Obama Vs Romney
With the final head-to-head US presidential debate held last night, a CBS poll shows that 53 per cent of respondants thought President Barack Obama had triumphed, while just 23 per cent thought Republican candidate Mitt Romney had come out on top.
Pre-election polls, meanwhile, suggest the pair are more or less level pegging and have been for some time.
Four years after Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential victory, brand Obama is left reverberating in the ears of the world, and with a few tweaks is being re-used. But is it as effective?
Obama-Biden design director Josh Higgins is now at the helm of a brand which started life as an identity created by Sol Sender, who was commissioned by Chicago-based consultancy Mode in 2006.
Higgins oversaw the 2008 campaign, which ran with the strap-line Change We Can Believe In, and is directing this year’s campaign, which is running with the message Forward.
Both campaign machines are at full tilt ahead of the election on 6 November and having signed up to both the Obama and Romney mailing lists last week, I can confirm relentless haranguing of supporters for cash is taking place.
In the case of team Romney, emails are being skewed from wife Ann and son Josh. Ann says, ‘Contribute $10 or more now and we’ll send you a “clear eyes” bracelet so you can show the world where you stand.’ Thanks Ann.
Meanwhile the Obama store has its ‘biggest sale EVER’ and elsewhere another email asks me ‘If you’re proud to be on the President’s team – give him a virtual high-five, donate $5 or more today.’ Go team.
If we look at the brands themselves though this tone belies some key differences. Firstly there’s a general consensus among design commentators that the Obama brand – which has been professionally designed – although perhaps weaker then its 2008 incarnation, is the stronger of the two.
Unlike Obama’s identity it is understood that Romney’s was created in-house – and hastily - according to Siegel and Gale’s New York-based president Howard Belk.
Belk says, ‘It was originally a double R and now it’s a triple R but either way as a pure piece of graphic design it’s extraordinarily amateurish. The typography is unclear and squishy and there’s no clarity or crispness.’
This R marque sits alongside the letters ‘omney’ together spelling the candidates name. ‘It only works because of the context of his name,’ says Belk. ‘The kerning is atrocious, and the letter spacing on the ‘ey’ is so weak,’ he adds.
Analysing Obama’s identity he says, ‘There’s a very strong simplicity to it. Visually it suggests a land of opportunity, the wide open country, and an inclusive circle, inviting people to step in.’
The greatest difference arguably lies in the positioning and messaging coming from both camps. Romney’s ‘Believe in America’ Vs Obama’s ‘Forward.’
Belk says ‘Romney’s Believe in America means this country has the strength to change its course and the conviction and looks to a profound belief in a new direction.
‘Obama’s is about moving forward together, being unified, an inclusive story and progress for all Americans. The idea that Americans are more alike then different and that the US is better off today than it was four years ago.’
New York-based Pentagram partner Michael Bierut appears to agree with Belk telling The Atlantic that ‘I assure you that Obama’s graphics are better then Romney’s.’
But he is also reported by the US website as saying that the gap between the Democrat and Republican front-runners has closed as the social media arena the campaigns are being used in has caught up with them both.
He says, ‘Their difference has little do with the way they’re deploying their graphics… One thing that’s different now compared to four years ago is that social networks like Twitter are, to a certain degree, design-neutral.
‘They are more about language, or catchphrases, or hashtags. 2008 had a whole series of graphic expressions of that political moment that you’d put in a time capsule.’
Looking at the 2012 epoch, rather then being characterised by Shepherd Fairey’s Hope poster or indeed the Obama O logo, Bierut argues most web chatter is about these ‘catchphrases,’ particularly Romney’s ‘47 per cent’ quote and ‘Occupy Wall Street.’
With the election to be held on 6 November it seems there’s still all to play for.