Gus Granger on the importance of design in politics and the history of campaign designs.
Q: How do political campaign designs convey meaning?
We cannot, as designers, create meaning with a logo. We can imply meaning, we can give you some suggestions based on what people will react to, but in and of itself, a symbol cannot authentically represent honesty or integrity. It can suggest those things. For example, when a political candidate does something fantastic, that symbol comes to represent that fantastic thing the candidate did or said. And it's like if you're trying to collect water in a colander as opposed to a bowl. If the identity is weak, you might fill it up with all this water, but it will all fall away.
Sometimes, campaigns will fall back on familiar and forgettable design approaches. They just need to get signs and fliers out, and the only thing that ties it together is their name, and they don't realize that their name looks different in all the different things they put out to the public. If they make it consistent, it makes their point louder and the success of the campaign more likely. The materials are working harder for them or reinforcing the work they've done. Poorly designed work will work against them.
Q: What goes into designing the brand of a candidate?
It's not that different from establishing a strong brand for anything, whether it's a product, or a service or a politician. Essentially, a campaign is a movement centered on the politician. We all have individual brands, and a campaign will have a brand, strongly designed or not, that is what it is. And the strong and better planned out that brand is, the communications that are being created become a stronger asset for the movement.
Q: I feel as though most campaign signs are red white and blue, is that just because we're in America?
It absolutely is. Not only are they red white and blue, there's a reference, explicit or implied, to the characteristics of the flag or an eagle or other iconography that tie into what is essentially brand America. And voting is what some would consider the most patriotic thing you can do. And folks say what are the two most patriotic moments in your life, they might say voting or the Fourth of July. Both are dominated by the same color palate or iconography.
Q: Is this phenomenon just related to design?
Our names are part of our brand. If I meet you and you say something fantastic to me but I don't find out your name, the next time I see you or hear your name in a conversation, your brand is not heightened to me. Our personal brands, the way that you dress, all those things start to build up integrity.
Q: What are some examples of strong political design?
The 2008 Obama campaign really understood this by crafting identity campaigns centered on a strong, unique, memorable logo for the campaign. Because it was there, it became a rallying point for all the great (or if you didn't see him as great) all the negative things that campaign did.
Q: What do you think of the Romney/Ryan look?
Their whole identity is based on the R in their names and the shape of that R and the stripes that they applied... it doesn't look like a flag or anything recognizable, it looks like Aqua fresh toothpaste. That's a common criticism of it, and it's all I can see when I see it.
Q: Do you say that as a completely unbiased, nonpartisan?
Absolutely. John McCain's was good. He had strong typography. He developed a logo for the campaign itself. Same with the "W" campaign. It was elegant and consistently done. The confidence behind being that simple, there's something audacious about that but it works. I thought that was very good. But it wasn't the primary campaign identity.
Q: You recently did an identity system for a college friend of your running for Senate in Iowa. What did you draw upon to do that, and what do you like about the identity system you created for candidate Adams?
From a design standpoint, we didn't do anything earth shattering. But it put in place a strong visual brand for the campaign based upon his last name and a consistent way to handle all the design. Because of that people in his district have perceived him as being more sophisticated player in politics based on the level of polish and professionalism compared to the others. it becomes this snowball effect. You're able to associate all the positive things you're doing with this central brand identity. These things remind you and tie you to past experiences you had with the campaign.
But it's all about the candidate being able to back it up. You have a great symbol, or identity and the candidate is fantastic, that symbol represents that. If the candidate is mediocre, it represents that.
Q: Politics aside, can you explain how the Nazi movement is a portrayal of a well-executed movement from a design standpoint?
It's hard to argue against the power of the Nazi logo as being an effective tool of recruitment and intimidation. It came to stand for this horrific movement. There was a consistent use of the swastika, black on a white field, in a red circle. It was rarely seen any other way. The Nazis put together a graphics standard manual that controlled the image of the party in a breathtakingly detailed way. How materials were created, how uniforms were designed. (For more information, click here)
If people are trying to understand the power of brand identity, it's hard to think of another example that has the impact of WWII. It continues to shape modern society, because of one man and what he did and the brand that he wrapped his movement in. To this day, you scrawl that symbol on anything and it represents what the Nazis were about, and it makes people fearful, or others might feel powerful.
Remember, the actual design doesn't represent anything. It's what the people that the symbol stands for that fills it with meaning. The swastika was originally meant to symbolize peace, and they coopted that.
Q: Are there any other examples of names or symbols being coopted?
Think about when the iPad came out. That product name was widely ridiculed. People heard pad and thought of maxi pad. They thought of feminine hygiene products. You don't hear that anymore. They redefined the word. You take something that might be familiar and change its meaning.
Principal and Creative Director
Search engine optimization and site search have been challenging each other since the beginning of time, or at least since the word Google became a verb.
However, the most negative impact site search has on search engine optimization is the production of duplicate content. Site search often produces this dreaded duplicate content because a website is allowing non-content pages to be indexed. This means pages within your website are competing with one another, diluting the credibility for search engines. When this happens, search engines like Google don't see your site as being a beneficial search result to users. Instead, Google might penalize your website, resulting in the funeral of your search engine optimization efforts.
Although duplication is considered the greatest possible negative impact on search engine optimization, it is also the easiest to fix. In order to reap the benefits of site search and search engine optimization without being penalized for duplicate content, your site needs to have a common search result page that will deliver or setup a no-index tag on pages that don't need to be included in Google's index. A good example of pages that should be excluded are category pages, news list pages and system files.
The most common and widely recommended no-index tag is called Meta NoIndex. This method explains to search engines that they can visit your site but they are not allowed to show that specific URL in search results. By using this method, you can have the best of both search engine optimization and site search.
Here are some other issues that site search duplication causes with search engine optimization:
- Search engine inclusion - Search engines don't know which duplicates to include or exclude from their index.
- Link Direction - Search engines are unable to detect if the link should be directed to one page versus keeping the link separated between duplicates.
- Ranking - Search engines won't know which duplicates to rank for query results.
For more tips or information about search engine optimization and site search issues, please visit 70kft.com/contact
Director of Web Development and Internet Marketing
First, 70kft does not have any political clients and is sharing the following blog simply as a means of speaking about current events through the lens of brand communications.
In a season poor in formal debates and rich in political advertising, some might view political advertising as little more than a distraction or amusement. Well, watch and learn. Political advertising serves as a great study of public relations, no matter how unintentional. History has shown us that political ads critiquing an opponent often lead to PR clean up or narrative resetting.
The natural tension between the two disciplines forces candidates to answer for one discipline via the other. For instance, if candidate X makes a PR misstep, then it may be necessary to run advertising showcasing counter points. And, conversely, if candidate Y runs a hyper critical ad, it may be necessary to do PR to fix public perception of the person who approved the ad. Still, 12 years after the bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (aka McCain-Feingold act), reason remains to ask if a candidate really meant to associate him or herself with an ad. You most likely know the result of that act by its infamous tag of "I approved this message."
Case in point, wanting to seize on the current PBS funding debate issue, President Obama's camp has prepared a seemingly Big Bird-endorsed ad. Well, PBS does not approve or endorse one candidate over another and now the administration must contend with public opinion for upsetting Big Bird so to say.
Here's a little free PR advice, President Obama:
- Pull plans to run the ad
- Apologize to Big Bird/PBS via a formal statement (that will gets lots of air time)
- Run ads reinforcing your best judgment moments (helping people forget about a poor debate performance)
Bottom line, thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, the Obama camp will garner more than enough mileage out of news clips of the ad without further ad spend. Just a little something to chew on.
Principal, Public Relations & Marketing
We, Gus & Audrey, are proud to announce the birth of another child: 70kft (unisex name). This is an important day for all of the 70kft family. Our new name and business diversification represent the culmination of years of training and the natural evolution of our business. 70kft now formally operates with three core competencies: Design, PR and Internet Marketing. We would like to thank all current and past clients who entrusted us with these brand-awareness and brand-building services. It has been our pleasure to work with all of you.
In addition to being married to each other personally and as company leaders, we are also married to our work. It's our passion and what we choose to do rather than what we must do. Healthy or not, we talk about client business from sun up to moon high. We have hired and are developing the next great crop of brand thinkers. We have all of our design, PR and internet marketing bases covered. Our team is diverse in thought, approach, background and culture. We love where we are in time right now. So thank you to the entire 70kft family (immediate & extended): Elda, Jack, Heather, George, Amanda B., Amanda L., Erik, Josh, Kim, Duane, Max & Allison.
We hope you will take advantage of our services soon and see why we are so energized about the next big step.
Gus Granger and Audrey Reed-Granger
Anna Karenina, War and Peace, To Kill A Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, Gone
With The Wind and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are classic
examples of strong, engaging storytelling.
All the greatest, most memorable stories in history have a consistent thread of elements: a defining moment, emotion, hero/heroine, archenemy of sorts and turning point. I would argue that corporate branding (regardless of company size) is not that different. Most businesses worth their salt believe they are the heroes delivering uniquely on a proposition for the prized customer. They also have a competitive set, which is equally as resolute in the belief that they make the better or best widget.
What separates one company from another is their brand story that compels the reader, consumer or customer to engage or buy the goods to be sold or delivered. Some companies believe they are not large enough to worry about the brand story yet. It's not about the 'yet' but rather the 'best and first.' See, whoever tells the best story first cements an association of their brand name with the value proposition firmly in the customer's mind.
In fact, I would argue that many of today's developing or transitional companies are caught up in the transactional aspects of business management (supply chain and sales team) but they neglect what pushes the purchaser's buttons. While the behind the scenes of business management is absolutely necessary, I submit that it is equally necessary to know and articulate the company's brand story as a major construction step for building the overall brand. Branding, when done well and consistently, contributes to the bottom line. Even if the bottom line is doing great, imagine how much stronger it would be if you add more fuel to the fire. While my circle of friends and family is small, I don't know anyone who doesn't want more money.
Something all the great classics have in common is that they are not short reads but millions have continued to turn the page for more. Again, it's the emotional connection that makes someone choose or buy one widget over another.
There are a handful of envied brands that come up all of the time in
client meetings: "We want it to be clean, simple and friendly, like
Apple." "I love what Target does, make it like that." If it's not the
clients that mention those brands, it's the designers when we go back to
our workshops to craft the next heroic brand narrative for our clients.
When I shop or when I leave either one of those places, I'm leaving a place, which was beautifully designed. Whether it's the exterior signage, architecture, POP displays, house-brand packaging, way-finding cues, employee uniforms, even the checkout experience: design work very deliberately, delightfully and smartly executed.
We look to companies who "get" the value of design and, how when done right, design is an essential part of positively impacting the bottom-line.
Q: My pick for the next brand to join those ranks? A: jcpenney.
In recent years, J.C. Penney Company leadership has been forging successful relationships with fashion-forward brands (Aldo and Sephora), aimed at elevating its profile and changing brand reputation as being fashion-neutral, at best. A key win for them this last year was the one who played a key role in making Apple and Target envied retail brands, their new CEO Ron Johnson. He's brought along some key players from his time at Target and Apple, and most recently acquired a major stake in another envied design brand: Martha Stewart Living.
All of this makes me hopeful about jcpenney achieving the same status. And not just as a bystander and fan of excellent design and branding, but as one who is passionate about the design community of the Dallas Fort Worth area, as all of that work should be designed in the area.
I've recently become the president of the Dallas Fort Worth chapter of the AIGA, the professional association of design. Our sole focus is elevating the profession, the amazing people here engaged in it and educating the greater business community about the value of strong design. I'm hopeful that DFW and the world will see the next transformational brand story unfold here. I suspect the more than 6000 designers in our area would jump at the opportunity to take part of such a story.