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.