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.

Skip to:
Cory Booker
Pete Buttigieg
Julian Castro
John Delaney
Tulsi Gabbard
Kirsten Gillibrand
Kamala Harris
Richard Ojeda
Elizabeth Warren
Andrew Yang

Note: Logos and websites are current as of January 22, 2019. New content will be added periodically as additional candidates enter the race. All opinions are my own, and logos/branding/websites are for inspiration and reference only.


Pete Buttigieg

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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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

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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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).

 

Richard Ojeda

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.

 


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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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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