The man who designed Obama's 'O' doesn't like the 2016 campaign logos

Obama in 2008Win McNamee/Getty ImagesThen-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois).

Sol Sender, the graphic designer who created then-Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Illinois) iconic “O” logo in the 2008 presidential election, had some tough feedback for the current designs unveiled in the 2016 race.

“Overall the quality is poor — bad typography, weak compositions, undifferentiated symbol,” Sender told Business Insider on Friday in reaction to the images released for the campaigns of Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The logos varied quite a bit. Cruz and Paul both chose flame symbols. Clinton selected the letter “H” with a red arrow. And Rubio opted for a map of the continental US to replace the dot in the “i” in Rubio.

Sender wouldn’t say whether he would praise or pan Clinton’s “H.” But he did find that her “mark looks to leverage the ground we broke with the Obama ‘O,’ … A stand-alone symbol that can function independent of the candidate’s name.”

“I do think it’s wise to aspire to that, though difficult to pull it off,” he said.

Collage of logos 4Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco RubioThe Clinton, Cruz, Rubio, and Paul logos.

Sender didn’t have any further reaction to Clinton’s choice of symbol, but he noted that if he had been hired to design it, he would have tried to understand the core message of her campaign platform.

“Visually and conceptually there is a limited palette of elements here: her first name, the first letter of her name, the year ‘2016.’ In the past, the use of her last name ‘Clinton’ has been minimized — which I understand, though the Bushes don’t seem to have an issue using theirs over and over again,” he said.

Though he found the 2016 presidential logo collection somewhat lacking, Sender did empathise with designers who are commissioned to develop campaign branding because of the quick turnaround.

For a consumer brand, designers are given anywhere between 8 and 12 weeks to work on iterations of a brand identity.

“When you’re working with a campaign team, you typically don’t have that leisure. With the Obama work, we were on a 1-2 week turnaround with very sparse direction of what was expected,” he said.

Sender, who is now a graphic designer and brand strategist at VSA Partners in Chicago, also reflected on the role he played in design history with the creation of his “O.”

“It’s 15 minutes of fame that repeats every 4 — 8 years. I’d like to think that I’ll someday lead a team that will do something that will overshadow it,” he said of his legacy.

“I did always think that the election of the first female president had the potential for the same level of design energy as the Obama campaign. Perhaps that will still be the case,” he added. “It will be interesting to see the rollout and the effectiveness of the ‘H.’ Should she be the Democratic nominee, the general election would be an easy opportunity to enhance and explore the identity some more.”

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