is in that font. Every single one of them.
When asked about the similarity of Brand Obama to Target, Volkswagen and Apple--the very brands that have people all atwitter with faux folksiness--Bierut says:
I think they're all very much of a kind. I would name those three brands as ones that share a lot with the way this candidate is presenting himself. They're meant to look transparent, open, accessible and democratic to a certain degree. Non-intimidating. You don't feel that this stuff is all being hatched in corporate boardrooms with ad agencies and marketing experts at the table. They all sort of look as if people like you are talking to people like you. Of course, there's a lot of forethought put into all this stuff. But in the end, being able to project an identity that people are willing to credit with being authentic is a hard thing to do. But those brands, and the Obama brand, are managing to do it.
Of course, the fact of the matter is, there's nothing at all grass roots about the branding of Target, Volkswagen, Apple or Barack Obama. But in Obama's case--and unlike many other politicians--there's some masterful, cohesive and professional-looking work going on.
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