April 17, 2004

John Kerry, President (Behind the Logo)

Presidential campaign logos may not be where design meets innovation, but it is where design meets power. While the campaign designs will flood around American's visual periphery over the next 6 months, they rarely receive any overt attention.


The logo above is officially for the "John Kerry for President Inc." organization. But you might notice a couple things missing. The "Inc." gets dropped for obvious reasons, but more interesting is the missing "for". The design team made a very conscious decision that the logo should read "John Kerry, President" not "John Kerry for President".

Its a subtle shift, but a tellingly important one. The goal is the get the reader/viewer to envision Kerry as actually being the President. To shift the publics mental image from wannabe to the real thing. When you think John Kerry they want you to think he's pretty much president already, that his credibility is already established, he can do the job.

Howard Dean actually used this same tactic in his speeches, although not in his atrocious design materials. A statement like "As president I will..." carries far more force then "If I become president I would..." Its a candidates job to convince people they are capable of the job, and it damn sure helps is a tiny part of people's minds is thinking they already are president...

Its even better if people start thinking of you as their favorite president though and John Kerry was born into the fortunate situation of having the initials JFK. Kerry has used this to his advantage for years, frequently allowing himself to be presented as John F Kerry. But in running for president he's deemphasized the "F", presenting himself as just "John Kerry". I suspect it was a conscious decision by his team, worried about charges of exploiting a dead legend. I also expect they are planning for the JFK angle to get pushed unofficially, by people "unaffiliated" with the official campaign...

Back to the logo though. The main graphic element is a flag like thing hanging out between "John" and "Kerry". Looking just a bit like a ghost of an "F". We'll probably never know for sure, I suspect this was quite intentional. Your conscious reads "John Kerry" plus a flag logo, but the designers, they want your subconscious to read "JFK".

So will it work? I don't know, why don't you give JFK some cold, hard, cash and we'll find out in November.

Posted by Abe at April 17, 2004 11:35 AM


Hi, I thought you might be interested in our contest to create better graphics for the Kerry campaign: