Presidential Image: Designed For Voters

It’s that time of the season when the cherry blossoms are in bloom; the cardinals are frolicking with the robins; when the morning dew mingles with the morning showers; and where presidential hopefuls start putting their foot forward. Ah, can you smell feel it?

That’s right, we’re past the mid-term mark and political muscles are flexing while Presidential hopefuls aim at glomming onto any issue.

But in this virtual world, we find that although politics moves fast, image moves faster. And nothing moves your image like a web site, money, networking and a tight-brand: something that politicians before President Barack Obama didn’t really do successfully.

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The President is in the lead with the Dream Design Team. They maintained some of the same elements from the previous incarnation. The genius “O” logo is still prominent. The simplicity is still there. But they also did something very subtle.  The design elements from Barack Obama’s original site was carried over into the White House giving the site a gorgeous look. Previous administrations were big on giving as much information as possible on the White House page.

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The new design team realized that the problem wasn’t that they had too much content to organize, it was that they had to simplify how it was being received. That they did with the same style of the original campaign site.

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The President’s new site is not repeating all of the same design elements. It’s gotten even simpler. Social networking tools that worked for him n the past are in the fore. The call to actions are both prominently placed by yet another genius logo (2O12) . Just about every icon is explained but without being fussy. A solid site.

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Tim Pawlenty launched his site and it is also tight. The design team here isn’t trying to copy anyone beyond current web practice with a nicely organized and prettified site. The call to action is prominently located beneath the Log-In button (upper right hand corner is primo real estate) and the slider makes a point of constantly calling the reader to Learn More. It is a site that declares the campaign hopes with fists flailing.

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Enter Mitt Romney. When seeing Pawlenty’s site, I can’t help remembering Romney’s ’07 design. Romney, bravely facing the charge, information all prominent, American flag waving. It was so TA-DA! I WAS MADE TO BE YOUR PRESIDENT! It was also overload. The guy wanted to say so much that we couldn’t really see what he was saying. He didn’t learn the lesson of the better designed sites (like McCain’s and Obama’s) which focused on talking points and call to actions.

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The new Romney site is different from all of these while being very much the same. It recalls the simplistic elements of the Obama team—which comes off horrendously. It tries to incorporate the American flag and People into the R (recalling the Land-flag of the Obama logo), it uses a familiar tag line and a beloved typeface (which should have been avoided since it was also used by Obama), and it uses similar call to actions in prominent positions.

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But it is only a video of a man at a baseball field (recalling the American dream?) asking questions. Instead of flashiness, he’s going with being genuine. This dude has tons of money and could have plastered the site with a hot design but, for an understandable reason, chose something subtle. He wants to try to tap into a wide range of people—dissatisfied Democrats, Tea Partiers, Republicans, and Independents who aren’t committed to either party.  Is he successful? Well, design wise, not really. He could have done all that with a better design (definitely something else with the logo) but we can see what he’s aiming at. Romney for the People—not for Republicans. It’s probably why he’s getting nailed on both sides.

In all, I think that Obama still has the best site so far. It’s probably going to stay that way, too. The brand is consistent, the images are clear, the content unobtrusive, and the call to actions are clear: great job Mr. President.

Questions To Ask Before (Re)Designing

I hate thinking about a redesign.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind redesigning things. There’s no problem going into a client’s situation and pointing out where they’re falling short or what needs to be addressed to underscore their brand. Similarly, I don’t have a problem getting a design from a buddy asking for advice and pointing out where they need to go back and rethink things. But that becomes a real struggle when the client is myself.

I figured I’d let the one or two readers into my process of design and redesign with this post: The Questions.

I mean, how would I describe myself? What does my “brand” consist of? I’m a designer, art director, illustrator, fly-by-night writer and photographer. I’ve orchestrated photoshoots, have worried about costumes, lighting, and have even made a point of mocking up packages for presentation. I’ve often used the term “multifaceted designer” to describe myself (pretentious, I know) but it’s a mouthful and clunky. I won’t drop the name since I think it’s accurate, but I can’t really use it on the fore—which my most recent design reflects—so how can I encapsulate the idea into my name? Should I? Would it be confusing?

This is usually my first step when dealing with clients but there I have the benefit of seeing what their business purpose is.  Me, I’m not so much promoting a business purpose but rather an individual (myself) who one can trust to do solid work. It’s a catchall for freelance, work, preaching—an electronic business card slash resume slash portfolio that goes on before me making assurances of what one can expect from me.

But that being the case, everything has to properly represent me.

The first is a sample of several years ago. The next is a sample of the current version of the site.

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ESPN Rise’s Video Game Issue with Alvin Lee

During the holiday season over at my shop in ESPN Rise we decided to do something a little bit different with our National Video Game Issue: get an illustrator. Usually we use awesome photography by the industry’s best, but this time we wanted to tap the talent of Street Fighter video game acclaim Alvin Lee (and the color genius of Fabian Schlaga to go buck wild with their illustrative awesomeness.

As our article over at the ESPN Rise website says: the idea was simple. We took four of the best players and video-gameized them in a battle against the Robots. Or the Aliens. Whatever. The point was to make these guys look freaking awesomer. You can check out Alvin Lee’s Facebook or Comic Alliance for some biggie sized images you can read the ESPN Rise articles about these great players (Nick Vena, Jadeveon Clowney, Daniel Norris, Michael Gilchrist)   . Images after the jump.

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Fontisizing Impact

Like an old yenta, a designer is often found matchmaking design projects and fonts.  With so many designs, the designer ensures they have access to as many possible matches as possible.

But that doesn’t always work out. After all, the designer, like the yenta, has a certain vision of the ideal font matches. They don’t even think about it; for some reason, a certain font just feels—until you look back and see a matching trend.

So these posts are to display, ogle, applaud, examine and objectify fonts that have crept out of my dreams and onto my designs. Go ahead: fontasize about Impact.

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Two Design Websites to Watch

Occasionally I like to link to some random stuff and call it “links n’ junk” but I have two sites here that are so not in the junk sphere that I couldn’t properly label this post in that way.

First, we have Designers & Books which describes itself as:

devoted to publishing lists of books that esteemed members of the design community identify as personally important, meaningful, and formative—books that have shaped their values, their worldview, and their ideas about design.

That’s pretty flipping interesting while simultaneously wrapped in nicely designed site:

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Then we have a site by my buddy Matthew which I’ve linked to earlier but just need to bring up often: Stretchbook. He describes it as “a collection of creative exercise” and “where ideas go to work out”.

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