Wikileaks even accused the campaign of stealing its social media avatar.

Like many comments on social media, Wikileaks’s graphic critique is entertaining yet unsubstantiated—designed to snare impulse retweets and shares on social media. Last we checked, neither the color red nor the arrow is Wikileak’s invention, or innovation for that matter. It’s also highly unlikely that the campaign design team was sitting around brainstorming a logo for the presidential aspirant to match that of the whistleblower’s symbol. (We’ve reached out to the Clinton campaign for a comment on logo-gate, and will update this post as warranted.)

Either way, the fact is that the logo’s design follows such a well-worn graphic formula—from the generic letterforms of the custom-made font and the arrow seemingly lifted from Microsoft Office, to the predictable red-white-and-blue color palette—that it’s likely to remind you of one thing or another.

The real issue here is not so much Clinton’s uninspired monogram, but the systemic issues that plague graphic design in American politics, if not design in general.

The trap of typology

After a hopeful turn with the 2008 Obama campaign, it seems that campaign graphics is headed back to the doldrums. But Clinton’s H, Rand Paul’s Tinder-like burning flame symbol or Ted Cruz’s emblem that resembles a burning flag, campaign logos usually follow an established convention that’s rooted in literal interpretations of American patriotism.

As writer Steven Heller observed in his 2004 call-to-arms essay, The Dreary Art of Presidential Elections“The Presidential election year is a special time in American politics when the public sees just how ineffectual graphic design can be. Although typefaces might alternate between serif and sans, the overall message is the same, when it comes to the buttons, posters, banners, and bumper stickers the platform is clear: Don’t rock the vote.”

For president, Abram Lincoln. For vice president, Hannibal Hamlin, c. 1860
For president, Abram Lincoln. For vice president, Hannibal Hamlin, c. 1860
Image: Library of Congress
Image for article titled A sober take on Hillary Clinton’s uninspiring campaign logo
Image: John F. Kennedy Library

The scourge of the quick dis

Logo design is a bloodsport. The nitpicky like/dislike is cheap currency in the age of social media. It is breeding a generation of feckless critical gadflies, and giving them a platform with which they can maim the creative spirit and innovation. Social media is an ad hoc focus group; its aggregate voice will inevitably feed into the next creative brief to delimit future graphic design possibilities.

In the big picture, what role does a candidate’s logo play in the campaign? As unoriginal and clunky as it may appear, Clinton’s logo is perfectly functional. It’s unique enough, with utility that holds up across print, broadcast, and digital platforms. On Twitter, the red arrow is even a nifty, albeit unnecessary, device that directs the eye right to the messenger.

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