The evolution of the presidential campaign logo

Hope. Change. We all remember the slogans Barack Obama’s campaign used to solidify the 2008 election. Now the POTUS is using the keyword “Forward” for the 2012 election. MSNBC has quickly adopted the slogan “Lean Forward” and like Fox News there’s no surprise which leanings they have. Yet this post isn’t really about politics, it’s about marketing and at a more basic level, his logo. Whether you agree with Obama’s politics or not, we must agree that his campaign ran a tight ship when it came to marketing.

The Obama campaign in 2008 struck all the right chords. First, the country was reeling from two wars, a devistating economy and policies of the Bush administration in general. Like any good marketer, the Obama campaign devised a message and delivered on it with precision. This message was consistent in brand and included a solid logo, slogan with it’s catch phrases, website, social media presence, speeches, commercials and incredible pop-culture artwork. All they were lacking was an official jingle. I can write a book on the campaign’s marketing, but since this is just a post, I wanted to focus on the logo.

We know the message of “Hope” and “Change”. Barack Obama was lucky enough that his last name began with an “O”. This lent itself to be easily adaptable into logo form. The campaign tied the “Change” message into the “O” logo with the “Rising Sun”. The stripes can almost be a prairie or the heartland of America. The elements of the flag are nothing spectacular and they are seen in nearly every “For President” logo. The colors red, white and blue are pretty standard as well.

Something the Obama logo did accomplish was to create a recognizable brand withought any text. Some brands have worked decades to get to this point and very few brands have accomplished this. One particular that comes to mind is the Target logo. Others include McDonald’s Golden Arches and the Nike Swoosh. This approach for Obama was so effective that his future contender Mitt Romney would attempt something similar which we’ll look at further down in this post.

The Obama logo and the Target logo.


It’s undeniable looking at the two logos above that you know exactly what they represent with no words and no “spelling it out”.

The Obama campaign struck a chord. It’s certainly unique to people running for president, to be this cohesive and cognisant with their branding. I was really curious so I went back roughly 30 years through the “For President” logos.

Obama vs Romney 2012:

As you can see the Romney campaign, so influenced by Obama’s 2008 logo, attempted something similar. Although I do not believe the “R” lends itself to a logo as well as the “O”. The color schemes are also much brighter and they are much more like a logo than previous campaigns. They are on white and contain elements that can act on their own without text.


The Romney “R”:

Doesn’t work so well on it’s own

Obama vs McCain 2008:

The McCain logo is interesting to me. The choice in the color blue is unique and the overall feel is of the Air Force which of course was intentional. If I remember correctly it was all about being a “Maverick”.


Bush vs Kerry 2004:

These are the days of using a flag prominently in the logo. The blue colors were also more dark here.


Bush vs Gore 2000:

The Bush logo wasn’t too much different in 2000 and 2004, other than the italics. I could almost hear the conversation in ’04. “Mr. President, what do you think of picking-up your ’00 campaign logo” – Campaign Designer. “Well, I like it but I was hoping to give it more of a Nascar feel”- George W. Bush. Gore on the other-hand, well that’s simply awful. It’s somewhere between Star Trek and “The More You Know” Logos.


Clinton vs Dole 1996:

Logos as cropped blocks, makes them hard to visualize off the lawn signs.


Clinton vs Bush 1992:

I like these two logos actually. The two lines under “BU” in Bush is a little strange, like they were trying to highlight the letters.


Bush vs Dukakis 1988:

Let’s get retro.


Reagan vs Mondale 1984:


Reagan vs Carter 1980:

Carter’s logo color is very unique. I quite like it because it’s different but was it effective? Probably not. The other thing I love about both of these logos are the fonts. They are nice fat font faces. They also don’t push the stars, stripes and flags on us. Just simple font logos. However, either logo could be the front of a magazine cover, Reader’s Digest comes to mind.


Anyway, thanks for a taking a quick trip down “Presidential Logo” memory lane with me. I’m excited that the design world is being utilized fully, especially in elections to come. The sheer force a logo has, as seen with the Obama “O”, is undeniable. To all of my designer friends out there, keep designing and keep influencing as your design work has more impact than we sometimes know.

8 thoughts on “The evolution of the presidential campaign logo

  1. Danushka J Sajithsays


    1. James Rushad Grossays

      Does Mahinda Rajapaksa have a logo?

  2. Danushka J Sajithsays's kind of a flower.

  3. Ryan Goodmansays

    very interesting to see…I remember all but the 1980, which, I guess makes me kinda old. msnbc started using "Lean Forward" going back at least a year, if not more (2010 maybe?)…preceding the adoption of "Forward" by the campaign…not a crucial point, but should be noted (if nothing else, to differentiate their efforts from those of FN).

    1. James Rushad Grossays

      didn't know that actually. I take back my judgement as it was a bit harsh, as Fox News is certainly in a world of it's own 🙂

    2. Ryan Goodmansays

      I think it was right after the 2010 midterm elections, but I could be wrong. About the only time I watch any cable news (other than Maddow on my computer) is when election results are coming in…and since msnbc doesn't utilize a hologram (CNN) or live in a world of make-believe, they're my go-to.

  4. Victoria Harbensays

    Interesting post! Love the comparisons. I've got logos on the brain, DU has a new one and because we're hosting the first presidential debate, they developed a logo for it…what do you think:

    1. James Rushad Grossays

      I really like it! It has all the right elements. It would look great on a poster or banner too. Not to mention, Wow! hosting a presidential debate is big news. Will you be moderating?


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