Is there a better way to truly analyze a candidate’s intention and worth than to assess their logo choice? Of course not!
Let me start by noting that none of the 2016 candidates’ logos is earth-shattering. None comes close to capturing the mighty design leap represented by the 2008 Obama ‘O’, or even the simple elegance of the same year’s McCain logo. Why the regression? Several candidates simply do not appear to care about their graphic brand. Others are trying (unsuccessfully) to recapture the magic of the Obama logo. Some can’t even make up their minds on using one consistently.
That said, I feel for these designers. Clients of all kinds often have a vision of what they want in their heads and are often not inclined to waiver from that concept. But when your client is an egomaniacal candidate for the highest political office in the world and you might just be dealing with a borderline sociopathic personality, a lowly designer’s suggestions are probably taken with a grain of salt. If that. So ultimately the blame lies with the candidate, not the design team.
My final caveat: politics have absolutely nothing to do with this ranking, so file away your love or hatred for the other party and try to take a look at presidential strategies in a design-based light. Here they are worst to first, starting with the (ahem) “lightweights”.
18. Bobby Jindal
I know, I know: Jindal dropped out already. But I had to include him because his logo is truly the worst of the bunch and I wanted to make sure he ended up squarely at the bottom regardless. Jindal blatantly attempted to repurpose Barack Obama’s logo into a ‘J’ and failed so miserably it hurts. From the three teeny tiny stars to the strangely-placed stripes that make it feel more like a candy cane, this logo deserves to sink in the muds of the Mississsippi delta.
17. Mike Huckabee
I am glad Huckabee thinks that a higher power is on his side, because design pros are most decidedly not. The unwieldy dimensions alone would make this a loser, but the strange third-color stars of varying size really nail it down as a fail. Is there a drunk cartoon mouse who just bonked his head hiding in there somewhere? Also, I am not entirely sure this isn’t just a stretched-out Bank of America logo or—-worse for Huckabee supporters—-a topographic imitation of 2008 Obama. As far as tagline choice, I have no idea what this one is supposed to mean. Is there a great flood coming? Make sure the tagline is strong before shoving it into your logo. Huck is regularly polling in the single digits so we are probably not going to be subjected to it much longer, but this is the most offensive of the current candidates.
16. Ben Carson
Oh Dr. Carson. Thank goodness you are an actual brain surgeon. This first logo should be stored away forever in the Great Pyramids where your version of historic Egyptians apparently kept their groceries. That original logo (top) was an affront to lettering, where it appears that a bald eagle vomited patriotism onto the ‘A’ in America. The new redesign (bottom) is only slightly better, but is so tepid and off-balance that it doesn’t move the doctor up any spots. As other designers have noted, the second logo might work as an artistic balance to a more charismatic and boisterous candidate, but for one who barely speaks above a whisper it only adds to the dearth of enthusiasm. He needed something bigger to grab attention.
15. George Pataki
The type is too thin for such a non-household surname. I will say that the decision to use a condensed lowercase type, though odd for a campaign logo, is nonetheless appealing. But the reason this logo falls toward the bottom of the pack is that the pint-sized “flag” is far too abstract and misplaced for widespread use. George, is that blue in the graphic an underscore? Or a set of bedside steps? Tell me it’s not a latrine seat… **UPDATE: Less than 24 hours after this story was posted, Pataki announced his departure from the race. RIP, Pataki Campaign.
14. John Kasich
More flags, more red white and blue. Kasich joins several other Republicans in 2016 who decided to uncharacteristically go with a sans serif font, which should generally be applauded. Otherwise, there is not a lot here. Sure, the stripes look like a sizzling piece of bacon, but that’s not his biggest problem: the K + stripes icon appears to use the negative space to form a wavy arrow pointing into the past. As one of the more progressive Republican candidates needing to win conservative votes, perhaps that is not an accident. But if it was accidental, woe unto his design team.
13. Lindsey Graham
Did Graham drop out? I can’t even remember. In any case, this logo was borrowed from a mid-90’s regional bank and was designed in Microsoft Paint via Windows ’98.
12. Jim Gilmore
I’m not kidding, I couldn’t even find his logo. Still better than those ranked below him.
11. Ted Cruz
I really like the use of gray as the third color. But the graphic: is it a cascading drop of liberal blood? Is it his tear falling as a result of a denied government shutdown? A flame from the fiery brimstone? It’s actually nicely composed, but is just not obvious enough. I imagine it’s supposed to be a flame. I believe this because it looks like every single flame-based logo I’ve ever seen (don’t believe me? Google it). The partially cropped star is actually a plus for me, as it adds an element of interest, but it still makes no sense in a flame other than a blatant attempt to squeeze Old Glory in there somewhere. Thank goodness for the points earned by that third color and the general design quality, otherwise Uptight Ted would be ranked much lower.
10. Donald Trump
Trump missed a golden opportunity to take one of the most recognizable last names in recent campaign history and do something great with it. Instead, he used a decent type configuration framed by too-saturated reds and blues, and that’s about it. The tagline detracts from everything, and he would have been better off with a simple ‘2016’ as a standard logo statement. Trump would say this is “the greatest logo in the history of graphic design–everybody thinks so, except morons of course.” I suppose I am a moron. But I admit, the type used for the last name is good, or at least a vast improvement from the mega-serif used on his towers and casinos. And the designers of this logo at least know where the emphasis needs to be: not on any substantive elements. Just the name, baby.
9. Bernie Sanders
Not exactly feeling the Bern, but not not feeling it. Something seems off-kilter about the bottom stripe. This lettering really has good balance for a mixed uppercase/lowercase logo. The lighter colors make the logo more intriguing, and the subtle interplay between the ‘r’ and the ‘n’ make the letters slightly more attractive. Not terribly exciting though overall and certainly doesn’t lend itself to the hip leanings that Sanders probably should have aimed for to inspire his young base. However, the biggest issue I have with it is the same problem I had with Mitt Romney’s 2012 logo: it reminds me of Aquafresh toothpaste. A lot. And that’s unfortunate.
8. Marco Rubio
The all lowercase lettering makes this the most interesting lettering choice of all the logos with both first and last names. It worked for eBay, why not a potential commander in chief? But why is the lettering so tight? Is there no need for space? Perhaps a stack might have worked better. Even with that minor setback the logo could be saved. But then someone decided to dot the ‘i’ with the lower 48. Yikes. Forgetting the fact that two whole states are totally omitted, were all the stars and flames used up by other candidates? Unfortunate decision since that dot is not even discernible as the lower 48 in most small-format uses. Otherwise Marco at least gets points for being different and taking a chance. Rubio has a shot at being the eventually GOP nominee, so look for a re-do at some point if that happens.
7. Chris Christie
Simple and to the point. He scores points from me for no eagle, no flame, no stripes. But also no excitement. The variation of font weights is used in tons of logos, and works well here. You almost need a graphic element of some sort to be able to use the logo more in other capacities. But Christie seems to have put that emphasis on his tagline and for whatever reason, it doesn’t detract as much as it should. Overall just a standard logo in the middle of the pack. If you are surprised that a logo with no graphic art element can rank this high, join the club. Not a great sign of a banner year for candidate logos.
6. Rick Santorum
Love the lettering arrangement; the offset first line works and I like the simplicity of the type. One of the best of 2016 as far as typography goes. But the eagle looks like a clipart image inserted with little care or attention to balance and that ends up wrecking the nice type layout. With an improved eagle (or some other graphic), this one could rise in the ranking, but it just doesn’t feel like the designers put enough emphasis on the placement and appearance of that bird.
5. Carly Fiorina
Another first name logo. The thin lettering and red star make me think immediately of Macy’s. Which is an American institution, so not a terrible thing. The color palette is excellent. This is not a bad logo as logos go, but it just doesn’t seem powerful enough to convey leadership. Too stylized and corporate to feel presidential. It ranks high because of its general appeal as a mark, though. I like the emphasis placed on the ‘A’ thanks to the odd-color star. The concept is good and if Fiorina winds up at the top of the Republican ticket, look for some tweaks to this logo that might add some some heft to it while retaining the classy vibe.
4. Rand Paul
More first names. More flames. (What is with all these damned flames?) This flame is leaps and bounds above the Cruz version, since it’s clearly meant to pay homage to the Statue of Liberty and at least we can tell that it is, in fact, supposed to represent fire. The bottom/handle of the torch is cleverly formed by the space between the ‘A’ and ‘D’, but it is not quite obvious enough and the horizontal separator between handle and flame ends up looking like a long vowel mark from the dictionary, just floating above the name. Good effort though, and thanks to Sen Paul for at least not using stars and flags. Rand’s short name lends itself well to logo formation and he was wise to capitalize on that. Succinct. Attractive. Nicely done overall.
3. Hillary Clinton
I see what Hillary was going for and it generally works. She seemed to have learned from her sound trouncing by Barack Obama in 2008 that brand matters. As such, she appeared to put a great deal of thought into what to go for in 2016. I wish there was greater differentiation in the arrow and the ‘H’, as many people have already pointed out. And some versions (including the one above) feature a red that skews too far toward violet. This mark rises up a few spots in the ranking thanks to its widespread application in different circumstances (like this, for example). But it also falls a few spots thanks to its occasional misuse (…oh boy). But like Bush’s ‘W’ or the ‘O’ logo, you know who this represents with just one letter, which is a good sign for a logo. Like any valued service, good design requires good money and I would not attribute Hillary’s successful logo to her design sensibility or foresight so much as to her thick wallet and money well spent (and, as I mentioned, lessons learned from ’08).
2. Martin O’Malley
I don’t really know who this guy is but he has a cool logo. The speech bubble is totally unique and a good choice for a lesser-known candidate who is hoping for his name to be passed around by the mouths of the electorate. I have used speech bubbles myself, but for far more obvious uses than a campaign so kudos to the O’Malley team. Good use of font and by far my favorite use of color. Both versions above are excellent for integration in a wide range of uses and platforms. Very modern and bold departure from the norm. I have a feeling his time on the campaign trail is limited but I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar trends pop up for other candidates in subsequent elections (albeit probably not for the presidency).
1. Jeb Bush
Okay, the exclamation point is ridiculously big. There had to have been a better way to balance out the available space than to make it as large as the ‘J’. That said, it otherwise works well and yes, the balance is excellent. The simplicity is better than any other candidate’s logo, and next to them this feels well-thought out. Jeb Bush caught a lot of flak for this logo initially, specifically for the omission of his last name, but the more I look at it the more I like it. Is it a home run? Not exactly. But it at least is bold, well-balanced, and makes a definitive brand statement. The use of ‘2016’ bottom center is perfect, and jumbling this up with other words (like “For President” or some other tagline) would have detracted from the overall statement. I would like to see an all-caps draft just to examine whether it would increase the feeling of strength but on the whole a good design and the best of the 2016 lot. If only Jeb were more popular in these early stages, I think this simple and attractive logo would be more prolific. Like Hillary, this is another likely example of a simple but excellent logo thanks to financial freedom and budgetary prioritization. And Jeb, just remember: no matter how mean the Donald is or has been to you, your logo is way better than his. So there.