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Ian Leaf on the Impact of Graphic Design in Branding Efforts


Ian Leaf is much more attentive to graphic design than most, but he is still surprised by the design failures of multimillion-dollar enterprises that ought to be more aware of the potential impact on any branding effort. Citing examples from the corporate world as well as from politicians seeking the highest political offices, Ian Leaf has outlined several guidelines designed to ensure the importance of graphic design is better understood when it comes to branding efforts.

Instituting a thorough vetting process is one of the most critical of these guidelines, as many of the recent graphic design faux pas could have been easily avoided with an appropriate amount of oversight. Perhaps the most striking examples of a lack of vetting come from the political arena, where both the Democratic and Republican candidates for president have each released questionably designed logos. With so much at stake, it is shocking that a more thorough vetting process is not mandated.

Many observers immediately pointed out the obvious message associated with the logo utilized by Hillary Clinton. Political graphic design is limited in color palette and rarely involves any creative risk-taking, but the former Secretary of State’s logo was bland by even political standards. Bland graphic design is forgivable, but the message that design sends should be well thought out in advance.

Instead, the Democratic candidate’s logo featured a red arrow pointing to the right, which is the kind of symbolism that would be more appropriate for a Republican candidate. Red is, after all, the color of the Republican Party, and the Republican platform has moved further to the right. Though the intended symbolism was supposed to represent progress and moving the country forward, Clinton’s logo played into one of the more common criticisms coming from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

The Republican candidate, Donald Trump, released a new campaign logo following the announcement that Mike Pence would be his running mate, which quickly drew criticism for the obvious suggestiveness of the graphic design. While a logo in and of itself is hardly representative of a candidate’s capabilities, it is still disconcerting that these campaigns overlook details such as these.

This is especially true when the logo is criticized immediately after its release, demonstrating how quickly the symbolism is recognized yet was somehow overlooked by everyone in the organization responsible for approving the logo in the first place. Having effective graphic design guidelines in place that include a thorough vetting process will go a long way toward ensuring that the logo makes a positive contribution to branding efforts.