GRAPHIC CONCEPTS DON’T ALWAYS
CONVEY THE INTENDED MESSAGE
New Facebook friend Cary Michael Bogue spotted a typo in the headline on my Facebook cover photo. He messaged me to inquire whether I was attempting to promote my “blog” or my “bog.”
I had left out the “L,” and hadn’t realized it all these weeks since putting up this shot at the beginning of the year. Apparently no one else caught the mistake either, as no one had pointed it out.
“Good grief, Cary,” I wrote him back, “you’re right. I hadn’t noticed that. Well, perhaps reading my opinions is like slogging through a marsh.”
I hope that isn’t the case, of course. But I do know that type and graphic errors are so easy to make. I can attest to that after a long career in advertising and communications. And it seems to be a law of nature that the more prominent the mistake — whether a misspelling or a flawed photo — the easier to overlook.
I once ordered three months worth of publication inserts with the wrong “there” displayed prominently. A real estate ad I wrote went out with “excitment” in the headline, when it should have read “excitement.”
Of course, not everything that goes awry in the world of words and images is a mistake, as such. But sometimes what seems like a perfectly clear idea can harbor unintended suggestions.
Hillary Clinton’s new campaign logo appears to carry implications her political consultants might not have intended. At the least, it raises questions.
The logo consists of a large letter “H” bisected by a red arrow pointing to the right. I interpret the arrow leading from left to right as an indicator of progress. We read English from left to right, so movement of the eye in that direction connotes forward motion (which is probably what the designer had in mind).
Others see in the right-pointing arrow a subtle hint that Hillary wishes to be perceived as “moving to the right” — as in a more conservative direction, as in away from the policies of Barack Obama. If that’s the case, the red color rather muddies the message, since red has become associated with the Republican Party.
Why that’s so I can’t say. To me, red will always be associated with Communism, and I don’t think Hillary would want to be tagged with that association.
In any event, some so-called “design experts” have offered negative critiques on the campaign mark. From Politico…
“I think the Hillary logo is really saying nothing,” said Scott Thomas, the design director for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and who later worked on the Whitehouse.gov website’s redesign. “It’s just a red arrow moving to the right.”
A consensus appears to be developing that Hillary’s “H” logo compares very unfavorably with the famous Obama “O”…
“Obama’s ‘O’ was handled with a certain amount of nuance and elegance and Hillary’s ‘H’ has none of that nuance or elegance,” said Steven Heller, a design critic and former art director at The New York Times. The Clinton logo, he added, looks like she’s overtly trying to avoid using her last name. “Her name is Hillary. We don’t know her as Ms. H,” he said.
Perhaps Hillary’s graphic designer is playing a double game. Maybe the red arrow is meant to symbolize progress to voters of progressivist leanings, while at the same time implying a rightward move to lull conservatives into complacency.
Or, maybe it’s just a poor design.
I worked on staff for McGraw-Hill in the 1970s at a time when a new corporate identity system was introduced. The name “McGraw-Hill” was rendered in a bold, sans-serif typeface in which letters were were linked together, with some appearing italicized.
The first printed materials we received in our department bearing the new mark gave us a jolt. Our eyes were immediately drawn to the “W” in “McGraw,” which — with all the connections (ligatures) between characters — we read as “McGrain.”
We heard that others in the company had the same impression. But McG-H had spent a ton of money on the new corporate ID, so they lived with it for quite a few years.
In any event, the Politico article notes that denizens of the social network world are mocking, distorting or in other ways having impish fun with Hillary’s logo. There’s all kinds of stuff going viral.
My personal favorite, from a source called Peggy Sue’s Photos, takes a wicked poke at the mysteries that still swirl around Hillary’s role in the Benghazi fiasco and her unwillingness to address the issue. It points out that the “H” in Benghazi is silent.
Well, we’ll see how effective the new logo is over time — and whether the campaign does any tinkering to refine it.
In marketing, logos are extremely important. And as Politico points out, strong graphics have become vital in politics as well…
“A good logo can go a long way in the modern-day digital era where campaigns are desperately trying to reach attention-starved possible voters, volunteers and donors via their phones and Facebook feeds. Create an easy-on-the-eyes brand and it can pay big dividends as someone decides whether to open yet another email message from a politician, or just hit delete.”
The Obama campaign certainly proved that.
I don’t think Hillary’s primary problem is marketing, however. Her brand is very well established. And from what I’ve seen of her campaign so far, I can’t help feeling she’s lost a bit of luster.
But then, the Clintons are nothing if not resourceful. And at this point, I think Hillary is the only figure on the political scene — either Democrat or Republican — who has a loyal, motivated and truly national constituency.
Her campaign, like my reading of her logo, may zip forward. On the other hand, like my Facebook typo, it may end up suggesting a slog through a marsh.
Here’s the link to that Politico story on criticism of the Hillary campaign logo…
Writing in Britain’s Telegraph, Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller observes that satire may be the most potent threat to Hillary’s campaign…
“The more one watches the coverage of Mrs. Clinton, the more it becomes apparent that it won’t be the serious scandals – the Benghazis or the private email account – that will matter. Rather, the much greater danger is that she could become a joke.
“Unlike Barack Obama’s early days, Mrs Clinton isn’t viewed as ‘off limits’ to the entertainment and media worlds. And unlike her husband, former president Bill Clinton, Mrs Clinton must get elected in a world where conservative websites and citizen journalists with camera phones are ubiquitous.”
Now, don’t get testy about all the joking, Hilly. That’d be just what people would expect of you…