What the 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates' Branding Says About Their Campaigns

Now that the U.S. is in the thick of Democrats announcing their intention to run for president in 2020, I thought it would be a fun practice to critique the brand identities of the candidates.

As any visual designer knows, the purpose of a strong brand identity is to hook your core audience with striking imagery that will make them want to read more. I wanted to review each of the candidates’ identities by taking a look at their overall branding, as displayed on their website. The opinions and rankings are not meant to judge the UX/UI design of websites; but instead judge the website for the message and audience they are looking for. A bit of a reverse creative brief - defining what the visuals say to me.

Don’t miss the follow up to this blog: A Deep Dive Into the Presidential Candidates’ Branding (Color Palettes & Typography)

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Note: Logos and websites were originally added January 22, 2019, with new content added periodically as additional candidates entered the race. All opinions are my own, and logos/branding/websites are for inspiration and reference only.


Michael Bennet

This is a solid website and branding, but isn’t necessarily super original. Bennet’s color palette plays it safe with red, white, and blue (including a bright blue on the call to action buttons that I don’t think works very well with the rest of the palette). His logo is quite nice, but is also fairly similar to Pete Buttigieg’s arch-inspired logo.

Values I gather from this branding: Family-oriented. Classic. Safe.

Overall ranking: 8/10. Solid branding and website, but nothing overly original. Unfortunately, you need something a bit more original to stand out in this field.

 
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Joe Biden

Oh, Joe. Perhaps I’d have more positive opinions about this brand if Biden hadn’t have teased his presidential campaign for so long before officially tossing his hat in the ring, and creating such high expectations for his campaign. I wasn’t overly impressed by the end result of this branding as a whole.

As with many other candidates, the color palette was fairly traditional. In another campaign year, that may have not been notable; but with this year’s array of color choices, the traditional palette feels outdated. I enjoy the thought behind Biden’s logo, but the flag logo has been done many times, and the E representing stripes feels like a little bit of a visual reach.

At the same time, the website is well-designed, and has a nice hierarchy of information. Overall, I think Biden missed an opportunity to come out strong with a more exciting option to sway voters.

Values: Traditional. Patriotic. Experienced.

Overall ranking: 7/10. The logo irks me, the color palette isn’t original, but the typography and hierarchy of website information saves this from being completely forgettable.

 
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Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg’s New (April 2019 & Beyond) Branding and Website:

Pete Buttigieg has embraced a millennial message more than any other candidate - and that includes his design chops. Hands down, looking over his website and branding, it’s incredibly obvious how much care and meaning is present in the design. And that’s not just because his team provides an in-depth Design Toolkit to explain the real-life inspiration behind the brand logos, colors, and typefaces. It’s clear that the time and energy put into these brand elements were efficient and thoughtful. It’s my favorite design style - noting that just enough is best, and favoring simplicity over anything else.

Values I gather from this branding: Warm. Rooted. Unfettered.

Overall ranking: 10/10. Nothing is unnecessary here. Simply excellent design work that resonates with the brand at hand.

Buttigieg’s Original (Pre-April 2019) Branding and Website:

Buttigieg’s website is currently a splash page, but I really like the direction it’s heading in. He is a mayor from a conservative Midwestern state (Indiana), and does a nice job of having a wholesome, safe look without looking boring.

Both the website and logo are simple but well-executed, focused on red, white and blue and smartly chosen design elements (the color blocking of the website is well-done). I often say that the most simple design takes the longest amount of time to create, and I can tell that effort and care went into the creation of this brand identity.

This effort will connect across social classes and across the country; Buttigeig’s brand looks like someone who can both aid and connect. That being said, connecting across class lines does give up some specificity, and this brand identity may end up blending in with others as we get further into the race.

Values I gather from this branding: Moderate. Wholesome. Clean.

Overall ranking: 9/10. I’ll revisit this after a full website buildout, but I really do like this identity so far. The only thing I’m not crazy about is the grey in his logo, which feels unnecessary.

 
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Julian Castro

Honestly, I think this was the type of look that Andrew Yang’s team was going for in their website and branding, but didn’t quite hit. The color blocking and gradients are used to the right effect throughout Castro’s website.

The website and logo is entirely in shades of blue and white, and it works really well. It’s simple without being too safe or boring, and bold without being isolating. It’s rare that I don’t miss some sort of accent color, but the right shades of blue were chosen here, and are different enough that they don’t blend together.

Castro’s logo is simple, but puts an emphasis on his heritage through the accent in his name, which smartly makes it look clean without being forgettable.

Values I gather from this branding: Loyal. Bold.

Overall ranking: 9/10. Similarly to Warren’s branding, parts of this feel a bit generic.

 
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Bill de Blasio

This website and branding is a perfect example of too much going on. De Blasio’s logo looks more like a campaign sign, and would potentially look much better with reversed color. He uses color, which is great, but both the green and yellow are very eye catching, and it can be distracting to the eye regarding where exactly to look. Even the text over header/hero image is a bit hard to read, which could be fixed with a simple transparency.

Values I gather from this branding: Bright. Attention grabbing.

Overall ranking: 5.5/10. Everything is vying for your attention in this branding and website, which is a turn off.

 
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John Delaney

Hands down, this is my least favorite. Although I felt like there was a disconnect between Richard Ojeda’s logo and website, it is nothing compared to John Delaney’s.

Just like Ojeda’s logo, Delaney’s reminds me a lot of Obama’s 2008 logo. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery; but a presidential campaign is absolutely a new time to pave a new road. Unlike Ojeda’s logo (which is too busy), Delaney’s logo feels fairly boring and unexciting, both because of the colors and typography.

There’s also a lot of different colors going on here, in the form of solid blocks of colors (such as the top buttons, quote block and footer on the website), website gradients and overlays, and the colors used in Delaney’s logo. There are at least six (!) unique colors used in his branding and website, which feels wholly unnecessary. And because his full logo is not used on the website (just a sublogo, which is rendered in white only), there’s a major disconnect in the website and the full-color logo itself.

Delaney is the only candidate who uses a serif as a header font on their website, and I don’t think it’s done effectively. The headers throughout the website are too close in size to the body copy, which does not entice the reader to keep reading.

Values I gather from this branding: Hard-working. Connection.

Overall ranking: 3/10. There’s a few solid starts here, but it leaves a lot to be desired.

 
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Tulsi Gabbard

This splash page is very simple, but communicates a lot. Tulsi Gabbard sets herself apart by using her unique first name in his brand identity. Her logo itself is powerful - I’m generally not a fan of gradients because they often aren’t used well, but the gradient is effectively utilized here. The colors are reminiscent of the rising sun as well as her home state of Hawaii; Gabbard also does an awesome job of using those colors in her brand photography on the splash page - something that is often overlooked. I also love the curved edges of the T and I, which draw the eye toward the focal point of the logo. In a one-color logo, I still think this logo will work well.

Gabbard smartly sticks to two colors on this splash page, which keeps the website from looking too busy, which can easily happen with using a photo background. I’m excited to see the full version of this website when it comes to be.

Values I gather from this branding: Rising. Powerful. Inclusive.

Overall ranking: 10/10. This may have to be revisited once Gabbard has a full website build out, but this identity has helped a gradient-hater really dig gradients. I can’t find a flaw so far.

 
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Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand’s New (April 2019 & Beyond) Branding and Website:

Gillibrand’s team updated her website and logo after launching her campaign for president, which now features a more rounded, sans serif typeface and an overall more type-centric interface. I think it’s definitely an improvement, and feels a bit more approachable and inclusive. Her bold usage of phrases such as “Brave Wins,” makes it clear that she’s looking to appeal to women voters.

Overall ranking: 8/10. Although a lot of Gillibrand’s branding still feels safe to me, I applaud her team for taking a more bold step with this brand refresh.

Gillibrand’s Original (Pre-April 2019) Branding and Website:

Overall, Gillibrand’s brand feels personable and caring, yet proper and conservative - almost motherly. Not only because they’re both blonde New Yorkers, but I’d like to think this is what a younger Hillary Clinton presidential campaign would have looked like. It’s overtly feminine while still being no-nonsense.

As a whole, her branding choices aren’t the most bold or exciting choice, but I think it works very well for the type of politician I think Gillibrand is; I’m not sure how it would have worked for anyone else. There’s also great uses of typography throughout her website (which is a one-page site) that give overt calls to action. It’s a great example of a one-page site done well, and shows the power of minimal color.

This is a small gripe, but I wish the website design had stuck with only black and white photos and the hot pink spot color. The orange Instagram tile and a few color photos are driving me nuts!

Values I gather from this branding: Feminine. Polished. Personable.

Overall ranking: 7/10. Everything about Gillibrand’s branding is very OK. It’s not overly exciting, with only her color palette pulling her out of being too safe for me.

 
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Mike Gravel

It’s a theme of many of these campaign websites to heavily use color blocking, and Gravel’s website continues on that trend. I enjoy his campaign’s use of monochrome color on images, which is unique and evokes a more old-school, newspaper-y feel. The website is also very simple, pointing users to the most important topics.

On the other hand, this logo is pretty rough. The idea of a more curved font works well, but the star/flag graphic in the “a” of Gravel just doesn’t work. It’s not visible when the logo is shrunk, and doesn’t match the clean lines of the website at all.

Values I gather from this branding: Classic. Simple. Throwback.

Overall ranking: 7/10. Love the website and it’s simplicity - but the same cannot be said for the logo.

 
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Kamala Harris

Harris’ campaign is direct and up front about who they’re working for - the people. She is the only candidate that directly works a tagline into her main logo. My only gripe is that the main logo does not work well in one color; but this is a small complaint for what I think is overall great branding.

The colors are very different and make her stand apart. Even though some of the other candidates err toward unconventional color palettes, Harris is the only one that doesn’t utilize blue. Purple has already proven to be a recent smart choice for progressive candidates’ branding, and Harris makes it work well.

The very bold sans-serif used for her headers balance well with the serif used for body copy. Compared to the modernity of the header font and colors, and body font is quite classic. It really helps anchor the branding from getting too out-there or kooky, and helps in making this a very memorable brand for all the right reasons.

Values I gather from this branding: Risk-taking. Striking. Colorful.

Overall ranking: 9.5/10. The tiniest issue, but I love for a logo to work in one-color and full-color equally; I don’t like that transparency needs to be applied for this one for it to make sense (as you can see in the website example).

 

John Hickenlooper

Hickenlooper is playing on a lot of current branding trends - keeping all graphics clean, consumable, and simple. Using purple as such a key component is unexpected and smart - it’s a rich color (literally, historically seen as the color of royalty) that represents the combining of red and blue.

The graphics of the logo itself are also smart - the simplified mountains are a way to show Hickenlooper’s home state of Colorado without being too literal. The star helps the logo look balanced while still staying asymmetrical.

The only negative things to say about this identity is that it may be too simple. Although I’m sure plenty of time went into the creation of the logo, the type feels a little uninteresting. I could do with a bit more contrast of colors and type. I will say that the display of logo variations toward the bottom of Hickenlooper’s homepage is very nice, and shows the full variety of logos - though it also kind of looks like a mockup from a graphic designer’s portfolio?

Values I gather from this branding: Clean. Compromising. Friendly.

Overall ranking: 8/10. Overall, I really like this identity. However, I’m not sure if it’s going to stand out against the crowd long-term. I’d love to see a little more variation of colors and other graphic elements.

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Jay Inslee

I’m not totally sure where to start with this one. The website isn’t bad, but the logo… eesh. It commits my two cardinal sins of logo creation: 1) the logo is not easily transferrable to all-black or all-white (the globe would make little sense), and 2) it’s using more than two colors in the logo (actually, I think there’s five?!).

I applaud Inslee for taking his key campaign component (climate change) to heart and reflecting the colors throughout his website. The website itself is laid out just fine; but the design elements are all rough on the eyes. The green and blue gradient ends up making an unappealing brown color, and the red in the website banner and logo isn’t woven throughout the brand at all.

This is the smallest element, but I am in love with the hamburger button in the upper lefthand corner, which is a simplified flag. It doesn’t fit in with the rest of this brand at all, but I love the touch of it.

Values I gather from this branding: Green. Passionate.

Overall ranking: 3/10. No A’s for effort here, but you do get some points for trying.

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Amy Klobuchar

I appreciate that Amy Klobuchar’s branding provides something very different than any other candidate. The use of gradients on her website (in the primary hero image above the fold, and the opaque image in the background of her Campaign section) are used in a smart way, and look fresh and new as opposed to dated (which gradients often are).

Klobuchar takes the risk of making branding choices that are different than her fellow candidates. Her choice for a serif font in her logo sets her apart from nearly every other Democratic candidate. She hops on the Kamala Harris train of using a campaign name as opposed to her last name in her logo, as well. She’s also the only candidate to use green - a color that has popped up often in local and state elections with a focus on environmental factors, but hadn’t quite made it to the national stage yet.

For the most part, those different choices pay off. I really like the bold serif used as a header throughout her website, and the website as a whole is visually appealing. Unfortunately, I don’t think that same serif works as well as I would have hoped in her logo. The “Amy” letterforms simply don’t pack a punch, and the left-aligned logo looks a little unbalanced to me. The logo also uses three typefaces and three colors (!), which ends up feeling too busy. And as much as I like the unexpected choice of green, I think using green and a darker blue only for “for America” could have simplified this logo and kept it from looking unfinished.

Values I gather from this branding: Clean. Striking. Green.

Overall ranking: 8/10. This may be one of my favorite websites, but I just don’t think the logo stands out very well on its own.

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Wayne Messam

This branding and website is very okay to me. There’s really not anything wrong with it, but there’s nothing exciting, either. I like the full-bleed photo on the home page, but beyond the photo, there isn’t much of substance.

Similar to Amy Klobuchar, this logo isn’t saying much on it’s own. It’s also very similar to Klobuchar’s logo, but uses a bold sans serif in place of a serif. There’s also a gradient, which feels unnecessary, and doesn’t add anything.

Values I gather from this branding: Bold. Traditional.

Overall ranking: 6/10. Both this website and logo are pandering to anyone and everyone, which means it probably won’t strike much of a chord.

 
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Richard Ojeda

Note: Suspended campaign in January 2019.

Although I do like Ojeda’s website design, the logo is not my favorite. The logo communicates Ojeda’s military background through the colors, eagle and American flag, wings, and rough textures; but there’s a lot of elements going on, and they’re not all necessary.

The winged version of the logo on his website feels like overkill; I’d like the wordmark without the wings much better on its own. I do like the concept of the eagle and American flag wings within the “O,” but it reminds me far too much of Obama’s 2008 logo. I think it could have been executed in a cleaner way.

The logo also doesn’t mesh very well with the rest of his branding, which is bold yet clean. The website does not feature any texture or major graphic elements outside of typography and color. The website overall is a good way to show how a tough and masculine message can be communicated without going overboard with graphic elements.

Values I gather from this branding: Bold. Masculine. Rough and tumble.

Overall ranking: 6/10. I like the use of branding on the website, which I think gets his message across. I just wish that was better displayed in the logo.

 

Beto O'Rourke

This is truly the brand I didn’t know I needed in this presidential race. Beto’s branding is very minimalist without feeling too simple or boring. It’s striking with a vintage feel. Although it’s not the exact same typeface, I’ve used a similar one in a political branding project in the past, and I love how bold it looks without looking like everything else.

Values I gather from this branding: Basic. Bold. Different.

Overall ranking: 9/10. I’m moderately obsessed. The only thing throwing me off here is the triple lines in Beto’s logo. It feels unnecessary and too delicate for the rest of the logo and brand - they could have filled the white space in a different way.

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Tim Ryan

Tim Ryan’s website and branding are well done, if not a little on the safe side. The logo is very similar to Cory Booker’s, and I don’t think either show off much about the candidate. Ryan’s website is also very text-heavy, with the graphics not telling a ton about the unique nature of the candidate.

Values I gather from this branding: Wholesome. Classic.

Overall ranking: 6/10. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing super exciting.

 

Bernie Sanders

I don’t have a ton to say about Bernie’s branding, because he’s choosing to keep the same overall branding that he used in the 2016 election. Overall, I think that’s a smart decision since he’s going after the same voter base - but we are also living in a very different day and age than 2016. I think it could have done some good to make some tweaks and updates to his logo and colors as to show progression over the last four years.

That being said, there’s definitely nothing wrong with Bernie’s logo. However, in a sea of branding that is beginning to stand apart from old-school political logos, Bernie is staunchly in the old-school camp. There’s nothing wrong, but there’s nothing very exciting, either.

Values I gather from this branding: Traditional. Inclusive.

Overall ranking: 6/10. “It’s fine” is really the best way to describe this. Maybe I’ll find more eloquent phrasing down the line :)

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Eric Swalwell

Although the concept of Eric Swalwell’s logo isn’t wholly original, I really enjoy the execution - it’s America-centric and bold without feeling trite or overdone. His website is similarly bold, though there could be better use of color blocking (as opposed to gradients) to match up with the logo.

Values I gather from this branding: Bold. Loyal. Patriotic.

Overall ranking: 7/10. I love the logo, but there’s many parts of this website that could be improved.

 

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren’s website is playing on all the right trends of the moment, and feels quite different from all typical campaign sites. The website is clean and unfettered, with minimal graphics that work quite well.

There’s not a lot that this website is doing wrong, and I think using light green as a key color is a very smart move. Relying on green and dark blue as main colors make it more striking when red is used as an accent color; this design looks expensive and smart, and makes the calls to action feel important and urgent. The color palette also brings a bit of whimsy to the design, which could easily skew too serious with the imagery and copy.

Values I gather from this branding: Modern. Clean. Serious.

Overall ranking: 9/10. I like this branding a lot - the only thing holding me back from a perfect score is that it feels a little too turnkey for me. If you replaced Warren’s identifying information with another candidate, it would probably work for them, too.

 
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Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson is a major fringe candidate in this election, but man, her brand is smart. It eschews the typical political color in favor of a more feminine nature (but less bold than Kristen Gillibrand’s branding). Her logo is also smart - it is simple but thought provoking, and the stacked, cutout-style of “2020” makes it obvious it’s a political logo (for a less political candidate).

The website design is really nice, too - Williamson’s watercolor portrait in the header balances the seriousness of her typography and logo with a softer, art-focused element. Overall, I’m not sure it’s the best political website, but it looks very nice and gets the point across that she’s not your typical presidential candidate.

Values I gather from this branding: Feminine. Delicate.

Overall ranking: 8/10. This is a really nice identity, and I’m only docking points because I don’t think it’s the best fit for a presidential run.


Andrew Yang

The colors of Yang’s website are very bright, tech-y, and has tons of calls to action. There’s a lot going on (not in a negative way), which makes me feel like millennials are one of the main audiences they’re looking for. Unfortunately, I’m definitely not feeling that in the logo (more on that below).

Yang is one of the more little-known candidates, and the design of this homepage pushes toward getting to know him and his policies, as well as information (“The Latest”) on news and appearances, which gives more of an air of credibility.

I like the brightness of the purple-blue and red - they are bright and remind me of the tech industry. The lighter blue does not jive quite as much more me, and would have preferred a different accent color.

On that note, the majority of these graphics feel quite modern and minimalist. However, the wave graphic below Yang’s above the fold picture feels like a more dated element and out of place. The logos are the same story - the “Y” with a flag is a clever idea, but could have been executed in a different way. The 3D effect of this also feels very backwards to the modern, 2D look that is displayed everywhere else.

Values I gather from this branding: Future-focused. Bright.

Overall ranking: 5/10. I like most of the website, even if the logo falls very flat for me. As with Richard Ojeda’s branding, I feel a major disconnect between the website and logo.

 
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Cory Booker

Cory Booker’s branding certainly is bold, but I’m not sure it’s the type of bold he was looking for. Booker’s campaign and political persona is consistently based around being down-to-earth and connecting with constituents, and I don’t think that comes across in this branding.

Color blocking is definitely on-trend in this presidential election, but Booker’s color choices are fairly predictable and aren’t setting him apart from other candidates. The content of his website homepage is focused on Booker’s humble beginnings and grassroots campaigning, but the visual identity feels like it’s clashing with that message. The sans serif used in his logo and website headers is blocky and heavy, and the serif used for body copy feels equally dated. Looking into the sans serif header font, it was inspired by vintage Bulgarian lottery tickets, which feels like an … odd choice. That font paired with the color palette of red, white, black and blue reminds me of constructivist design, prominent in Russia in the early 1900s.

Values I gather from this branding: Bold. Taking a stand. No-nonsense.

Overall ranking: 5/10. Similar to the branding of several other candidates, there’s nothing wrong with Booker’s visual identity. But, I think it was a missed opportunity to do something outside the box, and communicate his morals and policies that are for the people.

 
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