Co.Design

Hey Dems, GOP, and Tea Party! We Redid Your Crappy Logos

For midterm elections, the parties deserve an equal opportunity, nonpartisan rebranding.


Okay, I have a confession to make: I'm the furthest thing from political, and only recently learned what the term "Tea Party" meant. The truth is, I probably wouldn't have sat up and taken notice of these important mid-term elections if not for one thing: the recent redesigns of the Democratic and Republican parties' logos. Now that's a political statement I can get behind. Call me shallow, but few things get me going like good design.

Unfortunately, good design wasn't necessarily what I found. So here are my thoughts on the latest logos — and my suggestions for how the political parties might take things one step further.

We'll start with the new Democratic Party logo. According to Tim Kaine, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, "This new identity for our party captures the spirit that unites us all." But in my humble opinion, there's nothing unifying or inspiring about this logo at all. On the one hand, the Dems want to show us that they're the one party that truly represents America's middle class, and that they're progressive and modern. My guess is that the designer of this logo, New York-based SS+K, argues that its bare bones design — which breaks with popular tradition by leaving out stars and stripes, an antiquated donkey symbol and a red/white/blue color palette — would boldly signal a return to the simple values of the American Middle Class.

But I just don't buy that. I see no spirit, no energy or no new idea here at all — just a logo that looks like a target or a superhero's logo. C'mon, people: It's a capital letter D in a circle! It looks like nothing so much as an almost failing grade atop a terrible book report. And to say it looks unfinished would be extremely kind. The fact that the Dems chose this as a way to regain some momentum for what some predict will be big election losses is baffling.

Here's how we would have handled the redesign:

Owning the letter "D" is a bold move, but don't leave it flailing out there alone on an island (or in a circle, as it were). Adding another element — such as an equal sign, which speaks to "equality for all" — would speak for the fundamental principles of the Democratic party and make the visual identity richer and stronger. The symbol could also function as a galvanic campaign message, e.g. D = determination, D = dedication, etc.

The GOP, on the other hand, has played it close to the vest by making some relatively subtle changes to their existing brand identity, as featured on their new website.

Red is still the dominant color (which always struck me as fascinating, since in most of the world, red is associated with left-leaning parties). The new GOP font, which sort of resembles the "Crimestopper" font created by renowned typeface designer Jeff Levine, has a little more softness along the edges. And the trusted old elephant (a Republican symbol dating back to 1874) is still there — albeit "trunk"-ated (pun intended) — and now integrated into the 'O' of GOP. Could it be that this combination of elements was designed to project a more contemporary, streamlined, brand-conscious party?

There's no question that when you're the party that's not in charge, you can take some risks and have a little fun. So here's what we recommend:

Since most people do not necessarily know the origin or historical development of the term GOP, and young people probably aren't that attracted to a party with the word "ole" in it — or "grand" for that matter — we recommend taking a page from the recent Democratic Party logo redesign and owning the letter "R." We also believe a subtle but potent integration of the elephant's trunk (because we don't want to sever ties completely with the party's popular pachyderm) and stars would complete the picture.

Which brings me to The Tea Party. Using the very same grassroots tools (e.g., technology and social media) pioneered by the Obama campaign, The Tea Party is fully intent on "crashing the party." And they intend to do it in the most unapologetic, no-holds-barred way you can think of. But is their "let's-take-back-America-from-the-evil-clutches-of-government" reflected in their logo?

As you might guess, a party named for one of the watershed moments in Revolutionary America's history probably felt obliged to use the flag colors in a central, anchoring way, and it does. The Tea Party chose a shield in a pretty obvious attempt to stand out as the party that will stoutly defend the interests of hardworking American people. Not awful, but the somewhat slicker design and layout of the stars and stripes strikes me as awkward (are the stars and stripes actually a sash?).

In general, the logo tries to communicate too many things: "We're Pro-American jobs! We're media savvy! We're here to protect you! We're about small government! We're cool and modern! We're the party of change!" As a result, it is ridiculously cluttered, and seems like a combination of the Australian flag (same white stars on blue background) and the Star Trek crew insignia. Sorry to ruin the (tea) party, guys.

The good news is that since the Tea Party is a very recent phenomenon and their logo is brand new, it's not necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater. A simple modernization of the "protector for all" shield, along with a more balanced star alignment and polished/dynamic incorporation of the stripes, is all it would take to give the party a more structured and organized persona.

With barely five weeks to go, it will be interesting to see which party will manage, through its new logo, to speak to voters and metaphorically fly its new flag on the tops of the House and Senate buildings. After all, everybody loves a cool bumper sticker.

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14 Comments

  • Steve

    Sorry, but that teaparty logo does nothing for me. Shield, stars, stripes = one more generic patriot banner.

  • cggo

    it's in the eye of the beholder . . . and yours looks like a math question (dems)
    and most young people (the next generation politicos) hate math !

    CGGO

  • Natalie Timmons

    Rick you are so on point. I love your logo suggestions, and especially the thinking behind them. It makes me wonder what the agency's really pitched. I bet they presented some fresh ideas that got watered down by a committee of ten.

  • Jimr

    Hey Rick, Love the article, and the improvements on the existing R & D logos (although the R* reminds me of Rockstar Games for some reason.) The original Tea Party logo feels like "my oh my, we need a logo" when really do they? Wouldn't they be better off just continuing to use Revolutionary war symbols and phrases- like they have been spray painting on underpasses over the last year?

    For what it's worth, here's my favorite newish political identity campaign- It's for the Socialist Party of Netherlands (SPNL.nl) and designed by studio Thonik.

  • Marc Posch

    We did a suggestion for the GOP logo, too. They should modify and use the new GAP logo that was just introduced and shortly after taken off the market. My guess is they can get it for pretty cheap now. Might be a perfect fit since the Reps are not know for innovative ideas anyway, and recycling a dud supports their brand. Here the design suggestion: http://www.facebook.com/photo....

  • Richard Human

    I think that Rockstar Games would have something to say about your R design, it is virtually identical to their logo.

  • James Duchek

    I assume that your CBX logo is spinning to make it a more difficult target for designers who think it's crappy.

  • willshaker

    Rick - really interesting article. I thought the Dem logo was bad and really trying to play off of the circle Obama logo. I like the revision, but am not sure about the equal sign. It is pretty much "owned" by the Human Rights Campaign (http://www.hrc.org/). This is a broad generalization, but Dems tend to lean more liberal, so this might be fine, but it could send a mixed message.

    I think the redo of the Rep logo is great. Really don't like the current/new one at all and think the "R" take and clever inclusion of the trunk is a winner.

    When I first saw the TEA party logo, it felt too much like a take on the Obama logo, which is very ironic in my opinion. I think the redo is spot on, save for the shape of the shield, which I think looks like a guitar pick. Also, I find it interesting that the TEA party is even considered a "party" at all. It's not a party, but a movement. The logo featured here is the creation of one website/group, but is not the "official" logo and there are tons of others out there as well. Just do a quick Google image search and pages of them will load up.

  • Gen Hendrey

    The GOP is a massive sleeper cell! You can tell by the traditional Islamic crescent and star concealed in the top of the letter "O." :-)

  • StPete

    I like the D= but hate to lose the donkey-- with all it's tradition and identity. Maybe just keep the kicking half, although sticking either half in there would look weak and busy, unlike that nice fat elephant.

  • Mark Erickson

    While the new D and R party logos aren't good, I think it should be said this design job is very challenging. The new D is really bad, but I agree with Michael that I needed the explanation of the bars as an equal sign. Great concept, but I'd like to see a different application. And might the association with the HRC be a bit too close for the mainstream?

    On the R, you're right, ditch the GOP, but ditch the elephant as well. Your attempt looks like an actual brand (on cattle).

    The Tea Party clean up is great.

  • Bruce Curley

    This is first-rate design work. Each of these logos is clean, creative, simple, clear and visually appealing. That you did this for free is stunning. I only hope that there are politicos out there smart enough to see the value of what you created. They would be wise to use them.

    Maybe you can create a logo of the I-Beam cross from 9/11. Here is a photo of it:
    http://poetslife.blogspot.com/...

  • Michael Plishka

    Great article and observations, Rick! Your observations about the Democratic logo are astute. It's interesting that you used the word 'island' to describe it. The circle is an island, it's closed, protected - it's not fighting for anything -that's not a vibe they were shooting for. The redesign is better but to tell you the truth, when I first saw it, I wasn't sure if it was an equal sign - it looked like a red flag with a white bar across it.

    Your redesign of the Tea Party logo is sweet - it owuld be a cool bumper sticker or a super-hero shield!

    Personally, I've always thought of government being of, by and for, the people. Using that as a metric, the Tea Party logo probably does the best job of conveying that.

    Thanks for a fun and provocative piece!