Meg Jannott, a design student at The College for Creative Studies in Detroit, is giving each U.S. president his own visual identity.

"When I started to work on a president," she says, "I did do some research to find out traits and characteristics about them--what they were known for, nicknames, etc. Then, I tried to use photography and typography to emulate those things."

Some are more convincing than others--Millard Fillmore isn’t the most exciting historical figure.

And who knew William McKinley’s nickname was the "Idol of Ohio"?

But if Teddy Roosevelt could pick any photo to represent his brand, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was this one of him fording a river on a moose.

Calvin Coolidge, understated as usual.

Jannott says she tries to limit herself to an hour or two on each image.

LBJ’s cropped top imparts some sense of his famously intimidating stature.

I’m not sure "fox" is the first word I’d use to describe Martin Van Buren.

Nixon surveilling something, as was his wont.

Jannott’s currently stuck on Ronald Reagan--though she says she hopes to complete the set when her school schedule permits.

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Creating A Visual Brand For Every U.S. President

Franklin Pierce, now’s your time to shine.

Scott Thomas thinks Mitt Romney’s typography could use some work. In a conversation with The Atlantic earlier this fall, the Chicago-based graphic designer explained how the "lack of polish and uneven canter" of the design work across Romney’s campaign is "parallel to his lack of rapport and makes him appear untrustworthy." To be fair, Thomas might be a bit biased; he was the man responsible for the Obama campaign’s visual identity in 2008. Still, his critique serves as a reminder that modern elections are, in many ways, high-stakes battles of the brand, visual showdowns complete with logos, websites, TV spots, and all the other trappings of a good ad blitz. But while our current president might be typographically synonymous with Gotham, his predecessors typically didn’t leave behind visual identities that were anywhere near as distinct. So Meg Jannott made some up.

Jannott, a senior at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, started the project two months ago as a diversion that didn’t involve clients or classroom assignments. She knew she wanted to tackle some sort of series—something where she could work on one item a day—
and the around-the-clock news coverage of the upcoming presidential election gave her an obvious option: commanders-in-chief.

The designer has since completed images for our first 40 presidents. Some include little logos, others feature nicknames or famous quotations from the great men. But they’re not intended to be fully realized brands as much as quick and dirty exercises. "When I started to work on a president," Jannott tells Co.Design, "I did do some research to find out traits and characteristics about them—what they were known for, nicknames, etc. Then, I tried to use photography and typography to emulate those things. Some are more successful than others, but that’s all part of the process of the set, I think." All in all, she says, she tries not to spend more than an hour or two on each.

But even with that scant spare time, some of the results are powerful enough to make you want to grab a history book and dive in. A few of my favorites include James Madison, his initials rendered in stretched-out letterforms, and LBJ’s, whose image manages to convey a bit of his infamously intimidating stature by cropping off the top part of his head. As for the designer’s faves? She’s fond of George Washington’s treatment. "I feel like I had to start out right," she says, "and I’ve been partial to that one since. It’s also one of the more popular ones of the set."

Still, she’s definitely right about some being more gripping than others—the images for the Whig presidents in particular don’t do much to elevate them out of their hazy place in history. Though I’m not sure how much of that is Jannott’s fault. Millard Fillmore would be a tough sell for anyone.

See all 40 images on Jannott’s "Branding the Preisdents of the United States" Tumblr.

[Hat tip: Co.Create]

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  • Gwilson

    After reading previous comments - I feel obligated to point out that the designer, as well as the writer, clearly state that this is a daily design exercise. It is not intended to be anything more or less than that. It is pretty ridiculous to expect someone to fully research, incredibly heavy topics - everyday - for their design exercise.  For someone so adamant about doing their "research", it's amazing that you completely missed the point. 

    I checked out the blog - these are fantastic.  Keep up the great work.

  • Peter

    I would have gone with "The New Frontier" for Kennedy but "Ask not what your country..." probably gives more psychological insight. It is an interesting project. Romney's lack of a coherent style is probably a refection of his underlying attitudes?
    Sydney, Australia

  • bob

    This is so bad. 
    Its basically just applying a already dated typographical effect to photos of US presidents. 

    Not much thought gone into this. 

  • Missoula2222

    Not a great familiarity with the presidents. Theodore Roosevelt, loathed the name "Teddy." I doubt that it would make it into his brand.

  • jonsenc

    i find most of the typography for some of the presidents out of place or too modern for their respective time periods.

  • BongBong

    Even students aspire to greatness, so why do you keep featuring poor design by students? 

  • Christopher John Olsen

    I like the overall idea, but I kind of feel like some of these greatly miss the mark. McKinnley, for example. First of all, that one in particular is an example of using minimalist design ELEMENTS, but the overall composition is disjointed, messy, and there are two or three voices competing, here. But the one that stands out the most is the folksy hand-drawn cursive-esque letters. The quote itself is one that obviously was said of McKinnley, but focusing on his relationship to his home state totally misses the mark of his legacy, and the tone set by the hand lettering is about as appropriate as putting movie theater nacho cheese on beef wellington or typesetting the Brothers Karamazov in comic sans.

    This looks to me like something that was done after collecting some random facts about McKinnley, not after having really studied him and truly gotten familiar with his legacy.

    My overall impression is that, while this has the fingerprints of current designerly trends all over it, that's all it is; designerly. It's not really great design.