Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s entrance into the 2016 presidential race also meant the unveiling of his campaign logo: a bolded version of his last name with an American flag standing in for the letter “E.”
Professional designers for the most part were not impressed with Walker’s logo — especially given its similarity to the logo of eyewear company America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses . And the general consensus on his logo and those of his rivals? A resounding "meh."
While graphic design is just one facet of a campaign's effort to connect with voters, Spark Design Principal/Art Director Walter Carlton emphasized the importance of logos in building a candidate’s brand and name recognition, and cited President Barack Obama’s campaign logo as the gold standard this cycle’s candidates' are measured against.
“They’re not going to stand in front of anything that doesn't have that logo on it, so it better be good,” Carlton said. “There’s no Obama logo in there.”
While designers were split on which logos ranked at the top and bottom, the lowest marks for the most part were reserved for Walker , Jeb Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who are all considered early favorites in the campaign.
Kate Tallent, principal and creative Director of KTD Creative, criticized Walker’s logo for being “the obvious worst.”
“It’s so similar, it’s completely derivative and unoriginal, and I don’t think that’s the right message that any candidate would want to say,” Tallent said. “Conceptually, any time you take a letter form and you try to modify it to express sort of content, it can lead to something interesting — but it's really hard to do.”
Project Design Company’s Founder/Creative Director Dan Banks said, “I see the word ‘Walk’, that's unfortunate. The flag, it kind of eats the letter ‘E’ and you lose the readability.”
Not all designers had the same opinion on Walker’s newly minted insignia. Molly Mann, a lead graphic designer at Top Shelf Design, said the Walker logo was her favorite, citing its simple and straight design.
Designers also had harsh words for Clinton, the former secretary of State and front-runner on the Democratic side, whose combination of a blue “H” and red arrow drew strong comparisons to the logo of a well-known parcel delivery service.
Carlton pointed out that only someone with a national profile such as Clinton could get away with having one letter as their logo. And while he said her logo was rare in that it conveyed more about the individual than most other logos, which were just “type treatments” of candidates names, he still ranked it among the worst.
“It doesn’t inspire really any feelings — an arrow pointing forward reminds me of a FedEx truck, is what it does,” Carlton said.
Tallent said Clinton’s logo is “so unrefined it’s freshman design-student work,” and added that while Clinton is well known, people won’t immediately associate the “H” with her.
Along with the other front-runners, Bush received his fair share of criticism for the design of his campaign’s logo — his first name in red followed by an exclamation mark. Designers criticized it both for its design and for being un-presidential.
Banks said Bush’s logo looks “a little too playful.”
“There was a lot of opportunity for better typography, it feels a little clunky like it’s made in [Microsoft] Word,” Banks added.
In general, designers emphasized simplicity, name recognition and the ability to distinguish candidates in a crowded field as the mark of a successful logo. While none of the logos earned unanimous approval, the reasoning behind the experts’ opinions on what makes an effective logo was often the same.
Carlton praised Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s torch logo for its bold and simple design, and its use of negative space between letters to outline the handle of the torch.
“He’s a libertarian, the torch is liberty, the message is included in the logo,” Carlton said.
Tallent said she thought the most successful logos belonged to Democratic candidate Sen. Bernard Sanders and Republican candidate Sen. Ted Cruz because they conveyed both presidential stature along with a sense of who the candidate is.
While design experts were divided on the various logos, the take-home message was almost universal: There is room for improvement.
“There’s a lack of sophistication for the most part with all of these,” Tallent said. “A lot of these logos, they’re 75 percent there, it’s that extra 25 percent that's missing.”